Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Baldor Helps To Make Crane Training More Realistic

A three-axis motion platform based on Baldor Electric's Ethernet-compatible drives is increasing the realism of crane training by moving a replica operator cabin in synchronism with computer images. The specialist machine manufacturer Electropneumatics and Hydraulics developed the motion platform for the leading training solutions and services supplier Applied Research International (ARI). Based in New Delhi, India ARI produces a comprehensive range of simulators for marine and allied applications.

Its products include a variety of offshore, quay side and gantry crane-simulators to provide safe, cost-effective operational training for container movement and bulk-handling operations. ARI's simulators emulate the visual, behavioural and operational characteristics of their real-world counterparts to create a fully immersive environment in which the trainee can gain true hands-on experience. A typical crane simulator comprises a modular PC-based control system, a replica operator cabin and seat, a high-fidelity audio-visual system and an instructor station equipped with CCTV for monitoring the actions of the trainee.

When ARI decided to add an optional motion platform to its line of crane simulators, it approached Electropneumatics and Hydraulics for assistance. Electropneumatics and Hydraulics makes metalforming equipment, such as hydraulic presses and tube-bending machines, and also designs and builds special-purpose machinery including different levels of automation with total indigenous content and capability. Electropneumatics and Hydraulics based the motion platform for the crane simulator on Baldor's Powerlink- and Ethernet-compatible drives and servomotors.

'Baldor's Microflex e100 AC servo drives are very cost-effective for this type of application because they can be controlled via TCP/IP direct from the simulator's host PC, without the need for additional hardware,' according to the company's technical director, Ashley Rasquinha. The three-axis motion platform provides X, Y and Z movement of the replica operator cabin, synchronised to the computer-generated images being presented to the trainee. Since it is designed to accurately emulate the movement of a real-life gantry crane, the platform's drive axes are only required to handle relatively simple motion-control tasks such as point-to-point moves and homing sequences and do not require interpolation.

As a consequence, the Microflex e100 servo drives can be used in their basic Ethernet mode, without any additional complexity of real-time control. Each axis is driven by a Baldor BSM three-phase servomotor equipped with an incremental encoder for position and velocity feedback, controlled by a dedicated Microflex e100 servo drive. All three drives are housed in a separate floor-standing control cabinet and are connected via a D-Link 10/100Mbps Ethernet switch to the simulator's host PC. Ashley Rasquinha also said that Baldor's ActiveX development tools for its Mint motion-control language helped to minimise programming effort.

'The tools hide the complexity of Ethernet messages and provide a simple interface to all the Mint programming commands and functions; in conjunction with the excellent libraries of routines that Baldor provides, these made it very easy for us to create and validate all the motion-control sequences,' he added.

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