Ever Wondered Why Manufacturers Have Different Machine Controller Models?

Submitted by Tom Trinh || Valin Corporation
on Wed, 06/06/2018
Manufacturers need to address all of the different control needs for applications ranging from controlling simple logic, timers, counters, sequences, and math, to higher functions such as motion, process and temperature control, machine vision, safety, robotics, in addition to networking and support of all different I/O, ranging from digital I/O, analog I/O, high speed encoder, etc. To meet these broad application requirements, multiple controllers are usually required. For example, if a machine builder has an application requirement for 20 local I/O’s, 2 axes of motion with encoder feedback, one axis of stepper control, and two zones of temperature control, he would normally have trouble finding a single controller to meet all these requirements, and would probably have to integrate multiple controllers into his overall control architecture.  However, Omron’s NX1P2 PLC will handle all the aspects of this application in one controller. In fact, not only does the NX1P2 Machine Automation Controller from Omron meet the application requirements above, but it can also interface with a machine vision controller over EtherCAT to perform quality inspection, and a safety controller, to make sure the machine is operating safely if needed. An NX1P2 can be interfaced with a SCADA software package, like Indusoft, using the built-in Ethernet/Ethernet/IP port.

For applications that are mainly stand-alone, discretely operated, single machines, the NX1P2 has several models to scale into the manufacturer’s needs.

Two Different Models of NX1P2 Controllers from Omron

Omron NX1P2-9024 and NX1P2-1040/1140

Applications that require machine-to-machine communications, larger distributed IO counts, or connections to SQL Databases may exceed the capabilities of the NX1P2, so Omron’s mid-level model, the NX102 Machine Automation Controller, includes the NX1P2 features in addition to more distributed remote I/O communication, machine-to-machine communications, and SCADA/SQL Database communication.

Why do customers want distributed remote I/O communication? This type of communication reduces cost of installation. For example, instead of running all the wires from remote devices back to the main panel, customers can conveniently distribute EtherCAT and Ethernet/IP I/O blocks and Ethernet cables throughout the machine.

EtherCAT and Ethernet/IP Blocks

Omron EtherCAT and EtherNet/IP Blocks

Why do factories need machine-to-machine communications? This type of communication allows the control of the processes that use more than one machine more efficiently. For example, the upstream processing machine may not be able to advance parts until it knows that the status of the next machine is “OK” or “Ready”. These types of communications can be achieved using Ethernet/IP. The Ethernet/IP communication can reduce the cost of wiring and labor to install.  In addition, it also provides implicit messaging which allows the creation of tag data links to communicate among machines on the network.

On top of these machine-to-machine communications, communicating with a SCADA system or SQL Database is often required. For a SCADA application to collect manufacturing data, the built-in OPC UA function on NX102 is a very cost effective solution because it eliminates the additional cost of middleware, and is simple to implement. Additionally, it provides the benefits of built-in security (data integrity through encryption) and protection against Denial-of-Service attacks. Models with SCADA/SQL Database are also available to provide a much larger and faster “pipeline” for information exchange between the factory network and the machine controllers.  This pipeline can be used to collect production information into a Database, or to retrieve recipes from the factory network Database. 

Systems with this higher level of communication requirement will benefit from the Omron NX1’s dual Ethernet/Ethernet/IP ports.  One port can be used for the machine-to-machine communication, and the other port can be used for the SCADA/SQL Database connection making each communication “pipeline” more efficient than if all the communication was done with one port. 

NX102 Controller from Omron


Finally, the high-end Machine Automation Controller will certainly handle a lot more I/O’s, more axis of motion, machine vision inspection, safety, and robotics at a much higher speed.  The NX7 has all the capabilities of the NX1 and NX1P2, but with much faster processing speeds.  NX7 has a minimum cycle time of 125 microseconds, compared to the NX1P at 2 milliseconds and the NX1 at 1ms.  It has the capability to control up to 256 axes of EtherCAT motion, and the NX7 can connect with up to 512 EtherCAT IO slaves.

NX7 Controller from Omron


A typical cost effective solution that separates remote distributed I/O, machine-to-machine communication, CIP safety network and SCADA/Database SQL network by using 2 built-in Ethernet ports on the same controller.


Omron has covered the span of machine control applications from small to large with the NX1P2, NX102 and NX7 Machine Automation Controllers.  This makes it so that machine builders can select one vendor to cover all the application control requirements without finding themselves spending too much on features that aren’t needed. These controllers help reduce integration between multiple controllers and vendors.   In addition, the application programs customers develop are scalable to the different controllers.  They are all programmed the same, using Omron’s Sysmac Studio programming/configuration software.  So once a customer learns how to use any Omron machine automation controller, his experienced is applicable to the entire product line.

NX1P2, NX102, and NX7 Controller Comparison