A three-axis motion platform based on Ethernet-compatible drives from Baldor Electric Company, Fort Smith, Ark., is helping to further increase the realism of crane training experience by physically moving a simulator system’s replica operator cabin in synchronism with computer-generated images. The specialist machine manufacturer Electropneumatics & Hydraulics, based in Mumbai, India, developed the motion platform for the training solutions and services supplier Applied Research International (ARI), New Delhi, India.

ARI produces a range of simulators for marine and allied applications. Its products include a wide variety of offshore, quay-side and gantry crane simulators to provide safe, cost-effective operational training for container movement and bulk handling operations. ARI’s simulators emulate the visual, behavioral, and operational characteristics of their real-world counterparts to create a fully immersive environment in which the trainee can gain true hands-on experience. A typical crane simulator comprises a modular PC-based control system, replica operator cabin and seat, high fidelity audio-visual system, and an instructor station equipped with CCTV for monitoring the trainee’s actions.

When ARI decided to add an optional motion platform to its line of crane simulators, it approached Electropneumatics & Hydraulics for assistance. This company was founded in 1972, and has acquired a reputation for its electromechanical machine design and manufacturing capabilities. Electropneumatics & Hydraulics specializes in the production of metalforming equipment, such as hydraulic presses and tube bending machines, and also designs and builds special-purpose machinery.

Electropneumatics & Hydraulics chose to base the motion platform for the crane simulator on Baldor's Powerlink and Ethernet-compatible drives and servomotors. According to the company’s technical director, Ashley Rasquinha, “Baldor’s MicroFlex e100 ac servo drives are very cost-effective for this type of application, because they can be controlled via TCP/IP direct from the simulator’s host PC, without the need for additional hardware.”

The three-axis motion platform provides X, Y, and Z movement of the replica operator cabin, synchronized to the computer-generated images being presented to the trainee. Since it is designed to emulate the movement of a real-life gantry crane very accurately, the platform’s drive axes are only required to handle relatively simple motion control tasks such as point-to-point moves and homing sequences, and do not require interpolation. As a consequence, the MicroFlex e100 servo drives can be used in their basic Ethernet mode, without any additional complexity of real-time control.

Each axis is driven by a Baldor BSM 3-phase servomotor equipped with an incremental encoder for position and velocity feedback, controlled by a dedicated MicroFlex e100 servo drive. All three drives are housed in a separate floor-standing control cabinet, and are connected via a D-Link 10/100 Mbps Ethernet switch to the simulator’s host PC.

Rasquinha also points out that Baldor’s ActiveX development tools for its Mint motion control language helped to minimize programming effort. “The tools hide the complexity of Ethernet messages and provide a simple interface to all the Mint programming commands and functions; in conjunction with the excellent libraries of routines that Baldor provides, these made it very easy for us to create and validate all the motion control sequences. During the development of the motion platform, we also received excellent support from Baldor Electric India, which happens to be based near our manufacturing facility.”

ARI’s crane simulators are proving to be very popular with maritime organizations worldwide, and Electropneumatics & Hydraulics has already delivered 15 motion platforms to the company, for real customers wishing to embrace the virtual world. For more information, visit Baldor Electric Company.