What is a Motion Controller?

When it comes to automated control systems, motion control is quite special. It’s not just a basic bit of technology used for controllers for video games. It can be used for extremely advanced machine functionality also, making motion controllers very important to the future of manufacturing, tech, and machinery. 

A motion controller allows us to move the machine tooling or part itself with superior accuracy, in a controlled linear or rotary manner. By taking the input command of the user and comparing it to the feedback signal from the motor, the controller can then take the corrective action to align the input and output with little to no error.

A motion controller also creates motion profiles, these are the trajectories the motion control motors follow to enable them to meet the given commands. A motion profile talks to the motor, telling it where it can position the load and how quickly it must achieve it. The motion controller then utilizes the trajectories that it develops to create the precise torque commands needed. The torque commands are then delivered to the drive which powers the motor.

This functionality of motion controllers requires an extensive amount of sensors and motion control components in order to work correctly. Therefore, motion controllers most commonly use digital signal processors (DSP’s). DSP’s allow the motion controller to handle mathematical processing and algorithms much quicker than standard microcontrollers.

Motion Control Engineering 

Motion control technology is in your everyday life whether you realize it or not. If you live in a city, it’s likely that you use and witness types of motion control engineering every day.

Modern engineering tasks have become much heavier and complex. This requires smarter and quicker motion control technology to assist with modern engineering techniques.

Complex algorithms that were once solely used on high-end expensive applications are now becoming commonplace due to DSP’s. These algorithms are now becoming mainstream due to increasing integration motion control. There is also much more complexity in communication including:

  • Control and feedback channels
  • Low latency, high-bandwidth, bus-level communications interfaces
  • Synchronicity
  • Real-time behavior
  • Fast response times

This has all led to motion control becoming a fundamental building block in design engineering.

Motion Control Examples

Motion control is now being used extensively by engineers in all manner of industrial applications and on domestic appliances.

  • Digital Manufacturing (3D Printing & CNC Machines)
  • Manufacturing (machine productivity, conveyor systems & automotive bearing)
  • Energy (Wind turbines, hydropower)
  • Industrial and collaborative robotics
  • Smart warehouses
  • Dispensing
  • Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) industry
  • Remotely operated vehicles (ROV)
  • Motion gaming (motion controller pc, motion controller PS4)
  • Camera (motion control camera, motion control video camera)

Types of Motion Controllers

Industrial Motion Controller

Motion controllers are extremely useful in many industrial applications helping to speed up productivity, increase the accuracy of movement, improve velocity and control force or pressure with greater ability. This allows for many useful motion controller applications in the manufacturing, processing, robotics, automotive, warehousing, and logistics industries.

There are three types of motion controllers used in industrial applications: stand-alone, PC-based, and individual microcontrollers.

Controllers for Video Games

Anyone that remembers the launch of the Nintendo Wii in 2004, will remember the buzz created around the motion controllers that came as standard with the Wii console. While the buzz quickly died down, over the last few years motion controllers for video games have seen a huge return with new and advanced technology allowing for better user experience.

This resurgence in motion controller technology has seen the launch of many video game controllers such as:

  • Wii Remote (Wii U)
  • DualShock 4 (PlayStation 4)
  • PlayStation Move (PlayStation 4)
  • Wii U GamePad (Wii U)
  • Kinect (Xbox One)
  • Razer Hydra
  • Joy-Con and Nintendo Switch Pro Controller (Nintendo Switch)
  • Steam Controller

These motion controllers use accelerometers that are able to detect it’s approximate orientation and acceleration and serves an image sensor to be used as a pointer device. This allows gamers to immerse themselves into some incredible video game experiences. The motion controllers for video games vary in the mechanisms used to achieve their input.

Motion Controller PS4

The motion controller for the PS4 (Playstation 4) is named the DualShock 4. This motion controller supports motion detection via a three-axis gyroscope and three-axis accelerometer and vibration. It was designed to allow gamers to feel even closer to the action on the screen by allowing them to use the controller in a motion that has a real-time effect within the game. This could be as simple as rotating the controller left or right to steer a car or pulling back the controller to reload a gun.

Motion Controller CNC

CNC controllers are becoming an increasingly popular alternative to PLC. CNC is suited to many industrial applications including picking and placing, packaging, conveyors, adjustable parts holding and palletizing.

CNC can support multi-path axis interpolation providing the precision and control required on machines such as presses, stamping machines, loaders, winding or filling stations.

CNC has some solid benefits such as ready to use pre-developed screens, simple development of customized screens, integrated functions and superior durability. It is also easy to operate with anyone being able to program it’s motion applications such as the axis and motor control. 

The superior torque control of CNC helps with applications that require constant tension winding. This is possible through the independent control of the feed and winding axes. CNC can also help to control an entire production line involving 10 or 20 axes. Fast synchronization that is required for punch and rail movements made up of one or two loaders plus a machine is made simple with CNC motion controllers.

Programming and set up times with CNC are much quicker than traditional PLC also. This saves time and money that would usually be spent navigating the complicated circular motions of PLC. CNC uses straight motions that allow for programming in just one day. CNC is therefore not just cheaper or as versatile, it is also faster than most other solutions making it the perfect solution for large manufacturing and processing applications. 

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