OEM Uses Virtualization to Modernize Motion Control System

May 25, 2021
Using Real-Time Systems’ hypervisor technology to create virtual machines, ProCom enables its motion control system to communicate with the enterprise and support dashboards and tools for machine monitoring, management, and maintenance.

As a supplier of CNC machines for cutting applications, Germany-based ProCom’s equipment is used globally to cut foam for use in mattresses and furniture, as well as aircraft and car seats. Their controllers are also used for fabric cutting to produce designer suits, jeans and T-shirts. ProCom also supplies plasma, waterjet, and laser cutting controls.

ProCom’s cutting control technologies are powered by its proprietary CNC control, the industrial PC-based CNC300. The company also supplies a GUI (graphical user interface) with the CNC300 for machine control tool selection and other machine functions.

The current version of ProCom’s CNC300useshypervisor technology to distribute individual tasks among dedicated virtual machines. An RTOS-32 real-time operating system from On Time coordinates the cutting movement of the servo axes, integrated PLC functionality, and safety monitoring functions needed for CNC machine control. Previously, the company had used a dedicated CNC and PLC core along with an industrial PC-based hardware platform as a human-machine interface.

Moving from a three processor, hardware-based approach for machine control to the current version required ProCom to virtualize the hardware-based multiprocessor on a multicore processor. To do this, ProCom began using a multicore-based x86 operating system (Windows 10 IoT Enterprise) with one to two cores dedicated to Windows, plus one core each for the PLC and CNC motion control functions. 

ProCom chose Real-Time Systems’ (RTS) real-time hypervisor to enable the virtualization that would separate the Windows world for the GUI and task preparation from the real-time functions of the CNC.

“With the RTS hypervisor technology in place, ProCom’s control systems are now scalable across Intel’s core processors and have an OPC UA interface to handle communication of operating and machine data to connected MES and ERP applications,” said Harald Müller, head of consulting and production at ProCom.

The RTS hypervisor also plays a role with ProCom’s own Industry 4.0 platform called Clouver, which supports visualization dashboards and tools for machine monitoring, management, and maintenance.

Michael Reichlin, head of sales at RTS, said, “Enabling the controller to handle all these tasks essentially turned the controller into a multifunctional system similar to an edge computer in that it’s networked both horizontally and vertically in all directions. The real-time hypervisor is a convenient tool for developers to consolidate numerous individual dedicated solutions at the edge in a single multicore processor system without compromising real-time capability. Emerging embedded server technologies from AMD and Intel, which offer significantly more cores than current high-end embedded processors, will open an immense development field for hardware consolidation as well.”

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