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An Introduction to the World of

Motion Control

Prepared by: Tamir Al Balkhi, Priyanka Daniel & Hiren Mistry




: November 14, 2014

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Table of Contents


1. Abstract...3
2. Introduction.....4
3. History.....5
4. Applications of Motion Control........5
4.1 Robotics and their manufacturing applications....5
4.2 Film production, gaming and Photography......6
4.3 CNC Machining.......6

5. Motion Control Architecture......7

5.1 Controller......7
5.2 Driver......8
5.3 Motor...8
5.4 Feedback loops and Devices..8

6. Machine Learning and Future uses.....9

7. Conclusion....10


Figure 1: Typical Motion Control System3

Figure 2: 20th Century assembly line.....4
Figure 3: Line of Robots manufacturing cars5
Figure 4: Motion controlled robot used in filming5
Figure 5: Microcontroller.8
Figure 6: Anatomy of a Brushed DC Motor8
Figure 7: System Block Diagram..9

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1. Abstract
The guide to the body of automation specifies motion control as one of its topics of interest. In this
paper, an introduction of motion control will be presented. The history, components, application,
use of machine learning and future uses will all be outlined. Motion control is a field of automation
in which mechanical machines are controlled using a controller, drive and motor. The systems that
can be controlled vary and can use pneumatic, hydraulic or electromechanical actuation technology.
The controller being the brain sends signals via I/O commands to control the motor using the drive.
The feedback elements in a motion control system are the final part of the loop that loops back to
the controller. It sends information about the output and is used as a check to ensure that the motor
or load measured reaches the position or velocity given to it by the system. The main uses of a
motion control system are to analyze and control velocity and position, pressure and force and
assembly lines among other industries. Furthermore, network protocols such as PROFIBUS,
DeviceNet, Smart Distributed Systems and EtherCAT to name a few are the communication portals
through which the motion control system utilizes for communication. Robots are used everywhere
in the industry and have become essential to the manufacturing process. There are countless
factories filled with thousands of robots and only a few operators. The rate of automating processes
in todays society is increasing at an alarming rate. The precision and effectiveness of products
created by these robots can allow companies to withstand the demand of the populous. From
simple CNC machining to complex autonomous robotic control, motion control has advanced using
more advanced controllers, and feedback loops, as well as more efficient drivers to send signals.
Moreover, with the progression of machine learning and more powerful algorithms and controller
parts for the system to use, a robot can learn faster than it ever could twenty years ago. This
development in technology allows for the robot to be more autonomous and have bigger impact on
daily lives in many fields of technology, education, science, entertainment and safety. The faster and
more efficient CPUs have allowed the autonomous robot to analyze information in higher gigaflops
in order to make it a smoother machine.

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2. Introduction
Motion control is a subsidiary in the field of automation in which mechanical machines are
controlled to serve an automated purpose. The systems that can be controlled vary and can use
pneumatic, hydraulic or electromechanical actuation technology. Motion control systems are
complex and are comprised of multiple parts that include motion controller, drive or amplifier,
actuator and feedback elements. A typical
system is shown in Figure 1.
The motion controller is the brain of a
motion control system. It is used specifically
for controlling motion and uses I/O
commands that are specific to its use. The
motion paths are generated by using set
points to control the desired output which
react to any changes applied to the outside of
Figure 1: Typical Motion Control System
the system. Most motion controllers are PC
based and come equipped with a graphical user interface which allows simple and advanced
features to be easily configurable through an operator's screen.
It varies to how complex it can be, ranging from either as simple as an ON/OFF switch or a
computer that can control multiple motion control devices. The features that it also possesses make
it more expensive to purchase.
The drive or amplifier converts the control signal given from the motion controller into a higher
power signal that gets sent to the motor to drive the output. The drive originally started off as a
single quadrant model which would simply provide a link between the controller and the motor
however, as technology advanced the drive can now be four quadrants with abilities to both drive
the motor and regenerate it in both the forward and backward direction.
An actuator is the output of the motion control system which is responsible for moving or
controlling a mechanism in the system. It varies in the type of device, but typical ones used are
hydraulic pump, linear conveyors, electric motors and air cylinders.
The feedback elements in a motion control system are the final part of the loop that loops back to
the controller. It sends information about the output and is used as a check to ensure that the motor
or load measured reaches the position or velocity given to it by the system. Feedback elements also
vary and devices such as optical encoders, resolvers and Hall effects are just a couple of feedback
devices that relay the position or velocity of the output back to the motion controller. This allows
operators to analyze information at different stages in the motion control system.

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3. History
The beginning of the industrial revolution dates back into the 1760's but motion control didn't
startup until the early 1800's. The need for machinery to automate repetitive tasks was in demand
and the early automation took form as crude motors with belt and pulley drive trains. These motors
were purely mechanical and powered using a large water wheel or steam engine. It wasn't until the
1870's where the DC generator and public electricity gave way to inventions that used electrical
power to drive a motor and create electromechanical systems. By 1927, Harold black and
discovered the concept of negative feedback in amplifiers and soon after in the 1930's the first
pneumatic motion control products were developed. Throughout the 50's 60's and 70's, different
components of a motion control system were being used and developed primarily for space flight
and war. These advances helped mold the idea of motion control and by the late 1990's, motion
control took a huge advancement by introducing digital communications via serial networks and
network protocols such as PROFIBUS, DeviceNet and Smart Distributed Systems took over the
automation market.
Today, in the 20th century, motion control
systems are increasingly complex, and there are
many choices as to what you want when creating
the system. Ethernet connectivity, HMI's (human
machine interface) and PC/Software integration
have become the norm in designing a system.
Designers of the systems are demanding more
open standard solutions which mean multiple
devices can be used in conjunction with one
another without having any limitations. That
means any controller, any motor, any feedback
Figure 2: 20th Century Assembly Line
element, any network, and any environment could
be used to create a system that caters exactly to an operator's needs. In present day, industries
such as semiconductor production, printing, packaging, and assembly are just a few that use these
types of systems.

4. Applications of Motion Control

There are countless uses of motion control in today's world. Motion control is a broad term and has
different meanings to various industries. The main uses are velocity and position control, pressure
and force control, assembly lines and the film industry.
4.1 Robotics and their manufacturing applications
For a product to be assembled successfully, it is essential to move the right parts to the right place
and orientation at the right time. The technology of motion control with the help of robots has made
that happen. Robots are used everywhere in the industry and have become essential to the
manufacturing process. There are million factory robots in the world, and this rate keeps increasing
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every year. Since robots work at higher speeds and higher precision, over the years, they have
drastically decreased cost of labour and increased production due to which yesterday's luxury
items have become today's disposable's. Most robots require just a robot arm to do the job. Each
arm typically has several joints, servo motors and stepper motors to power the joints. The user can
input specific commands using an HMI that then communicated with the robot. Most assembly
lines' uses replicated motion control meaning once the information is fed to the robot the
procedure repeats itself for every single product. Assembly line's that manufacture different kinds
of products have to be programmed. Various motion controls such as speed, positioning, rotating
motion, pressure and force control are used for several products from manufacturing and
packaging orange juice to an automobile.
4.2 Film Production, Gaming and Photography
Motion control has great uses in the film production industry. Almost every movie that you have
watched may have made use motion control. The most commonly used the precise and repeatable
control of a speed and position of the camera. There is usually a camera that sits on the end of an
arm containing about 12 degrees of freedom that can swing, lift, extend, tilt at an angle, roll or move
along a track. Some camera controls include closing the shutter, focusing and zooming. The Milo
motion control rig is a true visual effects tool that is used in every filming center of the world. In the
movie Dr. Do Little (1998), several shots of Eddie Murphy and the animals were shot at different
times and combined. It would have been too dangerous to lose an actor or make the different kinds
of animal's act together in the same scene otherwise. Sometimes, a collective amount of people may
be filmed to represent a busy street. This cuts costs and labour of hiring and training several actors.
The same applied to gaming and photography. For Example, the PlayStation Move motion
controller is a combination of motion sensors, dynamic colour changing spheres and vibration

Figure 3: Line of Robots manufacturing cars

Figure 4: Motion controlled robot used in filming

4.3 CNC Machining

CNC (Computer Numerical Control) method is the process used in the manufacturing sector which
involves the use of computer's to control machines tools. This technology reduces cycle time,
improves surface finish, drills faster and extends machine life. The tools that can be controlled in
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this manner are vertical mills, center lathes, shaping machines that are usually operated by a
trained engineer. This machine may seem like a normal PC controlled machine, but the unique
software and control console of the computer is what makes a CNC machine distinct. A customized
computer program is made for an object and programmed with CNC machining language that
control's various features like the feed rate, coordination and location speed. This process is usually
used in the manufacturing of metal and plastic parts. The objects produced are more precise than
the one's produced by a regular machine. These complex parts would have been nearly impossible
to produce otherwise. CNC machines cut manufacturing costs by lowering upgrade costs and
replacing skilled engineers with computers. Several products like aerospace and military
equipment, in which precision is never a compromise, are manufactured using CNC machining

5. Motion Control Architecture

Advancements in motion control technology usually are focused on improving accuracy, speed and
efficiency of the system. While these advances are important, changes in the architecture of motion
control are just as important. In the past ten years, motion control architecture has been developed
to offer reduced wiring, improved reliability and complex computer controlled systems. A general
motion control system is comprised of a controller, an actuator and a motor followed by a feedback
loop system. Other components include gears, shafts, joints, etc. The controller handles the machine
interfacing and sends signal's based on the algorithms. Drivers and actuators are meant to drive the
motor according to the controller's reference signals; the motor then sends the feedback back to the
5.1 Controller
The controller sends signals to the drive that powers the motor, the motor then sends a feedback
loop to the controller. The controller is also responsible for analyzing and correcting errors in the
feedback signals. Controllers can be simple as an ON/OFF switch to an operator controlled dial.
Complex controllers are computer controlled and are usually responsible for a set of servo's
containing several inputs and outputs. Physical forms of controllers are Microcontrollers, PLC's and
Motion controllers which are chosen based on cost, performance and ease of use. A microcontroller
is a small computer which can be configured by an experienced programmer. These devices are
used for their low costs but can be quite difficult to close loops. Loops are closed with the help of
drives and amplifiers depending on inputs like sensor's and switches going into the controller.
PLC's are programmable logic controllers which were first used to troubleshoot sequential relay
circuits and eliminate the mess of wires. Their processor and memory can be programmed with
commands; these commands can be saved and executed. Inputs and outputs can be added more
efficiently than a microcontroller as needed. Features like high-speed counters and timers are
available. PLCs cost more than microcontrollers, have limited lifetimes but are more efficient.
Motion controllers are usually PC-based to allow graphical user interface and are specifically
designed to control motion. They cost more than PLCs and microcontrollers due to added features
like ease to tuning, computation, sensing and other functions.

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5.2 Driver
A drive, also known as an amplifier translates low energy signals referenced from the controller
into high energy power signals to the motor. This link in between the controller and the motor first
started as single quadrant models just powered brushed motors. Later the drives were able to
power a regenerate a motor in both directions. Current drives are meant for more features like
encoders, resolvers, tachometers, limit switches and various sensors to be added to it. As
mentioned, earlier drivers are also responsible in closing feedback loops like velocity and position
loops. They also take charge of many complex control functions that can be controller's by a
5.3 Motor
A motor converts the current and voltage that comes from the driver into mechanical motion.
Motors can be of rotatory or linear types. Brushed motors mentioned earlier are single phase
motors which are very easy to set up and are used to drive single phase loads. This kind of motor is
the most common of its kind and directs the current into the correct coils at the correct time. Linear
actuators are actuators causes' motion in a straight line instead of the conventional circular motion.
They move the liner shaft in and out with the help of rotary motors. Audio speakers use voice coils
that have a linear motion and limited 0.5'' of travel. These motors require a high-performance drive.
Three phase motors has higher power density, better heat dissipation and require less
maintenance. This type of motor uses alternating current to power large motors that are used for
heavy loads. Linear motors are similar in configuration to a rotary motor and are used in
applications where speed and accuracy is required.

Figure 5: Microcontroller

Figure 6: Anatomy of a Brushed DC Motor

5.4 Feedback Loops and Devices

To ensure that the motor or load reaches the commanded position or velocity feedback loops are
used. There are used to determine how much current is needed to power a motor based on present
position and velocity. Absolute and Relative are two types of feedback loops. Absolute loops
provide a specific position and range upon powering up the motor while relative feedback loops
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provide incremental position updates. An absolute feedback is used in conjunction with a relative
feedback to know the motor's initial position. The incremental feedback then provides the position
over a range of motion. Some of the most commonly used feedback devices are hall sensors and
resolvers. Hall sensors are transducers used for computational control needed for higher velocities.
They are commonly used to time the speed of wheels and shafts. Resolvers are rotary transformers
that are used in a high temperature and high vibration environment.

6. Machine Learning and Future Uses

Machine learning is a scientific discipline that uses algorithms to improve the situation from
collected data whether it is real time or saved data. These algorithms aid in the improvement of
robotics as they can learn to adapt to situations with little human aid or contact to decipher
problems when faced with obstructions or unperceived decisions. The use of machine learning can
be found in complex CNC machines, autonomous robots in military, transport, underwater
expedition, space travel and many other relatable topics and industry. Utilizing the global
coordinate system, a machine can analyze its surrounding location and its orientation related to
those positions to keep it aligned to the horizontal plane. The usefulness of this analysis can be
utilized in underwater expeditions, where autonomous robots need to stay level while sinking to
the ocean floor for analysis. In many aspects of life, machine learning has revolutionized computers
and robotics. The early 90s saw a trend of machine learning application in data mining, text and
language learning that aided robots in simple tasks such as the IBM computer Watson that can
interpret the vocal questions in jeopardy and answer them successfully. Moving forward with
machine learning, developers and engineers have found themselves implementing pattern
recognizing algorithms that learn from experience and improve the accuracy of the robots actions.
These algorithms can be transferred onto am industrial setting where multiple CNCs learn and
create more efficient cuts in their process. In addition, a process where machine vision is required
to control movements of a robot or a process, learns from its past iterations and becomes more
effective in doing its pre-programmed tasks is also a common application. In a Texas University
based experiment robots are used to mimic children who suffer from autism, to better understand
their motor skills and social interaction. Using the data
collected they later help the children improve the motor skills
that the researchers found to be slower than normal. The
applications of machine learning are endless and with their
introduction to robotics and especially in motion control, the
possibility to more humanoid-like robots is a close reality.

Figure 7: System Block Diagram

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7. Conclusion
This paper presents the basic information of motion control. The history, what motion control is
made up of, applications, machine learning and future uses are all outlined. Although, motion
control is comprised of a controller, driver and motor the advancements in technology have made
all the parts work more efficiently and effectively together. Utilizing robotics in many different
fields, such as industrial settings, gaming and film production have enabled motion control to
improve and become more robust. With different technologies emerging the applications for
motion control, are endless as we strive for a more optimized and autonomous robotics.

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1. Fundamentals of Motion Control. National Instruments. Web. 2014. <>
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3. Hatori, Hideo, and Masami Marubayashi. "Application Examples of Motion Control Systems."
Application Examples of Motion Control System (n.d.): n. pag. Web. 13 Nov. 2014.

4. More about CNC Machining. ThomasNet . Web. Nov 14, 2014 <>
5. Monniaux, David. "Welcome to Home." Welcome to Home. Pascaline, 1 Jan. 2008. Web. 14
Nov. 2014.
6. Pinto, Jim. "Robotics Technology Trends." : The Future of Robots by Jim Pinto. Automation
Inc., 20 Apr. 2013. Web. 22 Oct. 2014.
7. Trevathan, Vernon L. A Guide to the Automation Body of Knowledge,. 2nd ed. N.p.: 2006, n.d.
8. "University Outreach." History of Motion Control. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Nov. 2014.

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What is CNC machining?

Name the 4 parts of a motor control system?
what function does the driver have
What is machine learning?

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