How the right connectivity makes it easy to standardize automated drives

July 12, 2022

As automation and connectivity requirements expand to include things like closed-loop controls, device-to-device networks and cloud computing, subcomponents that can handle a diversity of interfaces in various combinations are becoming more and more valuable. For example, rotary, angle and linear encoders that are developed with connection variety in mind make it easier to find the feedback format and hardware that is best suited for a robot or automation platform.

What’s more, versatile connectivity allows robot manufacturers to standardize drive designs and reduce the number of motor variants without limiting the breadth of potential applications. And that has the potential for a big payback: it can simplify everything from machine and control design to sourcing and raw cost.

Here are a few of the ways the best feedback devices are primed for the connectivity demands of robotics and streamlining the flow of invaluable data.

Reduce cabling and increase information

The trend in automation is moving toward purely serial interfaces and the transmission of absolute position data. In this arrangement, position values are calculated in the encoder and then sent to the subsequent electronics.

The consolidation of analog signals into absolute serial signals reduces the number of cables coming out of the encoder and clears up the signal. It also minimizes the negative influences on position information quality and data transmission that can arise when sinusoidal signals are used, and it increases the attainable position resolution compared with that of incremental interfaces using typical interpolation levels for TTL or HTL output signals.

Simplify commissioning and function monitoring

A bi-directional serial interface for position data also enables the transmission of the “electronic ID label,” which contains data for the commissioning of the encoder and the drive. This allows for a true “plug-and-play” commissioning process. Serial interfaces can also transmit additional information such as the temperature of the motor winding or diagnostics data— the amount of information that can be sent is dependent on the interface.

The HEIDENHAIN EnDat interface makes it possible to quickly and reliably send information about the condition of the position encoder during commissioning, operation, as part of regular maintenance, or in the event of a malfunction.

Using electronic connectivity to increase equipment availability

When it comes to electronic connectivity, trouble-free communication with the controller is crucial to the selection of an encoder. But this goes beyond the reliable and correct transmission of position data. The transfer of additional information for commissioning, monitoring or diagnostics is now built into many encoders. Having this information direct from the source helps avoid machine downtime and reduces the number of maintenance cycles, increasing availability and simplifying process planning.

Valuation numbers also reduce the expertise formerly required for the evaluation and diagnosis of an encoder’s signals, or functional reserve in closed-loop operation. These easy-to-understand numbers provide details on the internal scanning signal, position-value formation and the encoder itself.

Built-in functional safety

The rise of automation and collaborative robots makes functional safety increasingly important. For encoders, this means that position data must always be correct and precisely gathered and delivered to a control. With features like diagnostics and mechanical fault exclusion, a well-designed modern encoder can comfortably satisfy SIL 2 or SIL 3 requirements.

As everything becomes more connected, simplified, reliable connection options will be increasingly required for feedback devices. We’re addressing this by packing more functionality into the encoder itself and enabling more information to flow between controls, devices, the cloud, whatever it may be. By providing answers to several operational questions through encoders, designers are free to standardize drives and use their resources elsewhere.

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