At the SPS IPC Drives fair in Nuremburg, Control Techniques launched Unidrive M: its groundbreaking new family of drives tailored to the needs of manufacturing automation customers.
By taking the innovative step of designing its next generation of drives specifically for customers in the manufacturing sector, Control Techniques has been able to target customer needs more thoroughly than ever before. The company’s global market research and engineering and design programmes have resulted in a family of seven drives, each with unprecedentedly high levels of performance and functionality. Every drive has been carefully designed to meet the requirements of, and improve productivity in, a specific area of the manufacturing market.
Control Techniques’ new top range product, the Unidrive M800, integrates a new breed of high performance MCi machine controller within the drive. The solution is designed to enhance machine throughput by providing comprehensive control across complete customer machines. They are configured using the industry leading CODESYS programming environment with standard IEC 61131-3 programming languages and standard Ethernet for communication across drives, I/O, HMIs, PLCs and other industrial devices. Control Techniques’ synchronised multi tasking structure and advanced motion control expertise complete the high performance offering, fully utilising open and industry standard technologies.
Onboard real time Ethernet (using IEEE 1588 V2) provides improved machine control with fast and flexible communications, achieving synchronisation rates across the network of below 1 µs, update rates as low as 250 µs and a virtually unlimited node count.
Control Techniques’ advanced new Real Time Machine Control Protocol uses standard Ethernet TCP/IP and UDP to provide a highly efficient and compact message structure that frees up Ethernet network bandwidth and minimises network loading. This allows Unidrive M models to talk directly to each other instead of having to route all communications through the traditional machine controller. Each Ethernet-enabled drive incorporates a dual port Ethernet switch with standard RJ45 connectors, greatly simplifying the task of networking machines.
Certain applications, such as electronic line shafts, can be set up without having to write any programming code at all. In these instances, the drives will start communicating with one another automatically, synchronising their control loops so that they can operate in seamless coordination. Standard Ethernet allows Control Techniques’ protocols to work alongside others, such as PROFINET RT, Ethernet/IP and Modbus TCP/IP.
Tom Alexander, vice president of technology at Control Techniques, says: “Unidrive M is quite simply the most innovative project that I have ever been involved with. Control Techniques’ highly advanced new Ethernet protocol has been designed with the factories of the future in mind, and it is far and away the most advanced protocol on the market. The ability of drives in the Unidrive M family to talk directly to each other using this protocol is particularly exciting and it will undoubtedly assist all our manufacturing customers on the essential journey towards smarter production methods.”
Based on in-depth research into user demands, another area of innovation in the development of Unidrive M has been the PC tools: Unidrive M Connect and Machine Control Studio. Unidrive M Connect is Control Techniques’ new drive configuration and monitoring software, designed to make it easy to access the products’ full feature sets. The tool allows users to optimise drive tuning, back up the configuration set and troubleshoot more quickly. Machine Control Studio supports Control Techniques’ new integrated MCi machine control functionality within Unidrive M. The software provides a full function automation development environment that uses open industry standard IEC 61131-3 programming languages and is powered by CODESYS to fully meet Manufacturing Automation application requirements.
Unidrive M Connect and Machine Control Studio both use the same communications components, allowing them to run simultaneously using numerous communication protocols.
Alexander says: “Rather than just updating our existing software suite to fit the new product, we developed our new PC tools using the results of an innovative human-centred design programme that took user requirements into account right from the beginning of the design process.”
Control Techniques’ new tools have an operational focus, so the user does not need to know about their specific drives or parameter menus for tasks such as drive and application set up, system and drive monitoring, optimisation of motor performance or even for writing advanced system programmes.
Alexander adds: “Additionally, commissioning and maintenance tasks have been greatly simplified through a user interface that prioritises the most commonly performed tasks, simplifying the experience for all users, whilst advanced users will benefit from the fact that dynamic drive logic diagrams and enhanced searchable listings are present. Meanwhile, the drive and motor performance can be optimised with minimal specialised drive knowledge.”
Control Techniques has always had a reputation for advanced motor control and its drives have traditionally been able to solve the most demanding machine applications. The new Unidrive M family takes a further leap forwards in performance, more than doubling the bandwidth of the control loops. Control Techniques’ unique motor control algorithms, combined with the latest microprocessor technology, ensure that the Unidrive M range offers the highest stability and performance for all industrial motor types. This enables users to maximise machine throughput in every application and with every motor, from standard AC induction motors to high dynamic linear motors and from energy saving permanent magnet motors to high performance servo motors.
Alexander says: “We believe that Unidrive M offers the best motor performance available on the market from any manufacturing drive.”
Control Techniques’ global engineering & design project has so far resulted in the submission of thirty patent applications to protect the huge variety of advanced technologies that have been developed for Unidrive M. To create the Unidrive M family, Control Techniques conducted the most comprehensive programme of market research in its history. The goal of this research was to allow the company to develop an engineering plan that was entirely focused on customer needs. The initial programme of qualitative research consisted of a series of in-depth interviews with OEMs and other end users designed to identify the precise needs of the manufacturing market. This was followed up by a comprehensive programme of quantitative research which greatly expanded upon the findings of the interviews, ensuring that Control Techniques understood exactly which drive features each specific area of the manufacturing market requires. The quantitative research consisted of conjoint studies: sophisticated web-based surveys which recreate the buying decision in order to establish the underlying needs of the customer.
Jay Wirts, vice president of strategic marketing at Control Techniques, says: “Our research has enabled us to understand the manufacturing market more thoroughly than at any previous point, and the information we received was vital in deciding which customers to target with which products. We found that customers within the manufacturing sector are clustered into seven main groups, each with highly specific needs. As a result of our research, we decided to develop a range of seven drives: one for each main customer group.
“Making a wide selection of drives and drive options available will enable Control Techniques to offer customers a highly optimised drives family that is more closely tailored to their needs than any other offering available on the market. I am convinced that our new range is going to transform the performance and productivity of our customers’ machines.”
Enrique Miñarro Viseras, president of Control Techniques, says: “Once Unidrive M is released, Control Techniques will be launching additional ranges of drives that will be targeted at each of our other main market sectors. This will enable us to match our products to the precise requirements of all customers in all sectors in a way that has never been done before. Our goal as a company is nothing less than to revolutionise the drives market for the benefit of our customers.”