Tools Make Motion-Control Design A Snap

Oct. 2, 2008
Motion control may seem like a mechanical problem, but new software moves it further into the digital realm.

One of the most challenging and widespanning areas of design work involves motors and motion control. Choosing the right motor and related control circuitry is one thing. Getting it all to fit into the end product and work accurately is another. And, as with any mechanical component, the opportunities for error are many. Fortunately, motor makers offer users many powerful tools to take the vinegar out of their design chores. More often than not, these tools are available at no extra charge.

Design, Analyze, and Optimize
When it comes to design tools, particularly software, nothing instills confidence like versatility and longevity. One example is the Pro- Motion motion-control software from Performance Motion Devices, which takes users through a complete cycle from design to analysis and through optimization. Available for several years now, it’s constantly evolving to accommodate the repetitive and tedious tasks motion designers must perform.

“Motion design requires phases of configuration, setup, testing, and modification that require repetitive iterations and tuning to optimize a motion system,” says Chuck Lewin, president and CEO of Performance Motion Devices. “Pro-Motion is designed specifically with that need in mind and will continue to advance to meet future requirements.”

Retaining its initial attributes, the easy-to-use Windows-based application accelerates motion-system development. It includes an axis wizard for configuring and testing motion architectures, as well as an auto-tuning feature for both current and position looping of servo motors.

The software also allows the creation and saving of separate projects. Recent enhancements include multiple and simultaneous connectivity to a variety of controllers, a multidrop over serial networks and controller-area networks (CANs), and oscilloscope tracing of motion parameters (Fig. 1).

Overall, the Pro-Motion software is a prototyping tool for developing motion-processor-based systems using one of the company’s Magellan processors, Prodigy motion card, and/or ION digital drives. Of note, its instruction sets don’t dictate motor type. Users are free to mix dc-brush, dcbrushless, and stepper motors within multi-axis configurations. And speaking of “free,” Pro-Motion comes with Magellan-based developer’s kits at no extra charge. A user manual is available online at

Need Speed? The unique approach taken by Motion Console software from Intuitive Motion Systems promises to reduce software-development times in motion-system automation apps. Enlisting a design philosophy not based on electronics and protocols, users can expect to configure and define their motion systems and operation parameters in several minutes. Currently, the application supports Faulhaber MCDC 3006S, 3003S, 2805, and NAI MCCQ dc-motor controllers, with Galil support appearing in the near future.

The Motion Console architecture quickly integrates a motion controller and drive electronics, communication hardware, motors, stages, cameras, and human-machine interface (HMI) devices. It provides a spreadsheet interface for entering, calculating, and storing motion parameters, which users can copy and paste from an Excel file (Fig. 2).

Axes can represent velocities rather than positions via formatting. Buttons in the user interface and on a wireless or wired control pad initiate storage of a system’s current position in the spreadsheet. Run buttons, also within the interface and on the control pad, initiate execution of motion sequences defined in the spreadsheet. Extra columns are on tap for annotation, execution flow control, pauses, and timed delays.

For system scaling, a configuration window lets designers enter a value for displacement per encoder count or by computing this value in the application’s resolution calculator. Radio buttons and drop-down boxes enable hardware assignment and serial port selection, respectively. A video interface connects to DirectShow and DCAM-compatible cameras.

The software also can write data to, and retrieve data from, any serial device and store it in the spreadsheet. It offers port configuration and message formatting capabilities, as well as automatic backlash compensation, enabled after position-mode moves, velocity-mode jogs, or both. The company can modify Motion Console for use with most motion-controller types at no charge. For a free test spin, visit

Taking a Different Route Providing an ActiveX programming environment for the company’s XMP motion controllers, the MPX software from Motion Engineering, now a part of Danaher Motion, offers an alternative way of accomplishing motion and I/O tasks. Eliminating the need for C/C++ programming, users can create custom motion interfaces with LabVIEW, VisualBasic, Excel, VBScript, and other applications supporting ActiveX controls.

Including motion-application development, the tool is also viable for developing test and production applications plus specialized utilities. It includes ActiveX controls, device drivers, documentation, sample projects, and MotionConsole and MotionScope, the company’s Windows utilities.

In addition to allowing users to perform their programming tasks in any environment that supports both ActiveX controls and SynqNet controllers, central features of the application include support for up to 32 axes of motion; support for both servo motors and stepper motors; operation across TCP/IP networks; a data recorder; scale interpolation; position capture; on-the-fly trajectory modification; CANOpen support; quadrature encoders and SSI encoders; drive feedback; and point-to-point, trapezoidal, S-curve, S-curve jerk, velocity, velocity-jerk, and coordinated motions.

In the near future, the company will be adding several enhancements that will include compare outputs, SynqNet I/O, and analog-to-digital converter (ADC) inputs. Naturally, there will be upgrades and accommodations supporting new developments and designer demands. For a complete MPX datasheet, visit

More Enhanced Motion Tools Recently, ACS Motion Control extended the capabilities of its application development kit, the ADK 6.0, by adding support for the IEC61131-3 programming language. Users can now program using any of the five languages in addition to ACSPL+. The software’s fully variable mapping enables bidirectional interfacing, mutual synchronization, and functionality exchanges between ACSPL+ and IEC 61131-3 programs.

The upgrade’s full CANOpen support now allows for the configuration of SPiiPlus motion controllers as a CANOpen master, according to the DS-402 specification. Other features include advanced two-phase step motor operation in both open- and closed-loop modes when using the internal amplifiers in the SPiiPlus CM and MC4U controllers and support for a second TCP/IP Ethernet port on all MC4U components.

Noting that Motor Industry Software Reliability Association (MISRA) standards are seeping into software projects falling outside the requirements and definitions of the automotive industry, LDRA Technology’s motor/ motion tool suite now includes capabilities for compliance with the emerging MISRA-C++:2008 standard.

Already within the scope of the C++ language, LDRA has worked together with Lockheed Martin to develop the JSF AV C++ coding standard. Additionally, the company has been very active in enforcing the high-integrity C++ coding standard and the LM Train Control Program (LMTCP) standard.

Said to be highly anticipated in the industry, MISRA-C++:2008 is the newest coding standard to be published by MISRA and is expected to be adopted across the software industry. Compliance with the standard further complements the LRDA suite’s existing support for MISRA-C:1998 and MISRA-C:2004, HIS (Herstellerinitiative Software), and GJB (Chinese Military Standard) standards for the C programming language.

Assuming widespread acceptance of MISRA-C as the industry’s bestpractice solution, LRDA Technology foresees escalating adoption of numerous safety-related and safety-critical software-development projects and applications in a wide variety of other industries, including the rail, aerospace, military, and medical sectors.

For further information on MISRA-C++:2008 compliance and related issues, visit and


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