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KINGSTAR – PC-Based Platform For Real-Time, Soft Motion Control & Machine Vision

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KINGSTAR’s complete motion control and machine vision platform creates PC-based machine controllers with premium precision and performance. Built on the EtherCAT standard and enhanced by the power of a real-time operating system (RTOS) for Windows, you can use a single industrial PC to deliver software-only motion control and machine vision automation quickly and cost effectively. We spoke with Dipesh Mukerji, VP Marketing & Strategy at KINGSTAR, to discuss the future of industrial machine automation:


Q: How Would You Describe KINGSTAR in your own words?

A: In a nutshell, the KINGSTAR software platform replaces expensive hardware solutions for industrial automation and machine control. As an open and standards-based integrated platform, it enables motion control and machine vision engineers to design, develop and integrate motion control and machine vision applications with either KINGSTAR’s soft motion library and software PLC, or one of your own choosing. This flexibility is a real differentiator of the platform approach. Because KINGSTAR is built on the foundation of EtherCAT and a real-time 64-bit Windows operating system, it gives engineers premium precision and performance at half the cost of hardware.

KS Soft Motion Platform

Q: What Makes KINGSTAR unique compared to its competitors?

A: These days almost all industrial automation engineers fall victim to three toolset options to build their applications:
· Proprietary solutions, with vendor lock-in
· Point solutions, buying best-of-breed for every desired component, which can get expensive
· Hardware solutions, that are obscenely expensive

There are pros and cons to each of these options, but none is honestly desired by the engineer; it’s more like “pick-your-poison.” KINGSTAR addresses this problem with an end-to-end, open and standards-based software platform that allows engineers to pick components of their choosing for motion control and machine vision from the ground up. Because it’s built on a hard real-time deterministic 64-bit operating system (RTOS), IntervalZero’s RTX64, all components can either be KINGSTAR’s pre-integrated and pre-tested solutions or ones of the engineer’s own choosing.

Other vendors will offer you things like custom or vendor-built soft motion and PLCs, but the brass tacks come down to having to use their own specific proprietary scripting language that does not give direct access to a general purpose RTOS, but only to their specific RTOS via predetermined and controlled access points. With KINGSTAR, you have a truly transparent open platform that lets you use languages that you already know, like C, C++ and .NET, in order to access ALL platform components and create motion control and machine vision applications.

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Q: What Target Audience and Industries Does KINGSTAR Benefit The Most?

A: KINGSTAR can benefit virtually any industrial automation shop, including robotics, semiconductors, manufacturing, textiles, packaging and medical industries. The comprehensive list of motion command interfaces coupled with the intuitive function libraries allow for diverse applications, including laser cutting, surface mounters, die bonders, chip probers, CNC vertical and horizontal milling, etching, articulated robot arms, pick-and-place movement, PCB handling, conveyors, LED and LCD inspection and sorting. With KINGSTAR, machine automation manufacturers can benefit from precise positioning and advanced motion and machine vision trajectory control, no matter what the industry.

Q: Why Do You Believe An Open Platform Approach is the Right Approach?

A: The platform gives you control, autonomy, and flexibility. Let’s say you want to leverage the increasingly popular EtherCAT fieldbus as your industry standard. You have the freedom and flexibility to choose either KINGSTAR’s basic CANopen over EtherCAT, or you can choose an EtherCAT master of your choice like Acontis, Koenig or ESD. Let’s say you want to leverage your own customized soft motion control algorithms and APIs. No problem; you can integrate your own customized solution into EtherCAT or leverage KINGSTAR’s own robust set of Soft Motion Control algorithms.

It doesn’t stop there. What if you wanted to add machine vision-directed motion control? Well, then options like KINGSTAR or Matrox’s Imaging Library are completely available to you. Finally, if you want to complete the full set by leveraging your favorite PLC for HMI, then go right ahead and choose PLCs like ISaGRAF or PHOENIX CONTACT as your application management system. In other words, an open platform empowers customers to have their cake and eat it too: They get the benefit of pre-integration (they do not have to Integrate) and all their components are state of the art.

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Q: Why Do You Feel, EtherCAT is the Proper Standard To Build Applications On, For Motion Control?

A: EtherCAT is by far the most widely accepted and adopted real-time Ethernet fieldbus standard, and offers the best price/performance. EtherCAT provides a 0.1 millisecond response time for 100 axles and over 3200 companies use it including 500 manufacturing companies. EtherCAT will be the most durable and cost-optimized standard because there is safety in numbers.

We actually ran the numbers to prove that EtherCAT is the best fieldbus standard. To identify the standard that has the best adoption and has the best long-term viability, we simply counted the number of suppliers that embrace and comply with the respective standards to understand whether a market of competition has been created that would lead to long-term viability. We also counted the number of consumers that signed up as members of a standards body and hoped this would serve as a proxy for the relative strength of consumer awareness. The best, most compelling, and most viable standard is simply the standard that has the most suppliers throughout entire supply chain along with the most consumers. EtherCAT stands apart.

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Q: Why Have You Chosen Real-Time Windows Over Real-Time Linux?

A: There are many more Windows PCs than there are Linux PCs. That means there are many more developers who are already familiar with writing Windows programs and already use Microsoft tools like VisualStudio. Standard Linux doesn’t work with machine vision and machine control, so you need a real-time Linux system and there are significant difficulties in working with real-time Linux as compared to standard Linux.

KINGSTAR’s RTX64 RTOS is already integrated with Microsoft Visual Studio, so it’s easier to take a Windows developer and get them to develop real-time control and motion control than trying to convert a Linux developer to do the same. Linux is cheaper but it is very cryptic and difficult to use. Windows is considered much easier.

Q: What Are Your Plans For The Next 6 Months?

A: The strength of a platform is that it can integrate the best-of-breed components for the highest quality and performance. The more components there are in the platform, the stronger the platform is. KINGSTAR is already strong in this regard, and in the future, more and more components can and will be added to this open platform for availability, such as Kinematics (for CNC and Robotics) and Simulation.

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