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  • Writer's pictureMatt Prellwitz

Boost Performance, Simplify Installation and Optimize Engineering with AX8000 Technology

Beckhoff extends the proven AX8000 multi-axis servo system with a new silicon carbide axis module, setting new standards for robust functionality and energy efficiency

AX8000 servo drive system with a wide variety of servomotors
The AX8000 multi-axis servo system powers a wide range of motors, such as AM8300 servomotors with water cooling, AM8800 servomotors in a stainless-steel hygienic design, and AA3000 electric cylinders. The AX8000 series also supports cabinet-free concepts via the AMP8000 distributed servo system. (© Beckhoff)

Engineers account for inertia in their motion control applications. But they often overlook it in their product selections.

If the same old drive turns motors with decent speeds and some semblance of precision, then many industrial suppliers don’t put much effort into upping their game. But the desire to keep the market locked into legacy tech only breeds complacency and stifles innovation.

At Beckhoff, we don’t want to chain our customers to products. We want to help them redefine what’s possible with powerful technologies. Here’s how we’re continuing to drive motion control performance forward through our AX8000 hardware and comprehensive software capabilities.

A workhorse servo drive – now with extra horsepower

The AX8000 multi-axis servo system from Beckhoff is renowned for its high functionality and dynamics. This proven, EtherCAT-based servo drive technology has now expanded to include an axis module with silicon carbide (SiC) semiconductors instead of conventional IGBTs. These SiC semiconductors set new performance standards in switching voltage and speed, switching losses, and compact size.

The advantages for the AX8000 are clear. Use of SiC semiconductors reduces power loss, which means the same compact housing can now be used for 28 A nominal current and for the 18 A IGBT device. It also results in 55% more output in the same axis module footprint.

Installation of AX8000 drives
The AX-Bridge technology enables drives to connect seamlessly, greatly simplifying installation.

The AX8000 multi-axis servo system operates within a motor performance range of 0.5 to 20 kW. The combined feed-in and axis modules with 40 kW feed-in power each have an inverter with 12.5 or 20 kW integrated directly into the housing. These can be used to operate high-frequency spindle drives for CNC machines at speeds of up to 72,000 rpm. A further 20 kW is available on the DC bus, which can be used for the X, Y, Z, A, and B-axes. But the AX8000 is not just well suited for CNC machines. It is also ideal in automotive and battery assembly, injection and blow molding machines, and more.


The AX-Bridge quick connection system simplifies installation in the control cabinet with simple, tool-free assembly. Each individual drive module can also be removed from the network later on without having to move or dismantle the other devices.


One Cable Technology and integrated drive safety

Beckhoff released its One Cable Technology (OCT) for drive technology to the market back in 2011. Fast-forward to today and over 90% of all Beckhoff motors are now supplied with OCT.


Even TwinSAFE Safe Motion – the system-integrated safety solution for drive technology – can be implemented via OCT with just one cable. The motors can be fitted with either a Hiperface DSL or EnDat 3 safety encoder, which enables safety functionality up to SIL 3 or PL e. Offering resolutions of up to 24 bits, the encoders can achieve outstanding accuracy, consistent performance, and high dynamics. They are also available either as single-turn or multi-turn variants without battery backup – and without the risk of losing the reference position.


The AX8000 multi-axis servo system is available either with TwinSAFE STO/SS1 or with TwinSAFE Safe Motion. TwinSAFE Logic is directly integrated into both options to facilitate communication and modularization of the safety application. The functionality can be achieved via secure FSoE communication, direct wiring or locally within the servo drive using the integrated TwinSAFE Logic. This provides the basis for the flexible implementation of safe drive functions. A total of 17 different safety functions are available when using a motor with an approved safety encoder.


Servo system with XFC functionality

Beckhoff components that offer eXtreme Fast Control (XFC) technology deliver some key differentiators in terms of performance:


  • cycle times of ≤ 10 µs via real-time EtherCAT communication

  • total synchronization using EtherCAT distributed clocks

  • extremely fast digital inputs and timestamp technology

  • integration of oversampling technology

Beckhoff AX8000 servo drive system
EtherCAT provides the optimal motion bus for AX8000 servo technology.

With an EtherCAT cycle time of 62.5 µs, the AX8000 multi-axis servo system is one of the fastest industrial Ethernet devices on the market. This is also beneficial for applications demanding maximum performance, where the setpoints change extremely quickly. The EtherCAT distributed clocks synchronize all axes in the nanosecond range. Each axis module or axis has two very fast digital inputs, and their signals are automatically provided with the current position and a timestamp. With oversampling, setpoints can be transmitted precisely and highly dynamically in the current controller cycle – even with slower bus cycles.


Software for configuration, commissioning and maintenance

With TwinCAT 3 Motion Designer, engineers can choose from the many possible variants of motors, gearboxes, cables and servo drives to create the optimal combination for their specific application. Specifying the available supply voltage is crucial here for making optimal component choices. The appropriate mechanism can then be selected from a series of predefined load cases and the desired movement profile can be used for the calculation.


This allows the Motion Designer to suggest the best fitting gearboxes, motors and servo drives. Add to this the appropriate connection cables and accessories, such as a braking resistor, regenerative module or mains choke, and the result is a complete parts list for the drive technology solution – not just for a single axis, but for the entire machine. Even the expected power loss of all components is determined so that engineers can spec the control cabinet’s air conditioning requirements directly from the Motion Designer info.


Another powerful and intuitive tool in TwinCAT 3, Drive Manager 2 supports and guides users during configuration and commissioning of the servo axes. The Drive Manager scans the EtherCAT network for all connected servo drives and motors, automatically sets the correct parameters depending on the supply voltage, and reads the electronic nameplates of the motors. Taking things one step further, it also activates cogging compensation and provides graphical charting based on TwinCAT Scope to facilitate monitoring and adjustment of the motor movement. Another new function is autotuning, which quickly and automatically adjusts the control parameters and required filters based on a Bode diagram.


Friction and wear inevitably occur during machine operation, eventually impacting the control system by causing an unnoticed increase in power consumption or a greater lag error. TwinCAT Analytics software is ideal for visualizing this impact. The servo drives provide a large number of measured variables that can be recorded and processed with TwinCAT Analytics. These include temperature, current, voltage, torque and braking power, which can be analyzed in millisecond intervals.


Envelope curves can be placed around the characteristic curves with options to trigger warnings and alarms if they are violated. Even the energy consumption per component produced can be regularly documented in reports with TwinCAT Analytics and, if required, even compared over the years with the help of long-term data storage.


Maximize motion control with powerful servomotors

Beckhoff AM8000 servomotors
In conjunction with AX8000 servo drives, Beckhoff servomotors deliver optimal power and precision in wide-ranging applications.

Our track record of innovation isn’t limited to the drive components. Beckhoff’s production of highly dynamic and high-quality servomotors began in 2011 with the AM8000 series and the innovative One Cable Technology. In the years that followed, our growing team of drive technology experts has accelerated development.


We’ve launched numerous additional motor variants to offer increased rotor inertia, performance-enhancing active forced cooling, anodized housings, stainless steel housings for demanding environmental conditions, linear actuators and iron-core linear motors. There are even AMP8000 motors with an integrated servo drive for low voltage (24 or 48 V DC) and high-voltage technology. The AM8000 motor series covers the entire voltage range from 24 to 480 V, so we can cover the gamut of servo-based motion requirements.


From the outside, most servo drives probably look fairly similar to the casual observer. When you take a look under the hood, however, there are clear differentiators in the details. By methodically moving servo tech forward – through smart semiconductor selection for higher performance drives, software-based tools for better motion design and integrated analytics to drive continuous improvement – engineers are finally unchained from vendors’ artificial barriers and can succeed on their own terms.

Ready to overcome innovation inertia with the powerful AX8000 multi-axis servo system? Connect with a local Beckhoff sales engineer today.


Matt Prellwitz of Beckhoff USA

Matt Prellwitz is the Drive Technology Product Manager at Beckhoff Automation LLC.

A version of this article also appeared on the Association for Advancing Automation (A3) website.


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