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Robotics and Automation Lab Automation Education

Motion Control

Motion control is a sub-field of automation in which position and/or velocity of multiple axes in a machine are controlled in a synchronized fashion. Motion control is widely used in all types of industries including packaging, assembly, textile, paper, printing, food processing and semiconductor manufacturing. It is in the heart of just about any automated machinery and process.  Motion control is widely used in all types of industries including packaging, assembly, textile, paper, printing, food processing, wood products, machinery, electronics and semiconductor manufacturing.

The complex, high speed, high precision control required for the multi-axis coordinated motion is implemented using a specialized computer called motion controller. A complete motion control system consists of (1) Human-machine interface (HMI), (2) a motion controller that generates multi-axis motion profiles and closes feedback loops on each axis, (3) drives to transform control signals into high power signals for motors, (4) different types of motors to move each axis, (5) feedback devices to measure position and velocity of each axis, and (6) mechanical transmission elements (gears, belts, lead screws, etc.) to transform motion of the motors into the desired motion of the axes.



Many mechanical engineers are engaged in projects where knowledge of motion control is an absolute must since industrial automation is designed primarily around specialized motion control hardware and software.

Engineers are expected to do system design and integration using motion controllers and PLCs as the primary building blocks for automation/mechatronics applications. In these applications, the mechanical engineer must be knowledgeable about component selection from manufacturer catalogs based on the design specifications of the system, different types of motors, path generation, typical industrial control algorithms (torque, velocity, position control, PID, acceleration and velocity feedforward), drive technologies, controller tuning, motion controller hardware, motion controller programming and PLC programming.




I wrote this book, which was published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

The book is intended to be an introduction to the topic for senior level undergraduate mechanical and electrical engineering students. It should also be resource for system design engineers, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, project managers, industrial engineers, manufacturing engineers, product managers, field engineers, and programmers in industry.









Our Mech 467 “Automation” course has weekly laboratory sessions.  We designed and built laboratory stations with the primary goal of providing hands-on experience with industrial-grade automation equipment and with a state-of-the-art multi-axis industrial motion controller. Our laboratory systems use Geo Brick Drives by Delta Tau Data Systems, Inc.

Each station has a control panel, which contains the motion controller, power supplies, I/O terminals, buttons and indicator lights. The panels have been custom designed in collaboration with a local industrial panel shop. The wiring follows the industrial professional practice found in any commercial machine.

The machines are miniaturized versions of the real industrial machines. Industrial grade components such as sensors, motors, bearings, cabling, etc. were used in the designs. As such, each station contains the same industrial control panel that would be found in industry but interfaced to a miniaturized industrial machine.

Bottle filling Three-axis gantry
BottleFilling Gantry
Material handling with conveyor Logo printing
Conveyor Logo
Automated warehouse Web handling
Warehouse WebHandling
Winding One of the control panels
Winding ControlPanel



A short video entitled “Math is in Machines and Robots” has been developed. It explains how math is used in controlling motion of robots and machines.

The video is intended for students in grades 6-10. It involves two activities: (1) Building a simple working motor using a piece of wire, battery and a magnet, and (2) Filling out a worksheet related to basic concepts of machine motion including speed, acceleration, lines and slopes. Worksheet, lesson plan and solutions can be downloaded from the YouTube site for the video.




  • “Industrial Motion Control As A Context For Mechatronics Education,” Proceedings of the 2012 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, San Antonio, TX, 2012.
  • “New Mechatronics Curriculum On Multi-Axis Industrial Motion Control,” Proceedings of the 2014 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Indianapolis, IN, 2014.



nsflogo3Laboratory development funded by a grant by the National Science Foundation.