How Dynamic Machine Control opens a smarter future with industrial valves

How Dynamic Machine Control opens a smarter future with industrial valves

imageBy Per Danzl


Dynamic Machine Control (DMC) is the design paradigm that uses today's cutting-edge technologies to help build the smarter machines of tomorrow. DMC for fluid power applications includes major advances in industrial control valve technology, such as embedded controllers, sensor interfaces, software configurability, network communication capabilities, and real-time diagnostics. These features make valves an integral part of the network control and communication system, taking commands, feeding back data and even executing custom control code at the node level. This results in a distributed control and diagnostic system that greatly expands application potential, opening doors for future innovation.

Design Evolution: From Hardware Complexity to Intelligent Software Configurability

Competitive markets in industries like discrete manufacturing reward firms that increase manufacturing efficiency, throughput, and quality. Manufacturers achieve these objectives by modernizing their production machines with the latest in precision control and diagnostics, making their machines smarter, faster, and more reliable. Smart functionality has become a core tenet of lean manufacturing and is driving the manufacturing sector’s adoption of Internet-of-Things (IoT) as part of automation best practices.

Historically, adding functionality to a machine required increasing levels of complexity through wiring additional sensors, controls, and interface devices. Centralized control architectures drove increasing system complexity because each new component required analog wiring to the Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) or supervisory-level controller, not to mention sensor power and signal conditioning. The resulting additional complexity has burdened manufacturers and end-users with systems that are more expensive, more difficult to troubleshoot, and harder to maintain.

It might seem that developing control code on an industrial valve would be the domain of a software engineer role and function, which may possibly be out of reach for smaller OEMs. However, by implementing simple user-interfaces and smart “wizards” to guide users through setup and commissioning, the latest industrial hardware is now making it easy for all users to harness the power of smart machines.

As part of the industrial IEC 61131-3 PLC standards,  there are well known, programming languages that are based on open architecture and are familiar to, and widely accepted, by many OEMs. This eliminates the need for programmers and hardware configuration experts to learn manufacturer’s proprietary programming language in order to take advantage of advanced functionality in their control design. Eaton’s Pro-FX® Technology Platform leverages this approach to the development environment and includes ready-made libraries of programming resources for a variety of hydraulic components, including Eaton’s own products. Eaton’s Pro-FX ReadyTM products leverage the platform’s streamlined user interface and setup wizards, making it easy for engineers to use these libraries to create simple and powerful applications on hardware such as AxisPro proportional valves.

Smarter Opportunities for Industrial Valves

Dynamic Machine Control's approach to utilizing on-board motion control enable system designers to improve performance and reduce costs by building machines that are inherently smarter and more scalable than traditional designs that rely on centralized control architectures. DMC integrates four key capabilities: programmable sequencing, real-time communication and diagnostics, high precision control, and scalability. We'll illustrate these capabilities using specific application references to show how smarter machines can open new opportunities in growing industrial market segments.

Programmable Sequencing

Dynamic Machine Control opens new opportunities for industrial valves including discrete manufacturing applications like metal forming, stamping, and presses. Machines used in these applications often have a single axis of motion and a few interfaces for sequence control, for example, “start,” “reset,” and “emergency stop.” The embedded controls on a Pro-FX Ready valve (like AxisPro), can run the sequencing directly, acting as the supervisory controller for the system while replacing the traditional PLC and motion control module. This reduces cost and improves overall performance.
Multi-axis control and sequencing, including motion synchronization, is also possible with AxisPro. Application data has proven this approach to provide accuracies of less than 0.010 inch. And Pro-FX software tools make coding machine sequences fast and easy. Users can build custom sequences from a library of proven function blocks using graphical programming interfaces that are much more intuitive than the “Numerical Control” (NC) machine languages of the past. This delivers the power of embedded digital control; putting the programming and fine tuning in the hands of the hydraulics engineer and eliminating the need for a software engineer to program the system.

Real-time Communication and Diagnostics

Dynamic Machine Control used with smart valves can also deliver advantages in applications like metal cutting where multiple axes and electrical sensors and interfaces typically require a PLC and are in a network communication environment. Even if the smart valve is not running the entire machine, the onboard embedded control system enables direct digital communication with the PLC and other nodes on the network. This real-time communication provides critical diagnostic information back to the PLC and can signal potential problems before they become catastrophic. For example, AxisPro on-board pressure and temperature sensors can warn if port pressures exceed a threshold for a particular duty cycle, or if the oil temperature starts to rise. System designers can take advantage of the Pro-FX programming environment to develop custom FDIR (Fault Diagnosis, Isolation, and Reconfiguration) algorithms, utilize predictive health monitoring techniques, and implement diagnostics and prognostics. Preventing catastrophic failure prevents downtime to maximize productivity and reduce cost.

High Precision Control

For many manufacturing applications, the key to competitiveness is maximizing throughput, while maintaining high quality. OEMs in the sand molding market are using the AxisPro on-board position control to accurately control movement within 0.1mm, enabling high speed sand molding machines to run even faster while still achieving excellent quality. A critical improvement in dynamic system performance is the reduction of latency by closing the control loop on the valve rather than via a communication loop back to the PLC or a centralized motion control module. Eliminating delays and latency also makes system commissioning easier by getting rid of non-linearities that typically cause problems during controller tuning. Systems that are free of delays can be tuned to perform better, faster, and with increased stability.

Scalability with Distributed Control Architecture

Alternative energy systems, particularly wind turbines, hydropower turbines, and concentrated solar installations are also opportunities for smart valves to make a big difference for system designers. Whether pitch control for wind turbine blades, wicket control for hydropower dams, or tracking control for concentrated solar heliostats, distributed control architectures are a natural fit for the alternative energy industry. With a smart valve like the AxisPro, where all communication takes place on the digital communication bus, it is simple to add more nodes to the control network when additional power generation equipment is brought online. Digital communication and coordination, coupled with axis control at the actuator, deliver the out-of-the-box scalability that alternative energy customers demand as they plan for growth in their markets.

Eaton Pro-FX Ready Products

Eaton’s Pro-FX ready products include a wide variety of hydraulic industrial valve products that are built to enable Dynamic Machine Control such as AxisPro servo performance proportional valves with on-board motion control. Axis Pro is one of Eaton’s most advanced products in a long line of industrial valves with integrated sensors. KBS and KBH proportional valves feature spool position feedback, and an array of slip-in cartridge valves with feedback. Switching valves also integrate electrical feedback, perfect for machines that use spool position feedback as a key safety diagnostic.

Industrial applications can also benefit from advances made in the mobile equipment arena and vice-versa. Eaton’s mobile Pro-FX Ready products, including HFX Programmable Controllers and CMA Advanced Independent Metering Valves are key enabling technologies that work well in applications where capabilities like on-board control and communication are coupled with challenging packaging, environmental, and weight specifications. Mobile applications, such as aerial work platforms, agricultural equipment, and mining equipment can also benefit from integrating advanced industrial valve products such as AxisPro, DG valves that offer electrical spool indication, and KDG proportional valves that provide spool position feedback. In high vibration applications, it’s critical to utilize proportional valves with a high G rating such as KBS-EN90 proportional valves which are rated to 20G. Dynamic Machine Control is a holistic design framework that draws from both the industrial and mobile worlds to offer system designers the most advanced products to build smarter machines.

Getting Ready for Smarter Machines
Smarter machines will continue to capture more market share by providing better performance, efficiency and reliability. Dynamic Machine Control is the system designer’s toolbox for harnessing the latest hydraulic and electric technologies, with intuitive software interfaces, to design the next generation of innovative machines for an ever-more competitive global market. Through cutting edge technology and product development, Eaton is enabling the smart machine revolution with Dynamic Machine Control.