Software is playing an increasingly more important role in the development of hydraulic, pneumatic, and electric motion control systems. As evidenced at the International Fluid Power Exposition (IFPE) 2023, it is being used to not only ease the design process for heavy equipment manufacturers but also bring performance enhancements to fluid power and electronic systems.
The role and benefits of software are varied, which is aiding with the continued advancement of construction equipment and their motion control systems.
Performance Enhancements Achieved
Software can play a valuable role in enabling new functionalities and connectivity between systems. Algorithms built into the software can be used to improve the control of components, such as hydraulic valves, which can lead to efficiency gains, an increasingly important factor for OEMs and their customers.
Increased efficiency is a key benefit of Bosch Rexroth’s eOC (electronic Open Circuit) hydraulic architecture which consists of software and hydraulic components. According to the company, moving control functions for components from the hydromechanical controller to software improves control and flexibility for productivity and efficiency gains.
The eOC software allows control parameters to be set during operation. Control modes can also be changed individually and combined during operation, allowing for adaptability to working conditions. Aspects such as pressure, torque and flow can be controlled independently of one another as well. Predefined parameters are built into the software to ensure hydraulic components work in an optimal manner as part of the entire hydraulic system, regardless of the functions they are performing. This ensures efficient operation at all times.
Auto-calibration is now possible with the eOC software on a machine. Calibration of the component is done cyclically during machine operation instead of on the OEM’s production line. Specific calibration data is recorded by the eOC software each time the machine is started, and additional data is recorded when machine operating conditions allow. This enables up-to-date data on aging effects or temperature to be collected, among others, and operating parameters to be automatically adjusted as necessary, keeping the hydraulic system and machine working in an optimal manner.
Software to Aid Configuration and Programming
Given the number of components and systems in today’s machines, it can be difficult for heavy equipment manufacturers to have the expertise in-house required to integrate them. As such, several fluid power and electronics suppliers have developed software tools to ease development for OEM customers.
Epec Oy – a system supplier which is part of Ponsse Group – for instance introduced its Epec MultiTool Simulator (MTS) at IFPE. MTS provides a virtual testing environment in which OEMs can evaluate various Epec control systems before implementing them in a machine. Virtual versions of the control system hardware allow heavy equipment manufacturers to develop and test numerous iterations as well as automate tests. This helps to speed up the development process because design iterations can be quickly tested and the appropriate solution found, reducing rework or the need for physical testing.
HydraForce has also introduced software to aid with the programming and configuration of its electronic controllers, HF-Impulse 2.0. The software features easy-to-use diagram configurations, a C++ Editor and Structured Text (ST) Editor.
HF-Impulse was originally developed as the hydraulics industry began to transition to the use of electronic controls said Russ Schneidewind, OEM Sales Manager at HydraForce, in an interview with Power & Motion. The software was designed to simplify the programming of these controls which were new to many in the industry.
This is achieved through use of function block diagram programming in which all necessary features for traditional hydraulic systems are provided in modular function blocks. The function blocks contain inputs and outputs that are then connected to create the hydraulic system’s program logic. Users can easily drag and drop the function blocks to create their system diagram, and the software continuously evaluates the design to ensure accuracy.
Use of electronic controls has become more common for hydraulic systems. As such, HydraForce updated HF-Impulse to now include more in-depth and customizable programming capabilities, while retaining the easier diagram programming to serve both beginners and more experienced developers.
At IFPE, Danfoss Power Solutions introduced its PC-GO propel solution for single pump/motor hydrostatic transmissions. It is designed to be a ready-to-use platform which easily plugs into machines of all types to provide control for the transmission’s pump and motor.
The platform is comprised of the newly developed PC036 safety controller and PC-GO propel software. With this software OEMs can easily configure the propel system to their application requirements; multiple adjustable drive modes are included, aiding with machine configuration.
According to Danfoss, the software can reduce system development time up to 35% for OEMs. This is because all necessary intelligence is already built into the software which is housed on the controller. Essentially, all an OEM has to do is pick the features it wants to incorporate into its propel system and the controller will dictate those to the pump and motor.
With software like this, an OEM does not have to spend hours developing the necessary software code but can instead focus on what it is good at – developing a valuable piece of equipment for its customers.
“PC-GO’s validated software package and preconfigured parameters enable machine startup in less than 3 days. Comparatively speaking, it could easily take 2 years to write a program like this from scratch,” said Aaron Rodriguez, product application engineer, Danfoss Power Solutions, in the company’s press release introducing PC-GO.
Beyond efficiency improvements and design, software can aid with a number of other aspects as well including diagnosis of potential issues, providing integrated safety as well as being a key component of automated systems. It was evident at IFPE 2023 the use of software in fluid power and electric motion control systems is on the rise, and this is likely to continue further as the industry looks to continue advancing its capabilities.
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