The easy way to configure and commission complex automation solutions

One tool – thousands of industrial applications

The automation of industrial applications is becoming increasingly important in the age of Industry 4.0. Automation solutions satisfy a whole range of requirements – sometimes precision, sometimes speed and other times load-carrying capacity or easy running. Designing appropriate systems and putting them into operation requires expertise, experience and a whole lot of time. And yet tasks that seem so complex can be completed very simply by using intelligent software. Digital automation solutions from item help engineers and designers with everything from configuring and describing their systems to programming and commissioning them. In next to no time, a whole range of options can be whittled down to the ideal turnkey solution comprising the perfect Linear Unit, Motor and Controller. Users benefit from huge time savings and enhanced planning certainty.

The automation solutions used in industrial environments have to meet a huge variety of requirements. Some are geared towards maximum precision, while others are designed to achieve top speeds. Others again are used to transport heavy loads or have to hold out over long periods of use. Linear technology can be used to complete complex movement sequences in simple applications along an axis. A classic linear unit comprises a linear guide with a rail and carriage. Together with the drive element, the motor and controller create a turnkey automation solution. However, getting to that perfect solution is a complex task. Design engineers have to configure their system based on datasheets, among other sources of information. This involves putting together the ideal linear unit from a large number of different components to create the perfect system. It is a convoluted process that takes a lot of time. Given that every project has to be configured according to different requirements, it helps to have access to an automation system that can produce different linear units and support multiple combinations. “The world of automation applications is very diverse,” says Uwe Schmitz, product management team leader at item, the market leader in building kit systems for industrial applications. “That’s why we’ve developed a software solution that gives users a simple means of describing and configuring their automation task.” 

Integrated expertise supports configuration

The configuration program starts by querying all the necessary parameters and circumstances. In addition to basic information, it also covers details such as motor utilisation and thermal measurements. “The calculations that our online tool factors in are based on well-founded engineering know-how,” says Schmitz. “That’s what makes our engineering software stand out from the more conventional programs on the market.” Users don’t need any special expertise to be able to describe their automation process. The software package, dubbed item MotionDesigner®, utilises the information available as a basis for providing an automation solution that meets the specified requirements in full. In doing so, it carries out numerous calculations and evaluates the results in the space of a few seconds. The configurator compiles a ranking of suitable combinations that users can pick from to find the ideal match for the task at hand. A total of 26 preassembled Linear Units are available for classic automation tasks, featuring a range of drive and guidance technologies – all perfectly coordinated.

Getting the ideal automation solution in the shortest space of time

Calculations and decision-making aids are a huge help to users when they are designing their projects. The complete avoidance of potential error sources and maximum time savings are among the main benefits of the automation solution. While conventional programs take minutes to provide a result, the engineering software from item highlights the ideal combination of various components in just seconds. If users change individual parameters, the configurator repeats the calculations and adjusts its suggestions accordingly. The program provides comprehensive documentation with clear comparisons, technical information and analyses. This ensures users can see at a glance whether all their requirements are being met and what power reserves are still available for future modifications, thus making engineers’ work that bit easier. “Quite apart from the technical support it offers project engineers, the software is also as convenient as it gets,” says Schmitz. Thanks to the solution, complicated and time-consuming record-taking and manual evaluations are a thing of the past. 

Up and running in no time 

Once the item MotionDesigner® configurator has been used to engineer the perfect automation solution and the system has been delivered, it’s time to get the technology up and running. The intelligent item Controller helps engineers do just that. At the touch of a button, the Linear Unit measures itself and determines the necessary parameters for the process. In doing so, item MotionSoft® software refers back to the technical information for the Motor, Gearbox, Controller and other components in the Linear Unit that was saved to a file during the configuration process. The commissioning software reads this data out and programs the Controller accordingly. This eliminates the need for manual interventions, which helps save a great deal of time and prevents data transfer errors.

Various requirements for automation solutions

The intelligent program is suitable for a wide range of application areas with different requirements. In the case of classic positioning systems with pick-and-place procedures, for instance, what really matters is configuring a system that is precise and can repeat sequences accurately over and over. The linear unit should be made of lightweight components that can be moved at speed. To cover application scenarios like these, item offers lightweight axes with rack elements that are very dependable for vertical motions. The motor and carriage are fixed firmly in place, and the low dead weight of the axis makes it ideal for pick-and-place applications. 

Another application scenario would be transporting heavy loads. Industrial robots, for example, frequently need linear units to move them from one area of activity to the next. To cover scenarios like these, the configurator from item only selects components that are suitable for carrying heavy weights. Roller guides are frequently used in these cases, as they work reliably over extended periods, even when carrying heavy loads. The major challenge for engineers lies in ensuring the controller parameters are accurately set. item MotionSoft® software helps them do just that by inputting the appropriate settings to coordinate the controller and motor perfectly. The end result is that the selected components are moved in the correct sequence, at the appropriate speed to their precisely defined positions. 

If positioning tasks need to be carried out, the requirements for the automation solution are different again. The priorities are to ensure the system runs smoothly and with maximum precision, so that inspection sensors can be moved or printer and scanner tasks performed, for example. Another focal point in engineering work is achieving the ideal speed and acceleration. The motion profile can therefore be flexibly adjusted and is adapted to suit the different requirements. Criss-crossed roller guides are usually used in these circumstances, as they are the ideal solution for dissipating forces. The benefits are that the system runs smoothly thanks to particularly low-friction movement and offers a high load-carrying capacity and precision.

Flexible adjustments on demand

The configurator can be used for a wide variety of application scenarios with different requirements. Since item offers a comprehensive portfolio of linear guides, corresponding transport elements, drives and accessories, the automation solutions can be adjusted to match specific requirements and processes perfectly. The Linear Unit is delivered ready-to-install and can be put to use in next to no time. Thanks to the compatibility of the individual components, the automation solutions can be altered as required with ease. Even the Controller and software support flexible and rapid adjustment to changed conditions. Furthermore, item offers interfaces for overarching control systems so that Linear Units can be integrated into complex processes as assemblies and easily connected up to programmable logic controllers.

Length: 8,695 characters including spaces

Date: February 6th, 2019

Image 1: An automation application in use

Image 2: Software

Image 3:Vertical axis with rack elements

Image 4:Roller guide

Image 5:Criss-crossed roller guide

Caption 1: Linear technology can be used to complete complex movement sequences in simple applications along an axis.

Caption 2: The software solution from item makes it easy for users to describe and configure their automation task.

Caption 3: Lightweight axes with rack elements offer excellent security for vertical movements.

Caption 4: The roller guide stays fully functional for the long term, even when carrying heavy loads.

Caption 5: Criss-crossed roller guides are the ideal solution for dissipating forces. They support smooth and easy running thanks to their exceptionally low-friction movement.

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