Making connectivity easier for machine builders and end-users

Josh Roberts, Product Marketing Manager for Electric Automation at Festo

Innovation creates opportunities, and this article explores how necessity led Festo to positive outcomes for machine builders and end-users as we adjusted to the global semi-conductor chip material shortages. In a very short time during the crisis Festo developed and launched a complete, new multi-protocol range of extra-low and standard servo drives that seamlessly connect to the leading networks, ensuring seamless connectivity combined with a reduction in complexity. This enables control panels to remain the same despite fitting into different architectures and at the same time offering the latest electronics, multiprotocol functionality and improved performance, all with a much-reduced inventory.

This is a great opportunity for users to simplify using the newly developed multiprotocol drives. They are designed to provide seamless and transparent connectivity that extends from mechanics to servo drives and up to the cloud.

By combining its popular CMMT-AS servo drives and CMMT-ST extra-low voltage drives for Profinet, Ethernet IP, EtherCAT and Modbus, into multiprotocol drives, Festo has been able to reduce the portfolio of these drives from 25-part numbers down to just eight: making selection faster and easier and reducing the stock holding required for machine inventory and spares.

The new multiprotocol drives feature a new FPGA (Free Programmable Gate Array) that reduces processing time for time-critical processes. For the CMMT-AS drive, it is used to reduce latency in the control-loops, making this product market leading in its ability to reduce oscillation and reduce mismatch between motor and load.

No company can afford to hold an unlimited inventory. Stock costs money, and this cost is often reflected in the price of the product. Reducing the portfolio of part numbers by two thirds through the introduction of the multiprotocol drives means that Festo can hold three times more inventory for the same cost, making availability better for customers. This advantage is also mirrored at the customer, particularly the end-user where one drive suits machines with different PLC master networks. Now they can hold servo drives in stock irrespective of network and easily configure the drive to the right network when needed. The same advantage can be experienced for machine builders.

The CMMT-AS range of standard servo drives are universal drives for synchronous servo motors up to 6kw continuous power. Single and three phase versions are available in two form factors, with integrated filters, braking resistors and a further option for an external braking resistor and second encoder input. EPLAN macros ensure fast and reliable planning and documentation. A single cable connection to the servo motors reduces wiring time, costs and space in cable ducting.

The CMMT-ST range are termed ‘extra-low’ voltage because they work at only 24 or 48VDC. This new generation of controllers has a raft of new features setting them apart from previous Festo devices and from the competition. For example, the CMMT-ST has a microcontroller which is three times more powerful than previous models. This creates performance user advantages such as multi-protocol fieldbus compatibility, field weakening, energy management, auto-tuning and U/f open loop control. It also features an integrated web server, which is an advanced feature for a low-cost device. This enables the easy transfer of data to and from the servo drive for fast, simple set-up, diagnostics and file transfers.

Simple, powerful free software

Seamless connectivity should not only be limited to hardware. Selecting and integrating products should also be a seamless journey for users. Festo have developed a new simple sizing tool that allows panel builders and system integrators to input a handful of parameters for their application: either connected to a linear actuator, or the motor alone in a rotary application. The customer then receives five optimum solutions and motor curves, available for immediate transfer to the Festo online basket and even full commissioning files. The Electric Motion Sizing tool is available online and can significantly reduce the amount of time involved in researching and specifying compatible components.

The seamless journey continues with commissioning. The Festo Automation Suite (FAS) allows commissioning engineers to configure all products from remote IO to pneumatic valve terminals, PLCs and servo drives in a single free tool. The commissioning files can be directly imported from the Electric Motion Sizing tool. The FAS automatically connects to the Festo cloud to download project specific documentation and updates within the software. It even incorporates Codesys code for programming PLCs and Motion controllers.

Multiprotocol and IO

Seamless connectivity doesn’t just apply to servo drives for Festo customers. The CPX-AP-I remote IO system allows the use of exactly the same decentralised digital and analogue blocks, IO link masters and valve terminals, irrespective of the industrial network selected. This is thanks to the AP backplane running throughout the entire system. The user only selects a required bus network node and is then able to connect up to 80 different IO modules and still maintain a rapid data rate of 200 Mbaud in real time.

Final word

Innovation under pressure drove the rapid development of the new Festo servo drives. However, the outcome is a product that is certainly creating a buzz of excitement. The multi-protocol servo drives provide an easy way to reduce stock holdings, standardise on fewer components and provide increased product availability. Connectivity is a much, or over used term but the advent of multi-protocol drives has opened up new possibilities in this critical area of machine building.

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April 2023