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Motion-oriented machine controller

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article image Applies decoration to window glass.

CADRAM and R&R Sondermaschinen, represented by Australian Baldor , are providing automated solutions for applying decoration to window glass, using either lead or bevel-effect 3M Accentrim tape. The machines deliver substantial productivity increases compared with traditional hand-application processes. They also offer greater flexibility of patterning thanks to a motion control system engineered by Baldor, which includes the option of automatically accepting drawings from computer-aided design (CAD) packages.

The Decorex-2 machine is designed for applying lead tape and speeds the creation of Georgian-style doors and windows. The machine comes with an industrial PC front end running special CAD-to-motion software that converts the output of CAD packages into application programs for the real-time motion machinery. A lower-cost variant of the machine for laying Accentrim tape, Decorex-1, provides a standalone solution with its own HMI (human machine interface) panel that allows operators to create simple criss-cross or frame-patterns, or accept patterns created by industry-standard software.

The real-time control for both machines is provided by a control subsystem engineered for CADRAM and R&R by Baldor, based on the standalone NextMove-ESB controller. This compact panel-mounting box controls a precision three-axis servo-motor positioning system that drives a gantry incorporating a multi-function toolhead - providing X-Y positioning combined with a rotational facility for changing the tape laying direction.

NextMove-ESB also incorporates the I/O that controls other machine accessories required including a 'pizza knife' tool that trims the tape and miniature pneumatic accessories that provide support functions such as pressure to bond the tape to the glass surface and a guillotine that cuts tape from the reel. The I/O also controls a dc-motor-based tape feed mechanism. The control software is written using the Mint language, which combines a rich choice of motion control functionality with general machine control features, including a license-free multi-tasking operating system.

On the Decorex-2 machine, the real-time motion subsystem's USB interface is employed to interface with a PC host that provides the operator interface. The machine can accept drawings from conventional CAD programs and automatically convert them to streaming real-time motion commands. This facility relies on a CAD-to-motion toolkit called MintNC. This PC-based environment imports information in industry-standard CAD formats including G-code, HPGL and DXF. It then generates the required real-time motion commands for the NextMove controller, automatically managing all the background processing and geometric computation functions required when changing tools and direction. The utility allowed CADRAM and R&R to add a great deal of versatility into the tape laying process without writing a lot of custom software - which could easily have added several months to project timescales.

The same basic motion and machine control subsystem is employed on the variant of the machine for applying 3M Accentrim tape. This provides a low-cost means of implementing attractive glass effects such as beveling and V grooves. On this machine, operator control is provided by a local HMI panel connected to the NextMove-ESB controller via the CANopen fieldbus. The real-time tape application program is generated following a simple configuration process. The operator selects either a simple frame design for applying tape to the edges of a piece of glass, or a more complex pattern with crossings and inputs the required number of rows and columns. The machine will alternatively accept industry-standard RWB format files and convert them, by connecting the machine to a PC using its USB interface. The tape layout program is then generated automatically. On this machine variant, the controller automatically makes the required angular or notch cuts where tapes join, and incorporates a further pneumatic tool that picks up trimmings and deposits them into a waste receptacle.

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