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Motion Control Technology Advances

Adding digital motion control to packaging machines was more revolutionary than the robot invasion.

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Robots found use in picking, sorting and stacking. Most of the applications are end-of-line or otherwise additive to machinery. Motion control of movable parts enabled a huge redesign of packaging machines. Designers were able to take weight and cost out of the machine. They could reduce delivery times. Their customers achieved great flexibility in production runs, becoming much more efficient.

That revolution is well under way. Much work remains—especially developing and implementing standard approaches to programming, displays, naming conventions and machine-state descriptions. Some work has been done implementing networking and coordination of all the machines on a packaging line. Apparently, the next phase—applicable in many types of manufacturing—is networking and coordination of process machines to packaging machines.

Today’s manufacturing management is trending toward leveraging digital data available in the wide assortment of sensing and control products, along with the power of Ethernet networking, to move that data. Plant-level manufacturing operations management applications enable coordination of manufacturing with production and sales schedules, making plants more responsive to the market. That same software provides information to operators, engineers and managers so that they may be able to run more efficient and profitable plants. There’s still a long way to go.

Check out an Automation World podcast in which Managing Editor Wes Iversen discusses the market environment and the outlook for robotics with Joe Campbell, ABB Robotics vice president, sales and marketing. Visit

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