Clayton Synchrotron gets locally-designed motor control system upgrade

One of the most important and potentially far-reaching technological developments to be installed in Australia is the Synchrotron. Located in the Melbourne suburb of Clayton, the Australian Synchrotron is used to conduct research in a wide range of fields including forensics, protein and drug development, minerals, semi-conductor materials and medical diagnosis.

Essentially, a synchrotron is a football field-sized microscope that is used to probe the nature of matter using electromagnetic radiation. Currently the Synchrotron offers Infra-Red and a variety of X-Ray ‘beamlines’ that are used to study matter.

Inside the facility there is a vast circular network of interconnecting tunnels and high tech apparatus where electricity is used to produce intense beams of light a million times brighter than the sun. This light is able to reveal the innermost sub-microscopic nature of materials.

High energy
The Synchrotron is able to accelerate charged particles such as electrons to extremely high energies, thereby creating an electron beam that travels at almost the speed of light. When forced to travel in a circular orbit, high-energy electrons release extremely intense radiation known as Synchrotron light which can be directed down Beamlines for use in a wide range of imaging and analysis techniques.

According to Dr Mark Clift, senior controls engineer at the Australian Synchrotron, the intensity of Synchrotron light means that research results are far superior in accuracy, clarity and specificity to those obtained by conventional laboratory methods.

"Extremely high resolution is provided, so it is possible to see a lot of minute detail in the molecular structure of matter being studied," he said. "Synchrotron techniques can generate images and provide elemental, structural, and chemical information from diverse sample types ranging from biological to industrial materials."

Clift says the Synchrotron technology undergoes continuing reviews and updates. "For example, a new MC8000 motor control system, designed and developed by Motion Solutions Australia (MSA) in partnership with Australian Synchrotron engineers, was recently installed to control approximately 300 motors.

The variety of devices controlled ranges from manipulating radiation source devices and tuning X-Ray beam transport systems, to sample manipulation systems," he said. "Our solution is highly integrated, which means that it’s more compact and serviceable than Synchrotrons overseas because it is not as cluttered, has less cabling, and troubleshooting is easier."

After research and testing, the motor controllers for the MC8000 system were sourced from Galil Motion Control in the US and the E-DC Drives are from Parker Hanifin.

Cost sensitive applications
MSA manager, Clem Berenger, says Galil’s DMC-21×3 Ethernet motion controllers are designed for extremely cost-sensitive and space-sensitive applications. "These controllers, which use a 96-pin DIN connector, incorporate a 32-bit microcomputer and provide such advanced features as PID compensation with velocity and acceleration feed-forward, program memory with multi-tasking for simultaneously running up to eight programs, and uncommitted I/O for synchronising motion with external events," he said.

Circular interpolation
According to Berenger, modes of motion include point-to-point positioning, jogging, linear and circular interpolation, contouring, electronic gearing and ECAM. An additional benefit is that these controllers use a simple, English-like command language that makes them very easy to program.

"System set-up is further simplified through Galil’s WSDK servo design software, ‘one-button’ tuning, and real-time display of position and velocity information. The micro-stepping E-DC Drives run two-phase step motors. The controller sends step and direction signals to the drive, and for each step pulse it receives, the drive will commutate the motor to increment rotor position. All communications with the controller take place through the E-DC Drive’s 25 pin D-connector, and the available inputs and outputs are step input, direction input, remote input, fault output, and gearshift input."

Tight integration
Berenger explains that the MC8000 provides eight axes of motion control integrated with micro-stepping drives, all contained in a rack mounted enclosure. "The motion controllers have been tightly integrated with the Synchrotron’s Experimental Physics and Industrial Control System (EPICS)," Berenger said.
"The EPICS driver, which was written by Dr Mark Clift for the Galil controller, interfaces with the motor record and a collection of standard EPICS records.

"The requirement for compact, more serviceable controllers has seen continued development of the MC8000 to its current revision 3, and the designs have primarily concentrated on further reducing cabling and ensuring that troubleshooting is easier.

"This private-public partnership in getting the motor controllers developed in Victoria has provided an opportunity for export to new Synchrotrons throughout the world. Additionally, it has provided enhanced local opportunities and skills development, and importantly, the opportunity for import replacement."
Clift adds that the motor systems provided by MSA are Australian Synchrotron’s standard product for controlling motors.

"We have a strong preference for these systems as the build quality of the hardware is excellent, the technology is easily understood, support is second to none, and we have total control over the interface software," he said.

Power diffraction
Clift notes that Australian Synchrotron systems using the motor control systems from MSA include major Beamlines such as the Powder Diffraction Beamline, X-Ray Absorption Beamline, Small/Wide Angle X-Rays Scattering Beamline, Infra-Red Beamline, X-Ray Tomography Beamline, and Imaging and Medical Therapy Beamline.

"Various radiation source magnets (the smallest is around one tonne) also use MSA motor control systems including the X-Ray Tomography In-Vacuum Undulator, Micro Crystallography In-Vacuum Undulator, Small/Wide Angle In-Vacuum Undulator, and the Medical Therapy Wiggler," explains Clift.
Fee-paying clients can access the Australian Synchrotron’s facilities and services on a confidential basis, and some businesses may be eligible for the Victorian Government’s Small Technology Industries Uptake Program.

Australian Synchrotron
03 8540 4100

Motion Solutions Australia
03 9563 0115