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Also in its Integrated Architecture booth, Rockwell Automation is showing off various capabilities through a robotic in-feed module from Aagard, a small machine builder in Alexandria, Minn. Aagard's system recently won the Rockwell Automation Midrange System Showcase award and demonstrates the capabilities afforded by a range of Rockwell Automation solutions, including the Allen-Bradley CompactLogix 5370 programmable automation controller, Kinetix 350 servo drive, Stratix 5700 managed switch and ArmorBlock I/O.
The Aagard machine on display at Automation Fair is one in a line of seven modules that Aagard provides to its customers and serves as an example of the kinds of scalable solutions that are needed from machine builders. Solutions are geared toward making machine design easier, for one, but also providing scaled-down hardware for smaller systems.
"They need an approach where they can use the same programming language for everything—for motion, discrete, batch, process, safety," said John Pritchard, global market development manager, integrated architecture for Rockwell Automation. "And they don't want to overpay for hardware. This scales, so it's just what they need and not more."The CompactLogix 5370 programmable automation controller—announced last year at Automation Fair in Chicago and available now—is an example of a high-performance solution in an affordable package. It uses a single development environment for both standard and motion control and provides seamless integration into a plant-wide control system via an EtherNet/IP network. "It coordinates everything on the machine," Pritchard said.
The Stratix 5700 managed switch provides automation control that was previously out of reach for smaller machine builders. "It's an industrial-rated managed switch, but at an appropriate price point," Pritchard explained. "Aagard has seven machines that work together, and they connect and communicate easily. The Stratix 5700 provides synchronization of all the functions over the network."
Through coordinated behavior, if a palletizer on the line stops, for example, the cartoner and case packer further up the line slow down and stop as well. Processors in each machine make production more seamless through each step as opposed to the stop-and-release functionality machine builders previously relied on.
"Footprint is also becoming a big issue," Pritchard noted, adding that smaller control panels have become essential. Instead of the traditional walls filled with wardrobe-style control panels, machine builders are moving to smaller panels that can be tucked away on the machine. In Aagard's case, the panel is small enough to sit atop the machine, providing a very clean design inside the machine itself.