Big Capabilities for Smaller Controllers

Scaled Solutions Deliver Powerful Capabilities to Small Machine Builders

By Aaron Hand

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Automation Fair 2012

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Though powerful automation solutions have long been available, they are not always accessible to smaller machine builder customers, who can't necessarily afford—and don't necessarily need—a high level of sophistication. At this year's Automation Fair in Philadelphia, Rockwell Automation is highlighting a number of scaled-down solutions that give even small machine builders access to powerful, previously out-of-reach technologies.

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.

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