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KINGSTAR Soft Motion provides all the benefits of a software solution to motion control in an automatically configured EtherCAT environment with “plug-and-play” compatibility. With the highest quality and performance of pre-integrated and pre-tested motion libraries, KINGSTAR delivers motion control at half the cost of traditional hardware platforms. Deliver Software-Only Motion Control and Positioning Systems Quickly and Affordably KINGSTAR Soft Motion is an open and standards-based, software-only solution that streamlines motor control and automation. Soft Motion runs directly on the PC, uses the NIC card for I/O, and uses the powerful EtherCAT protocol to free you from the shackles of proprietary and costly hardware. With Soft Motion, motion control engineers can design, develop and integrate PC-based machine controllers in a “plug-and-play” environment for consolidated, inexpensive and scalable motion and vision control.

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KINGSTAR Soft Motion Platform Comparison Matrix

POSTED 10/13/2015

A Comparison of Motion Control Offerings

Key Trend for Machine Automation
For nearly decade, a leading edge companies have been quietly developing and deploying software-based machine controller solutions that execute directly on a Windows PCs. Some refer to the this form of real-time machine control as a software motion or soft motion.

Unlike traditional motion controllers which must incorporate a hardware microcomputer, FPGA or DSP to provide some features such as PID compensation, soft motion relies exclusively on a software-only engine that runs directly on the cores of a host PC to handle the real-time processing rather than running on a PCI board that plugs into a PC. This latter solution is expensive; it leaves the PC idle while the PCI Board does the work.

While these early adopters built the software-based machine controllers in-house for their own machines, several companies now offer a machine automation solution that allows you to quickly assemble and build your own Windows-PC machine controller for your industrial equipment or machines. This document compares the leading solutions available in the market.

Soft Machine Control Best Practices
The best soft motion architectures have the ability to completely replace your motion control hardware with a low cost, Windows-based Machine automation platform and replace proprietary I/O and cabling with low cost commodity parts like NIC cards and CAT 5 cables by taking advantage of standards like EtherCAT.

The benefits that you can expect include:

  • Reduce machine controller costs by 25-50%
  • Improve machine performance and control
  • Eliminate hardware inventory and motion board replacement issues
  • Improve operator and machine productivity
  • Lower training costs

Expected Features & Capabilities

  • Motion control algorithm executes directly on Industrial PC (IPC) and in hard-real time and not on a PCI-based card that plugs into IPC.
  • 125 Microsecond Servo loop update cycle
  • 64-Bit Real-time Kernel OS Addressing
  • 64-Axis of synchronized execution
  • Standards Based I/O: e.g. EtherCAT or Profinet
  • Modes of motion include jogging, point-to-point movement, contouring, linear, circular, spiral, cylindrical, conical, and spherical interpolation
  • Standard API consistent with Industry
    • Single Command API
    • Script Command API
  • Lower cost than hardware equivalent
  • Support Windows Human Machine Interface (HMI) and Motion control from one installation

Key Advantages Soft Motion Control
Innovates by Capitalizing on commercial IPC Hardware:

  • Easily handles computational heavy algorithms without additional expensive processors by using soft motion engine that fully exploits the superior performance and precision found with double-precision floating point versus fixed point computational power of DSPs and FPGAs.
  • Multiple PC cores can be allocated to simultaneously perform all tasks: real-time servo and motion control tasks, including feedback loops, accelerations/decelerations; graphical user interface control panel; program interpreting/loading; file management; data processing and network communications.

Breakthrough Performance at Lowest Cost:

  • No vendor lock-in with proprietary DSP or dedicated Real-time hardware; just rely on IPC.
  • Lower inventory and replacement costs by using Standard-Off-The-Shelf Components.
  • Ride the x86 performance wave and double performance every 18 months.
  • With EhterCAT, Servo drives can easily be switched with little or no reconfiguration to supply the ideal drive that meets the customer’s requirements.

Faster Time-To-Market with New Innovation:

  • Interpolation across multiple PCI Multi-Function Cards allows for innovation and protects investment.
  • Single Integrated Visual Studio Development Kit and world class User Experience.
  • So easily extendable and can leverage third party products that work in Windows.
  • EtherCAT creates networking opportunities.

Important Dimensions of Comparison
The table on the next page captures important dimensions of the best practices for a soft machine control architecture, which can be measured as follows:

  1. Real-Time OS (RTOS) with Microsoft Windows
  2. Basic Motion Control, in general
  3. Ability to support soft motion specifically
  4. Ability to support EtherCAT in software
  5. Price

Product Strength Summary

KINGSTAR Soft Motion Pro & Entry Editions
KINGSTAR’s real strengths are that it offers a platform that transforms Windows into an RTOS, it has a true soft motion solution, and focuses exclusively on EtherCAT standard today to eliminate all Bill-of-Material (BOM) costs.

ACS Motion SPiiPlus SC HP
ACS Motion solution relies on virtualization to add a second RTOS for determinism, it has experience in the market with its motion algorithms on hardware so the soft motion benefits from this experience. The price needs to be considered and the performance of EtherCAT is not the optimal (according to the fact sheet and documented below) that EtherCAT can deliver.

ADlink PCI-8366
ADLink Technology has solid experience with motion control boards. According to publically available literature, ADLINK Technology does not support soft motion or EtherCAT so the costs are considerably higher and the associated peripherals like cables and drives will be more expensive too.

Aerotech A3200
Aerotech A3200 has a history of good motion control capabilities and good soft motion capabilities. From the literature, EtherCAT can only be implemented by adding an expense hardware card. Without the EtherCAT solution, there is vendor lock-in for servo drives and cables and this raises the overall cost.

Galil DMC 18x6
Galil is well recognized for its user interface and solid motion control algorithms. Unfortunately, there is not yet any soft motion that runs directly on the PC and no direct software based EtherCAT support yet, so the solution remains expensive.

PC-Based Motion Control
With EtherCAT Solutions
KINGSTAR Motion Pro KINGSTAR Motion Entry Adlink PCI-8366 Galil DMC-18x6 Series ACS Motion - SPiiPlusSC HP Aerotech A3200
Price: 6 Axis Motion Functionality $ 1,295 $ 795 $ 1,896 $ 2,795 ? ?
Motion Control
Motion Control Algorithms Software on PC Software on PC PCI Plugged in PC PCI Plugged in PC Software on PC Software on PC
Max Number of Synchronized Axis 64 32 6 8 64 32
Linear Interpolation Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Arc (2 Coordinated axis) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Spherical, Helical (3 Coordinated) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Real Time Kernel OS 64-Bit 64-Bit 32-Bit 32Bit 32-Bit 32-Bit
Windows OS Support (7, 8) HMI 64 Bit 64 Bit 32 or 64 Bit 32 or 64 Bit 32 or 64 Bit 32 or 64 Bit
Key Motion - JOG, Homing Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Supported Command Modes:
Position/ Velocity/ Torque
P, V, T P, V, T P,?,? P, V, T P,?,? P, V, ?
Minimum Servo Loop Update Time 125 microseconds (Compliant with EtherCAT) 1000 microseconds 888 microseconds 62 Microseconds 200 microseconds ?
EtherCAT Network
EtherCAT Master Software on PC Software on PC No EtherCAT No EtherCAT Software on PC Hilscher PCI Card ($+)
Best EtherCAT Update Cycle Time (Standard supports down to 125 microseconds) 125 microseconds (EtherCAT Minium) 1000 microseconds No EtherCAT No EtherCAT 200 microseconds ?
EtherCAT Drives Support Any EtherCAT-Compliant Drives Any EtherCAT-Compliant Drives No EtherCAT No EtherCAT Mitsubishi, Yaskawa, Panasonic Any EtherCAT-Compliant Drives