The Basics of Industrial Ethernet

Ethernet CableWhen it comes to Industrial Ethernet fieldbus protocols, it can quickly become confusing to understand how they work and what some of the differences are. We as engineers get excited about the latest and greatest hardware, but we must remember that behind the scenes is a communication network that is helping define the performance of that hardware. In order to better understand the impact that a communication network can have on an industrial control system, let’s speak a bit to Ethernet POWERLINK. POWERLINK is frequently employed by IFP Automation on systems as our standard when utilizing B&R hardware for optimal system performance.

What is the difference between standard Ethernet and Industrial Ethernet?

One of the major differences between standard Ethernet protocol (or TCP/IP) and Industrial Ethernet is collision avoidance. The data transfer in standard Ethernet may have irregular delays, which is unacceptable when trying to achieve hard real-time performance. In circumstances where irregular delays can be acceptable (office computers, printers, serving web pages, etc.), Ethernet TCP/IP is perfectly fine. But in industrial motion control applications, a solution for hard real time communication is needed.

Because of this, an Industrial Ethernet protocol must use preventative methods that avoid such collisions. The data transmission must also occur within a very specific window of time, which is referred to as jitter. Soft real-time performance can tolerate a limited amount of jitter and may have cycle times of up to several hundred milliseconds. Soft real-time performance could be used for applications such as temperature monitoring. Hard real-time performance on the other hand would be used for applications such as motion control, and commonly requires sub-one-millisecond cycle times. Continue reading

To Use Feedback or Not to Use Feedback, That is the Question in Hydraulics

The answer to that question all depends on the customer’s application.  Is the system more complicated than just turning on and off a simple solenoid valve?  Does system control need to be variable depending on the situation or scenario?  Does the customer need to vary velocity on the fly?  Does the customer need to position a load precisely on a dime (or tighter tolerance than that)? Does the system need to provide a constant force to finish making the workpiece?  These are just a few of the questions that a hydraulic 2HXsystem designer must ask himself when deciding on what technology is needed to achieve the perfect solution for his customer.  If the hydraulic system designer answered, “yes,” to any of the questions above, there are two technologies that could save the day: open loop and closed loop hydraulics.

In the simplest form, an open loop system has an input that is not dependent on the output.  For example, the motion controller/PLC sends a command signal to a proportional directional control valve and this command signal does not change based on whatever is happening downstream in the hydraulic circuit.  There is no feedback coming back to the motion controller/PLC.  Open loop systems are typically used for velocity type applications.  One could almost compare it to using the accelerator pedal in a car.  The harder the pedal is pushed, the faster the car goes.  The less the pedal is pushed, the slower the car goes.  The spool in a proportional directional control valve can proportionally slide open to go faster and proportionally slide closed to go slower, depending on the command signal to the valve from the motion controller/PLC.  Open Loop

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Understanding Data Storage Media Options in the Industrial PC Market

be37095e2da1e6828b7e5acd7e2f8867b694cd89With the addition of Solid State Drives (SSD) to a growing list of data storage media options, it begs the question: “Which one is right for my application?”

For many years, industry favored flash memory due to its lack of rotating parts and resulting robustness against vibrations and other factors. In response to the frequent questions regarding data storage media, this blog will provide a summary of the most important issues. I will outline four main types of data storage media, and some differences between them. First, since all the options outlined are based on flash technology, I wanted to give some insight into the difference between two ways to store flash memory, Single Level Cell (SLC) and Multiple Level Cell (MLC). Then, I will start with the grandfather first, CompactFlash. This card, known as CF for short, gave birth to the CompactFast card (CFast), in both an SLC and MLC format. Finally, with the price of SSDs coming down, this has become a viable option.


For a long time, MLC-based flash drives were not suitable for industrial use because they allow a significantly lower number of write/erase cycles. This restriction was overcome by the development of intelligent wear leveling, which distributes write operations evenly across all available flash cells. SLC flash drives have a longer lifespan than MLC drives, but are also considerably more expensive. Continue reading

Machine Builders Utilizing Rollon’s SMART Series Belt Drive Actuator in a Wider Variety of Vertical Motion Applications

Traditionally speaking, belted drive actuators have only been seen as horizontal solutions in applications where single or multi-axis Cartesian systems are utilized. That time has ended with the introduction of Rollon Corporation’s SMART series actuator.  This steel-reinforced belt drive actuator is able to achieve the reliability and performance required from a ballscrew system, but with a lower cost, lower noise, higher speed, and more simply  constructed device.  The anodized aluminum bodies of these devices can deliver the right combination of high mechanical strength and reduced weight for a variety of applications.

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What follows is real application feedback from machine builders who note several ways that these actuators have benefitted their applications.

Open Design.  SMART actuators make maintenance easy. Since they don’t have any caps or coves, engineers can directly reach any wear components that need repairing.

Mount Orientation.  This series comes with a symmetrical drive head, allowing machine builders to quickly change the actuator’s motor mount orientation without a new part number or any actuator reworking.  Since SMART actuators are more flexible and convenient, machine builders know that, when making design changes, their motor will properly fit.

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Thank You! Team IFP 2015 Tour deCure Ride Fundraising Results

Screen Shot 2014-03-19 at 11.08.17 AMIFP would like to thanks to everyone who helped make this years ride a success. We started out with a team goal of $6,000, which we were able to meet with your help and support! This years impact to the American Diabetes Association was $6,176, and we still have a few more donations still trickling in. Team IFP was the 14th highest raising team this year, out of 144 teams and 1,262 riders. In comparison, last year we raised $2,641, so all of our supporters greatly helped us more than double what we could contribute to the American Diabetes Association.

Official 2015 Team IFP Photo

Thank you as well to all of the other 1,262 riders who participated, as well as everyone who supported the ADA at this years Tour deCure!

Next years ride is scheduled for June 18th 2016. We hope to have even more riders next year. If you are interested in cycling at the Indy Motor Speedway, please consider joining us. Thanks again!!


IFP – 2015 Indiana Tour de Cure Team Page:




How Variable Frequency Drive Controlled Hydraulic Power Units Can Help Save Energy & Cost

IFP is continuously providing its customers with new technology to meet rigorous application requirements while improving overall system efficiency and control.


A hydraulic power unit (HPU) is a common product that IFP supplies to its customers for all types
of hydraulic applications.  Most customers order their HPUs with standard electric motors and across-the-line motor starters.  These electric motors spin at a constant RPM.  Because the electric motor spins at a constant RPM, the hydraulic pump coupled to the motor is constantly flowing oil and is likely wasting energy in between system operations.

Variable frequency drives (VFD) available that can change the speed at which electric motors spin.  The hydraulic pump is driven at the appropriate RPM to maintain the system requirements, thus saving energy and creating a drive controlled pump.  A VFD controlled system can close the loop around different flow requirements per the specific operation.  This type of system can also close the loop around pressure and duplicate a variable displacement pressure compensated pump with a fixed displacement pump with a preset flow limit.  Controlling flow and pressure by these means is an efficient alternative compared to using valves in a sometimes complex circuit.


By allowing the VFD controlled HPU to match the system pressure and flow requirements by varying the pump speed, there are several other advantages to using these VFD controlled HPU systems.  By reducing energy put into the system, less heat is generated that has to be dissipated by the system.  There are typically noise reductions with VFD controlled HPUs.  With reduced heat and reduced system shock, this typically leads to longer component life depending on the load cycle.  Hi-lo systems can now be completed with just one fixed displacement hydraulic pump.  By over-speeding the pump for extra volumes of fluid, the VFD controlled system does not need a low pressure/high flow pump along with the high pressure/low flow pump.  Charging an accumulator can become more efficient as well.  Once the accumulator is charged, the VFD controlled HPU can slow down the flow output of the hydraulic pump and maintain the system.  Unloading the pump for accumulator charging is typically done with extra valves and consuming unnecessary energy.  Overall costs of hydraulic systems can be reduced because smaller hydraulic pumps can be used, less valves are required, less or no cooling for heat dissipation, and smaller reservoirs can be used.

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ACOPOS P3: 3-axis servo drive – High performance with a compact design.

P3 Pic

The demand from machine and system manufacturers for increased productivity and availability is on the rise. At the same time, the pressure to reduce the costs for manufacturing the production machines is always present. B&R’s new servo drive generation was designed to meet these challenges.

Continuing the commitment to remain on the cutting edge of new technology, B&R Automation has introduced the ACOPOS P3. With it, B&R is setting new standards for motion control. This 3-axis servo drive offers a power density of 4 Amps per liter, making it one of the most efficient servo drives with integrated safety functions on the market. It also provides previously unmatched dynamics and precision, with a minimum sampling time of 50 µs for the entire controller cascade.


The ACOPOS P3 is offered as a 1-, 2- and 3-axis drive and covers a power range from 0.6 to 24 kW, or 1.2 to 48 amps. And because the housing of the 3-axis drive is as compact as a conventional single-axis drive, it is possible to reduce the amount of space required in the control cabinet by 69%.

P3 Size Compare


The short cycle time of 50 µs for current, speed and position control opens up new opportunities for drive control using the ACOPOS P3. For highly dynamic and precise processes like those in the printing and packaging industry, high-speed precision control of movements is a must. This is not a problem with the short cycle times achieved by the ACOPOS P3 and the bandwidth and precision of the POWERLINK real-time Ethernet network.

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Newly Released B&R 2015 Innovations

Each year, B&R publishes an annual Innovations catalog piece. This  update provides an overview of the major innovations which B&R plans to bring to market in 2015. Below is a link to download this content. We’ll briefly cover some of the highlights here:


3-axis servo drive – High performance with a compact design.


With the ACOPOS P3, B&R is setting new standards for motion control. This 3-axis servo drive offers a power density of 4 A per liter, making it one of the most efficient servo drives with integrated safety functions on the market. It also provides previously unmatched dynamics and precision, with a minimum sampling time of 50 µs for the entire controller cascade.

More than ever before, machine and system manufacturers are being bombarded with demands for increased productivity and availability. At the same time, pressure is constantly building to reduce the manufacturing costs for production machines. The new servo drive generation from B&R was designed to meet these challenges.

mapp Technology – The Revolution in Automation Software

Still developing – when you could be selling?


Accelerate your time to market with mapp technology. Up to 67% faster software development, increased machine availability, lower maintenance costs, and reduced investment risk.




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June 20th 2015 – Team IFP to Ride Tour De Cure at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to Stop Diabetes!

Screen Shot 2014-03-19 at 11.08.17 AMOn June 20, 2015,  employees from IFP, family members, and friends will be getting on their bikes at the world famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway and riding the Indiana Tour de Cure to help raise money to Stop Diabetes.

IFP Team

In 2014, our team raised $2,540.83, and we wanted to thank all who helped us to just reach our goal of $2500! This year, we plan to double our goal, and are focused on raising $5,000 across our team.

The Tour de Cure is a series of fundraising cycling events held in 44 states nationwide to benefit the American Diabetes Association.  The Tour is a ride, not a race, with routes designed for everyone from the occasional rider to the experienced cyclist. Our team decided to team up to help those who are affected by diabetes. 26 million people in the United States have diabetes, and the riders in the event want to do something about it.

If you can’t join us, why not support us!  By making a donation, you will be helping the Association provide community-based education programs, protect the rights of people with diabetes and fund critical research for a cure.  As a team, united in our desire to Stop Diabetes, we are asking for your support.11038476_10206297585061230_4668522342842305480_n

We are determined to reach our team goal, one rider at a time. So let’s get in gear and ride to Stop Diabetes! If you feel like you’d like to help, please consider making a small donation to one of our team members at the following page:




IFP – 2015 Indiana Tour de Cure Team Page:

If you are interested in riding the event yourself to help raise money, please visit the following link to learn more & register:

You can also follow the Indiana Tour de Cure on Twitter at @INTourDeCure for more information. Also, the IFP team will be posting updates on the event on our Twitter at @IFPAutomation.

Thanks for visiting!

IFP Becomes Partner Distributor for ROLLON Linear Rails and Actuators

Screen Shot 2014-04-30 at 1.26.21 PMIFP is continuously evaluating new products to expand and optimize our portfolio of products to help our customers design the best machinery and applications possible. In the spirit of that, IFP and Rollon Corp have agreed to partner together, to provide a best in class solution for linear motion systems, guides and linear actuators

ROLLON’s principal products include ROLLON’s Compact Rail linear guide, Telescopic linear guides and our ActuatorLINE™, and Uniline family of actuators, that are designed to meet the requirements of engineers involved in machine design applications in the primary fields of industrial automation and robotics.

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