In evolutionary terms, it is often said that it's not the strongest that survive, but those that can adapt to change the quickest!By Stefano J. Zammattio, Altera
powermanagementdesignline.com (December 02, 2008)
Very early motion control systems used mechanical gearboxes and levers to select speeds and drive power, but these systems were quickly replaced by analog electronic controllers that provided much more flexible speed control and the ability to create systems with more complicated movements.
The next evolutionary step was to add even more flexibility, reproducibility, and performance through the use of digital control techniques implemented on microprocessors and digital signal processors (DSPs). The end result was sophisticated motion control devices in wide use today. With roadmaps for processor/DSP technology offering steadily-increasing performance, one might wonder how field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) could possibly be the next stage in the evolution of motor control.
Certainly, microprocessors and DSPs are steadily decreasing in price, and motion control system manufacturers have leveraged this to create drives that are highly effective and reasonably priced. For most manufacturers, the evolutionary trend has been to arm the drive with more local processing power and flexibility that leverages the increasing amount of processing power available per dollar. However, the industrial market is changing and simply making faster, more intelligent, and well-controlled drives is not enough to satisfy the new demands of industrial customers.
Today, every market is under pressure to reduce costs. In the industrial space, cost reduction means creating more efficient factories rather than faster or more intelligent drive systems. This means factory-wide information systems, low cost control networks, and manufacturing systems that can be quickly and inexpensively reconfigured to manufacture different end products. These cost-reducing measures can be enabled by the use of Industrial Ethernet (IE) on the factory floor and equipment that is highly interoperable, allowing it to be easily modified for new applications or systems.
This article examines how FPGAs (such as Cyclone III devices from Altera) can deliver these features and hence reduce costs for the industrial customer.
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