Ethercat-based Vision-integrated Automation Control System
Optical lens producers are all looking to increase production capacity. As they develop their own production equipment they need to enhance the equipment’s ability to respond to quick production line changes and fully satisfy precision control requirements. Camera modules have diverse configurations and require precise assembly work. Without careful calculations on the positions and bonding angles between lenses, there may be optical axis misalignment resulting in blurry images and poor picture quality.
Under the circumstances, optical lens producers face the same challenge of how to implement synchronous motion control on the production line to achieve high-performance and high-precision control. Most manufacturers are used to satisfying their production needs by expanding motion control cards. The increase in the number of motion control cards means there are more axes that need to be controlled. Therefore, synchronous action across axes (cards) holds the key to increasing capacity, which is unlikely to happen due to limitation of the traditional architecture. Furthermore, with a limited number of I/O slots, industrial computers can hardly support continuing motion control card expansions. As a result, vendors have no choice but to keep buying more industrial computers, which imposes burden in terms of both costs and space. This is another challenge for the optical lens industry. Chia-Wei Yang, market development manager, automation business center, Adlink, commented optical lens producers are phasing in Ethercat solutions to overcome the above-mentioned challenges and enhance production flexibility. They hope to use out-of-box control and connect all Ethercat masters and slaves with the same Ethernet cable so different axes under the control of different motion control cards have a chance to move in synchronization. Moreover, with the same Ethernet cable, optical lens producers can add new slave equipment at any time to address the needs for capacity expansion. Taking Adlink’s Ethercat solution for example, up to 64 axes can operate in synchronization and the availability of 10,000 DI/O and 2,500 AI/O allows ample expandability.
Reliable defect inspection
Some users may wonder that although capacity increase relies on hardware expansion, software changes are also required. Adlink provides APS Function Library so customers can reuse existing software packages while also customizing some functions available from APS, such as redefining speed and loop and helical interpolation to accelerate software packaging or enrich software features. On the APS basis, customers can easily and flexibly keep up with evolving operation needs whether by expanding control cards or modifying software programs. Yang pointed out Adlink is able to come out ahead in optical lens producers‘ selection process because its solution not only provides compatibility with third-party Ethercat equipment (e.g. motors) but also enables a greater advantage by integrating machine vision. After a work piece enters the assembly line, a typical production flow includes the steps of alignment, processing, compiling production history and finally defect inspection. Machine vision is used for inspection during the whole process, including simple alignment check and complicated AOI defect check. It should also be mentioned that in-house optical production lines undergo constant changes to accommodate diverse production tasks for different devices. Vendors generally desire equipment with smaller footprint to save space as well as wiring costs. Seeing that industrial computers are generally too bulky, Adlink especially introduces the Talos-2000 Series controller featuring compact footprint, highly integrated machine vision and compatibility with third-party Ethercat equipment. The ready-to-use automation control system is powered by 6th Generation Intel Core i7/i5/i3 processors, provides Ethercat control and four independent PoE (power over Ethernet) ports, with data transfer rates up to 4.0Gb/s. The series offers motion control of up to 64 axes, 10,000 I/O points, and four channel PoE camera connectivity with minimal footprint. The Talos-2000 Series integrates complete APIs for multi-dimensional, highly synchronized and time-deterministic event-triggered motion & I/O control, high precision image capture, and data transmission. Many optical lens producers are enthusiastically embracing the new controller as it enables precise motion control through highly synchronized actions, supports optimal flexibility and adapts to quick production line changes. New functions were developed in the APS Function Library for customers to make use of. It will soon add a new function to support flexible editing of Ethercat slave stations. If customers need to change their Ethercat topology and correspondingly modify the software programs in the future, they can do so at the slave stations without any problem.