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Modular I/O For Real-Time Machine Control

17 January 2013

Developments to the Sysmac automation system containing several recently patented innovations have been rolled out throughout Europe. Andy Pye was in Barcelona for the launch

It was in 2009 that Omron undertook to base its machine control and automation systems on EtherCat, the real-time motion control-orientated, Ethernet-based fieldbus originally championed by Beckhoff Automation. Omron has since developed EtherCat-based servo motors, inverters and motion controllers aimed at the European market as well as at Japanese OEMs exporting machines to Europe.

One year ago, Omron’s NJ machine controllers were launched, based on EtherCAT for machine control and EtherNet/IP for factory automation. Now, the company has added new functionality.


Modular I/O for deterministic control

The Sysmac NX-series I/O is a modular system used with Omron controllers and also with a wide range of open networks. It combines openness and performance with real time behaviour and ease of use. The system complements the NJ-series machine automation controllers.

At the initial market release in the first quarter of 2013, the Sysmac NX-series I/O will consist of approximately 70 I/O units as well as system modules that include power feeds and ground terminals, a safety I/O controller, and the network interface unit for EtherCAT. Bus interfaces for other networks, plus additional I/O units will be released later during 2013.

The Sysmac NX-series I/O system uses the distributed clock function of the EtherCAT machine network to achieve deterministic control behaviour. This ensures accuracy and repeatability of timing in the control loop, a key requirement of modern machine control. Individual I/O units compensate for signal delays depending on their position in the system, which means that inputs can be latched and outputs set anywhere in the control system with sub-microsecond accuracy. 

Omron has developed a new I/O interconnection bus, with exceptional data throughput far exceeding that of the field network


Omron has developed a new I/O interconnection bus, with exceptional data throughput far exceeding that of the field network. This bus propagates the EtherCAT distributed clock to individual I/O units, which allows these to syn­chronise with the Sysmac machine controller’s primary task cycle. In addition, the new bus system will support the development of special inputs with a time-stamp function, which can be used to accurately determine a sequence of events.

Digital I/O units provide from 4 to 16 input or output points in a 12mm width. As well as standard models, versions are available with high-speed response and safety inputs and outputs. 

Machine safety functions are fully integrated in the Sysmac NX-series I/O. The programmable safety control unit and its safe input and output units can be inserted anywhere in the I/O system. 


Robotics upgrade

The NJ controllers are now more suited for use with high-throughput packaging machines in pick-and-place applications based on fast delta robots. A single NJ controller can now control up to eight delta robots, while also handling the motion control, sequencing and vision system requirements of the machine on which it is installed.


Integrated safety

The release of the NX Safety Controller, in combination with Omron’s new NX I/O system and Sysmac NJ Controllers is a decisive step towards the full integration of automation disciplines – safety, logic, motion, and vision. The NX Safety Controller and the distributed Safety I/O can be freely placed in the EtherCAT network. 

Sysmac integrated Safety meets Performance level (PLe) according to the ISO-13849-1 and SIL3 according to IEC61508, conforms to programming standard IEC-61131-3, and includes certified PLCopen Safety Function Blocks.


Sysmac Studio

Originally released in November 2011, Sysmac Studio is the software used to control Omron’s automation systems. Now, the newly released v1.04 has a range of new features, including libraries and namespace functionality, merge and compare on projects and enhanced project security control.

One of the main features of v1.04 is a backup and restore function, facilitated by using an SD card in the NJ machine controller, or saving directly to a file on a computer. The backup includes not only the program, but also all the field device settings and parameters. 

Key Points

  • The Sysmac NX-series I/O is a modular system used with Omron controllers and also with a wide range of open networks
  • The system uses the distributed clock function of the EtherCAT machine network to achieve deterministic control behaviour 
  • NJ controllers are now more suited for use with high-throughput packaging machines

 
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