Robotics turn to digital motor feedback using one cable technology

The HIPERFACE DSL digital motor feedback interface has
been on the market for over five years now. In that time, it has ushered in a
technological revolution in many fields of electrical drive technology,
particularly with regard to Industry 4.0 and condition monitoring. More and
more, its effects are being felt in robotics and handling technology too. With
this in mind, KOLLMORGEN Europe GmbH also offers this secure communication
protocol in its motion packages for robots designed for use in a range of
applications, including those with stringent motion control requirements.

We are in exciting times for the field of robotics. While around
90 percent of all robotics applications are currently of the coexisting or
cooperating type, in future human-robot collaboration is set to increase its
present share of roughly 10 percent quite significantly. At the same time,
the robotics market is expected to grow – driven among other things, by Industry
4.0 and the transition to flexible working processes, as well as the new
opportunities being opened up by machine condition monitoring. “The HIPERFACE
DSL motor feedback interface is extremely well suited to robotics drive systems
simply because it employs purely digital data transmission,” says Dr.-Ing. Petr
Osipov, Motors Product Manager at KOLLMORGEN Europe GmbH. “But on top of that,
it requires minimal connections between the servo amplifier and the motor
feedback system, plus it allows for reliable and interference-free communication
between the drive and the motor.” What’s more, other specific benefits come
into play whether it is used in classic types of robot, in collaborative robots
(known as cobots), or in handling systems with mobile machine structures.

KOLLMORGEN Europe: extensive
experience in robotics drive technology

KOLLMORGEN, which in 2016 celebrated its 100th birthday, is a leading
provider of integrated automation, drive systems and associated components for
machine manufacturers worldwide. The company’s vast experience in motion
control design and the development of standard and specialised solutions
benefit machine manufacturers in many industries, including foodstuffs,
packaging, printing, metalworking, and medical technology. With over
1,300 employees all over the world, KOLLMORGEN continues to develop
innovative solutions that are distinguished by their performance, quality,
reliability, and ease of operation. “KOLLMORGEN first got involved with specialised
motors and drive solutions many, many years ago,” reflects Dr.-Ing. Petr

Since then, the company has created a range of innovative motion
packages with digital one-cable solutions, which can be used very successfully
in the field of robotics too. “Alongside Hiperface DSL, we also offer our own
reliable and cost-effective SFD encoder solution,” says the KOLLMORGEN product
manager. “It is basically a resolver, whose electronics convert analogue
signals into digital protocols.” The motion packages are based, among other
things, on servo motors from the AKM product family and AKD servo controllers;
they provide high power and torque density and have impressively low wiring
requirements. Featuring HIPERFACE DSL motor feedback systems, they meet the
most stringent demands in terms of resolving feedback signals; such high
standards are necessary for the precise motion control and positioning of
robots or in high-speed applications, for example.

One-cable technology in
robotics: special benefits regarding construction…

Generally speaking, one-cable technology offers a number of benefits in
machine building. Just one single motor cable is all that’s needed. This
reduces the cabling effort by half, as one encoder cable set, two plug
connectors, and all the associated cabling work are no longer necessary. “This
is an important factor in an industry experiencing particular cost pressure,”
says Dr.-Ing. Petr Osipov. The resulting reduced installation work provides the
advantage of having fewer potential fault sources and thus, a significantly
reduced risk of technical problems. Finally, digital motor feedback opens up
the possibility of communicating with, querying, and monitoring the drives
right from the control.

One-cable solutions such as HIPERFACE DSL offer many great additional
benefits specific to robot manufacturers as well. The lack of a cable and all
its associated connections reduces the weight of the unit, saving kinetic
energy as a result. Dr.-Ing. Petr Osipov explains that “There is also the fact
that, under certain conditions, drives can be designed to be smaller, more space-saving,
and more energy-efficient – all without causing the robot to lose any power.
Depending on how many drives are running in a robot with one-cable motor feedback
systems, drive technology as a whole can become much better value for the
manufacturer at the end of the day.”

This downsizing also feeds into the trend visible in many fields,
including robotics for even more compact machines, which the end customer is
able to install even where space is at a premium. Another construction-based benefit
is the simplified cabling to the moving components. The design of the HIPERFACE
DSL digital interface is responsible for this, facilitating as it does with the
hybrid cable with a cross-section that is smaller than ever before. At the same
time, it is available in versions that offer torsional behaviour and that are
better suited for use with mobile cable handlers, thus ensuring optimum freedom
of movement for power machine structures. The thin cable can be routed right up
to the outer actuators or gripper elements in a way that saves both space and
weight. This also helps to keep the cable assembly created in the robot as
narrow as possible so that cables can be routed either along or inside the
robot’s structure in an ideal manner.

…connectivity and condition

Another benefit of HIPERFACE DSL in the field of robotics is digital
signal transmission. Digital unlike analogue, is immune to noise and, as such,
offers maximum security against the effects of the machine environment. This is
one of the fundamental requirements that must be met to ensure that the motor
and drive can communicate free of faults and interruptions, thus making
condition monitoring of motors and drive axles possible. “Digital one-cable motor
feedback provides the option of recording a range of motor data in the form of
histograms, which allows you to identify interference factors and causes of
damage quickly,” explains Dr.-Ing. Petr Osipov. “Motion profiles, operating
hours, motor temperature, current consumption, speeds, velocities, and the
respective changes to these variables enable statements to be made about the
current status and likely future development of drive and machine conditions;
this information can then be used in the context of continuous condition monitoring
for diagnostics and preventative maintenance.” Aided by the functionality of
the electronic type label, motor characteristics, serial numbers, part numbers,
and other data, these provide rapid assistance in the event of service or
replacement work and can be transferred via HIPERFACE DSL. Condition monitoring
via motor feedback systems optimises robot and handling system availability. At
the same time, it creates great potential for saving operating costs, as
machine elements do not have to be subjected to cyclical checks and preventative
replacement, and instead their possible operating time can be utilised to the

Motor feedback systems with
HIPERFACE DSL for all types of robots

The HIPERFACE DSL digital motor feedback interface opens up an
incredibly broad range of benefits and innovative potential for robotics in
connection with Industry 4.0 and the “smart factory”. Thanks to SICK Stegmann’s
wide variety of motor feedback products, this still applies no matter what type
of robot is being used or what requirements it has to meet. For articulated-arm
robots, there are rotary motor feedback systems from the EKS36 product family
with 20-bit single-turn resolution on the one hand, and EKM36 with an
additional 12-bit multi-turn functionality on the other. Their space-saving
construction fits perfectly into a compact robot design. Regarding safety, they
are suitable for applications up to SIL2 in accordance with IEC 61508.
Articulated-arm robots with large hollow-shaft or torque motors and SCARA robots
too – often feature the SES/SEM70 or SES/SEM90 rotary motor feedback systems,
which are installed flat and provide 64 sine/cosine periods per revolution
and a mechanical 12-bit multi-turn. Their hollow shaft design means that cables
can be routed internally for both types of robot, which is important if they
are to be used collaboratively.

When it comes to Cartesian coordinate linear robots, the portfolio has
ideal solutions for absolute length measurement and position determination in
the form of the TTK50 and TTK70 linear motor feedback systems. They are
completely wear- and maintenance-free, thanks to their non-contact measurement
principle. Further plus points are their suitability for traversing speeds up
to 10 m/s and for use in harsh operating conditions. The EKS36 and EKM36
compact and high-resolution motor feedback systems are also proving their worth
in delta robots, which are employed in highly dynamic pick & place
applications, among others. The product range is currently being expanded to
include motor feedback systems with a capacitive operating principle, with the
addition of the EES/EEM product families for collaborative robots with direct
drives, plus SES/SEM with hollow shaft diameters of 25 mm and 50 mm.

Platform for intelligent
communication with all axes

For quite some time now, HIPERFACE DSL has been much more than “just”
the leading digital motor feedback platform; it is also a technological
springboard into the future. With sHub, SICK Stegmann is working on a
multi-sensor concept which makes electrical drives even smarter, as the
additional sensors provide new information for even more intelligent maintenance
concepts. This opens up the possibility of separating control-related and
maintenance-related data, so that the maintenance data can be made available as
histograms for condition monitoring in the cloud via Bluetooth or NFC (near
field communication) gateways, for example. Bit by bit, getting closer to the
goal of achieving intelligence in all axes…

By Bernd Appel, Head of the Motor Feedback Systems
Business Unit, SICK STEGMANN GmbH, Donaueschingen, Germany

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