By Alix Paultre, Contributing Writer
Advanced Automation Drives
Trend to Smart Manufacturing
Intelligent sensors, microcontrollers, and software enable designers to develop the manufacturing plant of the future.
The spread of advanced automation technology in manufacturing is advancing rapidly, with facilities—
both old and new—implementing the latest in smart
manufacturing and intelligent robotic systems. The need for
precise motion control is driven by all of the demands now
placed on the line, from moving products around on the
manufacturing floor to the stations they are worked on to
the logistics of moving the finished product through a facility.
These intelligent systems share three primary needs:
detection, decision, and action. Modern sensors provide
the detection, advanced microcontrollers (MCUs) and
smart management software develop the decision, and
precision motors perform the action. Each of these legs
are as important as the next, since the best motor is
useless without precise control, and neither can perform
adequately without feedback. In this article we’ll go over
the latest in motion and motor control from the point of
the controller and logic.
Performing in an industrial environment is a challenge
under the best of conditions, as fast, efficient, and effective
operation is often hampered by harsh environments, tight
confines, and noise in both power and signal from facility
equipment. Devices serving this space must be smart,
small, and rugged.
Sensors provide the information from the real world,
but that information must be filtered, interpreted, and
acted upon. The latest system-on-chip (SoC) devices
and microcontrollers are starting to incorporate advanced
functionality that lend themselves well to the automation
space. Today, a key feature is the ability to communicate
both wired and wirelessly with a variety of protocols for
as seamless a deployment as possible.
The argument can be made that the last frontier of the
cloud is to bring together all wireless devices, legacy
and modern. This need will diminish as devices migrate
toward a more homogenous universal protocol, but until
then, system controllers will need to be multilingual.
One example can be found in Texas Instruments’
SimpleLink MCU platform (Figure 1). Created to
meet the myriad connectivity needs in smart buildings,
intelligent factories, and next-gen grid applications, this
family of wireless and wired microcontrollers also have
industry-leading low power consumption.
The devices provide multi-standard and multi-band
connectivity for Thread, Zigbee, Bluetooth 5, and sub-1
GHz, with memory and connectivity options, and 100
percent code reuse across TI’s Arm Cortex-M4-based
MCUs to support and connect sensor networks to the cloud.
In the case of Silicon Labs, they developed dynamic
multiprotocol software for their existing family of
wireless Gecko SoC and modules (Figure 2) to enable
simultaneous operation of Zigbee and Bluetooth low
energy, bringing together the key application benefits of
both protocols while reducing the wireless subsystem bill-of-materials cost and size by up to 40 percent.
Figure 1: Texas
MCU platform is a family
of wireless and wired
to meet the myriad of
connectivity needs in
smart buildings, intelligent
factories, and next-gen grid
Figure 2: Silicon Labs developed dynamic multiprotocol software
for its existing family of wireless Gecko SoC and modules to enable
simultaneous operation of Zigbee and Bluetooth low energy.