A machine control shell for next generation manufacturing machines

There is a growing pressure on many manufacturing oganisations to produce products in small volumes. However, to date, most automation projects have centred on high volume production. The major impediment to the application of programmable automation lies in the high cost of engineering solutions. Already a range of control system components are available to produce flexible automation schemes but as yet the selection and use of those components is a highly specialised exercise which is generally not well understood. This paper describes the need for an open control architecture for programmable machines and outlines findings of a proof of concept research project aimed at formalising the design of control systems. The work has resulted in a “motion control shell' which can much reduce the cost and time involved when building machine controllers.