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Understanding Machine Automation Terminology

Posted by Mark Guida on March 1, 2012 03:09 PM

With the technology today in motion control and machine automation, there can be a large number of terms used that are unfamiliar.  This can lead to miscommunication or in the worst case, a machine that does not work.  Here's a short list of common components and terms that are commonly used with respect to machine automation that will hopefully help to reduce some confusion.







  • Motion Controller or Machine Automation Controller -A motion control productfor numeric control using pulse strings, multi-axis control using Motion Network, and synchronized cam control.

  • Servo Drive - A device that is a structural unit of a servo system and is used with a Servomotor. The Servo Drive controls the Servomotor according to instructions from a PLC or other controller and performs feedback control with signals from an encoder or other component.

  • Servo Motor - A device that is a structural unit of a servo system and is used with a Servo Drive. The Servomotor includes the motor that drives the load and a position detection component, such as an encoder.

  • Regenerative Braking - A function that allows an external braking resistor to consume the motor's regeneration energy as heat. This function is useful for a system in which the motor works as a generator when it is rapidly decelerated.

  • Cam Positioner - A control device that detects angles of rotation by means of an absolute encoder or resolver and gives output signals according to the preset ON and OFF angles set in a cam program.

  • PID Control - A control method that matches a feedback (detected) value to a set target value by combining proportional (P), integral (I), and derivative (D) control. The manipulated variable from internal PID is used to control speeds, pressures, flowrates, temperatures, and other items as a frequency reference to an Inverter function.

  • Open-Loop - Also called a non-feedback controller, is a type of controller that computes its input into a system using only the current state and its model of the system.

  • Closed-Loop – I type of controller that computes its input into a system using feedback from an external data source which becomes more accurate and ‘self correcting.’  A PID controller is closed-loop.

  • Sinking - Refers to an output device (typically an NPN transistor) that allows current flow from the load through the output to ground.

  • Sourcing - Output device (typically a PNP transistor) that allows current flow from the output through the load and then to ground.

  • Line Driver - An output method that uses a special IC for high-speed, long-distance data transmission that complies with the RS-422A standard. Two differential signals are output to provide strong immunity to noise. A special IC called a line receiver is used to receive the signals output from a line driver.

  • Open Collector - A no-contact output used for DC operation where the terminal on the collector side of a transistor is used as the output terminal.

  • Torque Compensation - A function that increases the output torque when an increase in the motor load is detected.

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