Aerotech has revolutionised motion control with Automation1


Fürth- If you want to move something, you also have to be able to control the movement. Positioning movements in the nanometre range require high-precision control. Aerotech has specialised in motion control and positioning systems for over 50 years. The in-house software developers in Pittsburgh bring concentrated know-how in programming software solutions for motion control: The latest result is the Automation1 control platform, which comes with several new features in the current release 2.2.

Whether in mechanical applications, automation solutions or additive manufacturing processes, drive technology and motion are everywhere. Day in, day out, many design engineers think about how certain components, tools, workpieces and much more can be moved in their applications in a targeted and precise manner. The positioning solutions that have established themselves on the market are as broad as the areas of application. They range from simple single-axis systems to complex multi-axis systems. Such complex systems are, for example, hexapods that want to move relatively freely in six degrees of freedom. High- precision positioning in the nanometre range is often required, especially in microscopy, metrology or even in the electronics industry and medical technology.

Exact is still far from precise

The positioning accuracy can be controlled via three parameters: the drive, the guides and the motion control used. “When it comes to positioning down to nanometres, drives and guides can be as precise as you like, but it’s the control software that makes the difference,” says Simon Smith. The European director of Aerotech, who can look back on decades of experience. “We can certainly achieve quite a lot with an extremely high constructive and costly effort, but ultimately the software must be able to precisely control and position the system.”

One for all

The software developers at Aerotech have therefore developed Automation1, a motion control platform that can also integrate the entire periphery. It is intended to replace the previous Aerotech control platforms A3200, Ensemble and Soloist. “We only deliver new positioning systems with Automation1 as the control platform,” emphasises Simon Smith. “The easy-to- learn and easy-to-use architecture alone makes it much easier for users with Automation1.”

So that the drive is right

Other new features in Release 2.2 are also impressive. While the new release builds on previous versions, it impresses with unique features. For example, the previous CNC user interface is replaced by the new Machine Apps HMI development tool. With this fully customisable tool, Aerotech is setting new standards in user interfaces for drive systems.

Seamless integration of PLC-based systems is also provided with EtherCAT compatibility. With this, Aerotech has extended the options for high-precision motion processes to PLC systems when they are embedded in a conventional system with lower precision.

“With the new release 2.2 of Automation1, it now functions as a complete machine control system with all components and thus offers much more than a mere “motion control”, concludes Simon Smith.

Important features of the new Automation1 Release 2.2

  • Machine Apps HMI development tool instead of previous CNC user interface
  • EtherCAT compatibility for connecting PLC-based systems
  • Improved interfaces with additional Labview VIs and a Python API
  • Enhancement of the Dynamic Controls Toolbox (a popular feature from the A3200 controls), which combines Aerotech’s Harmonic Cancellation, Command Shaping and Cross-axis Feedforward functions.
  • Stepper motor control with closed loop
  • Asset-wide backup and restore functionality using Aerotech’s advanced API functionality