March 14, 2018

Many people associate the term automation with robots, but it’s not always the case. Similar to how there are various types of pasta, there are different kinds of automation systems; this includes motion control and robotics system. These machines make our lives easier by completing repetitive tasks without human assistance, and are often found in the manufacturing industries. While they both may perform similar tasks, operating them is another story. Below are the differences between these two types of systems.

Components
Motion control encompasses the systems involved in movement of a machine. Often it has more moving parts than other automated machines. Motion control includes the initiating and controlling of the output. They are precise in what they can do, offering speed, control, and positioning. These motion control systems usually include three key components:
1. Controller: The controller is in charge of the trajectory or path calculations and sends commands to the drive, which will in turn start the motor.
2. Amplifier: This is an electrical tool that’s used to increase the power of electrical signals.
3. Motor: The motor is a part of a machine that supplies motive power to a machine or device with moving parts.

In contrast, unlike motion-control systems, the components within robots are fixed. For instance, the motor speed, actuator, and mechanical links are part of the robot’s makeup. According to the Robot Institute of America, “a robot is a reprogrammable, multifunctional manipulator designed to move material, parts, tools, or specialized devices through variable programmed motions for the performance of a variety of tasks.”

You can think of robotics system as the full-package solution when it comes to automation systems, whereas motion controls require manual programming.

Usability
One of the main differences between motion control and robots systems is their usability. Robots are often seen as ready-to-go upon arrival. The engineer does not need to worry about programming each individual part of the machine. They have a control panel attached which can be altered to suit the requirements of the task using software. While robots are easier to operate than motion-controlled systems, with robots a small mistake can have serious consequences. This is why all robotic technicians need substantial training to work in the field.

Motion control systems, on the other hand, are more difficult to program and operate. This is because each individual part of the machine that is going to be in motion needs to be programmed separately. Since each part has a different function, the programmer needs a large breadth of knowledge as well.  Users have to regularly sharpen their programmable logic control (PLC) skills as these are typically used to control multiple motion-control setups and logic control on machinery.

Cost
Robot solutions tend to be more expensive than motion control systems because of the pre-engineering that has been done to make it a turnkey. However, although motion control systems are generally more affordable, it also requires the technical knowledge, time and staff to operate it.

Becoming a Robotics or Motion Control Systems Technician
Regardless of the various kinds of automation systems, automation is a growing trend in the manufacturing industries; hence, there’s a growing demand for automation, robotics and motion-control systems technicians to maintain and operate these machines.
To get your foot in the door in the automation industry, it’s important to develop relevant technical knowledge, experience, and skills. There are a variety of career options to choose from such as  programmable logic controllers (PLCs), robotics technicians and automation technicians.

Many educational institutions now offer online technical training programs to help young professionals or people looking to switch their careers succeed in this fields. These self-paced, distance programs are perfect for people with busy schedules. With North American manufacturers investing in new technologies and facilities, it’s the perfect time to get yourself ahead of the skills curve.

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