MachineDesign has a list of four machine control trends “you can’t ignore” — and all of them will sound very familiar to Rexroth motion control users.
First off, there’s modularity. A single purpose-made machine system has the benefit of custom design, but any changes can require reprogramming the entire system. Modular components, and especially standardized modular components, provide some future-proofing and make repair and upgrades much simpler and more practical.
Rexroth has been using modular systems for decades. It’s a hallmark of Rexroth’s design, and Rexroth has the system mastered. From the personality modules to the special modular systems that Rexroth uses to perfect refrigerated rail cars, modular design has been the underpinning of many of Rexroth’s most creative innovations.
Flexibility, and specifically the flexibility of software-driven systems, is the next can’t-be-ignored trend. Rexroth’s Open Core software is the example MachineDesign cites. They quote Matteo Dariol, product developer for Bosch Rexroth, who says, “Software flexibility is important. Even if something is wrong, or needs regular upgrades, having flexible open software can fix most issues quickly and inexpensively. By opening everything to the core and being able to use multiple and higher-level languages, we are moving toward hardware that is capable of a new approach to a custom automation programming world.”
Hardware can be limiting, and the new software-driven systems approach provides solutions to those limitations. In a context of super fast technological change, software driven systems — and especially open source systems — can open new options to SMBs which can’t consider complete changes of their machinery. Retrofitting old machines for new contexts is realistic.
Programming is an important trend, but it goes in both directions. MachineDesign points out that it used to be common for electrical engineers to do the programming and mechanical engineers to pick up where the programming left off. Now, as the use of multiple languages — often the ones machine builders happened to learn in school, like C++ or Java — becomes more common, programming ability is more likely to be expected on the job.
On the other hand, companies like Rexroth are also working to make it easier for operators to control machinery without programming skills by using libraries of open source code. This makes collaboration and tech change easier and more practical. Again, MachineDesign quotes Rexroth’s Dariol: “Just because you can use multiple languages doesn’t mean you should. You don’t want to have more than one or two languages in a system or plant. The trend of having open resources is so engineers can use the tool that they are more comfortable with, not to use all the languages.”
The final trend of the four is connectivity. We’re talking about the IIoT here, but we’re also talking about using smart devices in a BYOD setting, about using HTML (the language of the Internet) for graphic user interfaces, and about using open platforms that enable and enhance communication among machines. Rexroth is in the forefront of industrial connectivity, and has been a driving force for Industry 4.0 since the beginning.
Can you ignore these trends? Probably not in the long run. But you also don’t have to leap into changes. We specialize in Rexroth electric motion control systems, including legacy systems as well as the cutting edge. Contact us for all your Rexroth electric motion control support needs.