Soft Motions & Robotics, a software-based equipment motion control company, is expected to double its sales in 2020 from 2019.
A large South Korean semiconductor equipment has expanded the use of the company’s software, which is quickly replacing programmable logic controller (PLC) hardware as Soft Motions & Robotics’ main revenue base.
Large investments in the semiconductor industry has increased orders for its software, Soft Motions & Robotics CEO Yang Boo-ho told TheElec. The company is aiming to double its sales in 2021 from this year, the CEO said.
The firm’s mainstay is the software-based motion controller WMX3. Motion control market, which uses motors within equipment, has been controlled by hardware controllers such as PLC. PLC-based hardware controllers use designated processor and software as well as designated communication protocols. A PC will give the orders and the PLC will calculate that order and the servo driver will use that information to move the motor.
WMX3 is a software that is based on Intel processor architecture. It uses one core of a CPU’s multi core. One PC with WMX3 installed can control the motor using a servo driver. It can be used for motion profiles such as speed and acceleration curve as well as for interpolation, trajectory and synchronization. Soft Motions & Robotics stress that one copy of WMX3 can control up to 128-axis at 1ms, which means it is effectively real-time control.
The performance of CPUs today match those of supercomputers of the past so additional hardware besides the PC is unnecessary, Yang said. The company had developed and supplying a small IPC hardware with WMX3 installed to customers.
PLC, though specifications for each products may differ, can control only around 20 to 30-axis. Additional PLC must be installed for more axes. A local competitor of Soft Motions & Robotics currently supply Window OS-based motion controller but it also can’t control as many axes as WMX3, the company claimed. To support more axes, it requires that a PCI Express card with a logic chip must be added. Yang stressed that this is why WMX3 was superior in cost, installation simplicity and the area in takes place at the workplace.
Soft Motions & Robotics also has its own EtherCAT-based standard portocal called Original EtherCAT Soft Master. This is provided with WMX3. Conventionally, a company that provides the motor technology also provides the PLC. This is because they use their own communication protocol. Therefore, depending on the kind of PLC, what motor they choose is limited. EtherCAT uses IEC-61158 standard so it can communicate with various kinds of motors, making it flexible in scalability. Soft Motions & Robotics’ Soft Master meets the requirement of Class A given by EtherCAT Technology Group.
Soft Motions & Robotics’ largest customer is Samsung Electronics’ semiconductor equipment subsidiary Semes. The company has over 60 customers.
CEO Yang graduated from Kyoto University and received a Ph.D in Mechanical Engineering from MIT. He had been a research scientist in motion control technology at MIT afterwards. He founded Soft Motions & Robotics’ South Korea office in March, 2014. The company currently has 45 employees.