Rexroth Technology Gets Weiss Handling Unit Ready for Industry 4.0 Solutions

Rexroth Technology Gets Weiss Handling Unit Ready for Industry 4.0 Solutions
Marginal Column

November 2017


The HP70 handling unit from the automation specialist WEISS is lightning fast and perfectly suited for networked production. Open core technology from Rexroth makes this possible.

Just looking at the HP70 handling unit from WEISS GmbH is enough to make anyone dizzy. At lightning speed, the gripper shoots forward, lifts the workpiece, rapidly moves back slightly and puts it down again. This process is repeated a hundred times a minute. Pick and place applications such as this are used in production in numerous sectors, including automotive, electrics and pharmaceuticals. Short cycle times and high machine productivity are essential in these industries. In addition, these sectors have hugely diverse product ranges that require flexible machine solutions with Industry 4.0 capability. The HP70 from WEISS meets all of these requirements. The automation company was established in 1967. Its headquarters is in Buchen, around a 90-minute drive north of Stuttgart, and it employs around 400 people worldwide. In addition to rotary tables and linear assembly systems, the company’s core business includes handling solutions. In the HP70, the specialist has developed a more compact, high-precision and faster handling unit than has ever been seen on the market. This is possible in part thanks to Rexroth drive and control technology.

Lean solution

The handling modules operate with just two linear motors positioned one above the other. The Z-stroke is generated by shifting the linear motors towards one another. This enables them to lift or lower a gripper by up to 70 millimeters using a shared mechanism. Detlev Philipp is responsible for software and drive technology at WEISS: “Over the years, we have developed a complex coordinate transformation for this virtual Z-axis and implemented in the C programming language.” WEISS therefore required drive and control systems that would allow problem-free integration of this expertise that is embedded in the software. The design principle involving just two linear motors means that the HP70 only has a width of 60 millimeters.

Easy integration

WEISS found the perfect solution in Rexroth. The IndraDrive servo-drives with integrated motion-logic system have a Multi-Ethernet interface for all standard Ethernet protocols. WEISS is able to implement the sophisticated software it has created in the IndraDrive family with no complications. Rexroth’s Open Core Interface for Drives interface technology makes this possible. The technology supports a variety of different programming languages, development environments, and operating systems (see box). The drives also have an integrated web server, through which users can access parameters and status information. However, a customer-specific web server can also be used if required. Thanks to this technology, WEISS is able to integrate the proprietary software that the company has recently developed for commissioning, diagnostics, and operation. The advantage of the web technology is that it is independent of terminals and no programs have to be installed, as all interactions are carried out in the web browser interface. The drive technology has one other major advantage: WEISS does not require separate control hardware, thus saving space in the control cabinet.

Ready for Industry 4.0

The HP70 is designed to enable it to be incorporated into Industry 4.0 environments. As a freely programmable module, it adapts to new conditions in response to simple software commands from the networked environment and creates a decentralized control loop. The feedback of position, process forces and speed supports Industry 4.0 approaches to quality assurance and digital lifecycle management. Users can thus capture all of the process data for each individual product.

The IndraDrive’s Multi-Ethernet interface – a single piece of hardware covering all standard protocols – allows seamless data exchange. The interface opens up numerous possibilities for communication between machines. As a rule, WEISS equips each handling unit with its own decentralized intelligence. “The end user can always immediately see which controller belongs to which axis and can diagnose problems very quickly,” says Tobias Frank, who is also responsible for software and drive technology at WEISS.

Simply safe

Particularly on high-dynamic drives, safety always plays a major role. “Our minimum level always comprises at least” Safe Torque Off” (STO). The Safe Motion feature on the IndraDrive allows us to achieve safety level SIL2”, says Detlev Philipp, emphasizing another important benefit. IndraDrive provides certified safety functions and thus enables automation solutions complying with relevant standards to be created without the need to use a higher-level control. WEISS is able to configure the safety functions very easily. It is also possible to directly connect active safety elements to the IndraDrive.

Customers certainly appreciate the combination of productivity, safety in conformity with standards, and Industry 4.0 capability. The HP70 is one of WEISS’s most successful products, and turnover is continuously growing.

Open Core Technology

With Open Core Interface for Drives from Rexroth, programmers can use a wide range of operating and development systems and directly access the drive-integrated motion-logic system and drive functions of the IndraDrive family from their usual environment.

Supported operating systems for Rexroth IndraDrive:

Windows (Microsoft), Linux, iOS (Apple), Android (Open Handset Alliance), Windows Phone (Microsoft)

Development environments:

Visual Studio (Microsoft), Office applications (Excel, Word, PowerPoint) (Microsoft), Eclipse (Eclipse Foundation), Mono (Xamarin)

Programming languages:

C#, C / C++, Visual Basic, Visual Basic for Applications, Java, JavaScript, G (LabVIEW), Matlab script language, Python, Node.js