Motion control language reaches landmark
Baldor's Mint celebrates 21st birthday
Machine building has become much more complex, and according to Baldor Electric Company, it’s the software aspects of projects that are almost invariably the determining factor in successful outcomes.
The assertion comes as the company’s Mint motion control language reaches its 21st birthday. Created by the UK start-up Optimised Control – now part of Baldor – to provide open programming for motion control hardware, the Mint language has proved the enduring factor in the company’s success in this segment of the automation market.
Mint stands for Motion Intelligence. It uses high-level keywords to simplify the development of motion control and I/O control, networking and HMI tasks on automation equipment. These keywords often provide the kernel of application software for common motion control tasks such as registration, labeling, cutting, etc.
During its long life, Mint has gone through several major evolutions. The most recent major release – version 5 – added multi-tasking capability and other high-level modular programming features such as functions and procedures, data types and scoped variables.
A key change was the introduction of Microsoft Windows as both a development front end and machine interface. The introduction of ActiveX components – which share a common API with the Mint language itself – make it easy for engineers to interface to Baldor’s motion controllers and programmable drives from any programming tool supporting ActiveX.
Mint is now tightly integrated with the Windows-based developers toolsuite, Mint WorkBench, which is provided to developers without cost. The fully integrated development environment includes powerful program debugging facilities such as breakpoints, single-step program execution, variable watch, and auto-completion of code, to help deal with the growing complexity of machine design. A virtual motion controller facility also allows users code to be executed without connection to hardware, giving engineers the means to start developing and testing software before the hardware is ready. Although Mint started life as an interpreted language, the virtual machine concept is now used to speed execution and provides software portability across different Baldor control hardware platforms.
"What gives me a lot of pleasure is that Mint is one of just two or three recognizable software brands in the motion control market", adds Crocker. "I see it mentioned on engineers’ resumes. I don’t think that would have been the case if we had stuck with the first name we thought of, which was BIFMOC (BASIC Interpreter For MOtion Control)! Our industry is evolving. We’re starting to see more dedicated software engineers getting involved, and these individuals want to use the kind of tools they’ve trained with – like Visual Basic."