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Baldor has announced that its Nextmove ESB-2 compact real-time controller has been incorporated in Singer Instruments’ Rotor biotech laboratory robot for pinning arrays of cells.

The bench-top automation is able to manipulate more than 200,000 yeast or bacteria cell samples per hour.

The Nextmove ESB-2 module controls the three axes of motion that perform Rotor’s point-to-point pinning action, as well as a sample-handling axis, interfacing to the machine’s Window-based graphical user interface, and all the I/O channels required.

Singer Instruments selected the Nextmove ESB-2 because it incorporated all the real-time stepper and servo motion and machine control facilities it needed, and more – giving the company the flexibility to expand and evolve the Rotor design in the future.

Baldor provided Singer Instruments with the complete machine control package, comprising the Nextmove controller with its built-in I/O, plus some expansion I/O to handle the large number of sensors and pneumatic actuators on this robot – a linear servo motor and drive, and three integrated stepper motor and drive modules.

The controller takes care of all the machine and motion control tasks, under the direction of a Windows user interface, which is interfaced via ActiveX commands.

The major movements that the machine makes are point-to-point transfers from source to destination plates along a linear servo motor axis that spans the width of the machine.

This axis carries a two-axis stepper motor head that controls the pinning action.

The combined X-Y-Z movement can also stir the samples using a helical motion – an action used particularly when manipulating samples to or from liquid wells.

There is also another stepper motor axis that controls the loading mechanism for the pin pads.

Other movements, such as the pick-up and disposal of pinheads at the start and end of operations, are controlled by simple pneumatic grippers and rotators.

A key to the machine’s throughput is the use of Singer’s high-density sample plates and matching plastic pinhead arrays, which allow manipulation of as many as 6144 cell samples in a single stage.

Singer’s original intention was to use a closed-loop pneumatic drive for the main transverse axis, but this did not have either the positioning resolution or the speed desired, and was relatively noisy as well – a disadvantage in a laboratory environment.

It started looking at linear motors instead.

Baldor made this design choice easy by agreeing to produce a special version of a brushless linear servo motor with some mechanical modifications to the linear track that allows it to be supported at the ends alone – rather than along its length.

This allows the linear motor’s forcer to become an X-axis gantry that carries the additional Y and Z axes.

The Y and Z axes are based on Baldor’s DSMS family of ultra-compact micro-stepping motors with onboard drive electronics.

The linear motor – from Baldor’s LMCF series – is another product with a special magnet design that minimises the cogging effect to ensure smooth operation.

After the key hardware decisions had been taken, developing the motion control software was made easy by Baldor’s Mint language and its development environment.

This language provided ready-to-use high-level commands for the required movements, making it simple to get the machine running in the development lab – a task that was achieved in a few days.

Commands that saved valuable time for Singer Instruments ranged from basic movements such as S-ramp profiles – which are used extensively on the linear motion axis to optimise movement speeds between source and destination plates – to one called Helix, which provides the developers with the helical stirring action that is employed when manipulating samples in liquid wells.

As the machine has a Windows user interface developed using Visual C# and Windows Presentation Foundation, Singer Instruments also made use of Baldor’s ActiveX interface library, which is provided without cost as part of the development tool suite.

Neil Moss of Baldor said: ’The Nextmove controller provides an economic control platform for small machines such as these.

’It provides all the control features required for the major motion axes – four in this case – plus the capability of handling several more axes for system expansion, and built-in I/O, keeping the bill-of-material costs low.

’Nextmove ESB-2 operates standalone, or in conjunction with a PC host, providing versatility of application for the laboratory and small machines sector.’


Baldor Electric Company, a member of the ABB Group, designs, manufactures, and markets the broadest line of industrial energy-efficient electric motors, power transmission products, adjustable speed drives, linear motors, motion control products, gear products, industrial grinders and generators. The Baldor range provides a complete motion solution for machine automation and utilizes our acclaimed MINT motion language.

Range includes:.

* Rotary and linear servo motors.

* Intelligent Servo drives.

* Inverter and vector drives.

* Multi-axis motion controllers: Boxed and board level solutions.

Baldor is the largest motor and mechanical power transmission company in North America and the second largest worldwide.

Baldor-Reliance motor products now range from 15 watts to 11,000 kW and includes:.

* ‘Super-E’ motors that exceed the new IEC 60034-30, IE3 efficiency level.

* NEMA Premium Efficiency rated motors, meeting the new EISA legislation covering motors supplied into the USA.

* Custom motors to meet client specific requirements.

Dodge power transmission products offer a wide variety of engineered mounted bearings including Grip Tight Adapter range and enclosed gear products including the Quantis modular, High Efficiency range. Baldor operates plants in the USA, United Kingdom, China and Canada with products available from our worldwide network

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