Portable multi-axis Motion Control

I previously posted this in a different group and got one very helpful response, but I thought I might get more responses and more ideas by
posting it here:
I am a graduate student in mechanical engineering and pretty new to the motion control field but I have been kind of giving myself a crash course. I need some help with the motion control aspects of the research project I am working on, which requires the control of 5 small stepper motors (possibly these: http://www.hsimotors.com/rotory-stepping-motors/planetary-gear-train.htm ) and the ability to be completely portable (ie. no connection to a desktop computer). I would also like the ability to possibly expand the system up to 15 axes in the future. So I need a setup that will control 5 to 15 axes, respond to external inputs from sensors, preferably run on DC power so I can use batteries of some sort, and be as small as possible (at least small enough to be roughly back-pack size, but the smaller the better). Also I greatly prefer that any required software apps be windows based. I have a pretty nice budget to work with so price is not a big factor.
I have been looking into a few different alternatives. First I looked at a "stand alone" box like the one here: http://www.motioneng.com/exmp.html One problem with this is that although it is "stand alone" I think it is still required that it always be connected to a PC by an ethernet cord, so it doesn't meet the portability requirement. I was also told that it would require some pretty hefty programming and support, so I was kind of steered away from that.
I was told that a PCI buss card controller (such as one from Galil) might be simpler to use, so what I was considering doing is using the PCI card along with a laptop. Laptops of course don't usually have PCI busses as far as I know, but there are available PCI docking stations that could solve this problem such as this one here: http://www.dqsolutions.co.uk/portable.htm
I was just wondering if anyone has tried a setup like this before and what I might need to pull it off, or if anyone knows of another alternative that might do the job for me.
Also, how do I know what kind of driver I will need for the stepper motors?
Any input about the project what so ever would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks, Jason
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Do a web search on "PC-104". This is a standard for small, embedded PC's. You should be able to run Windows and your stepper motors within your small battery-powered envelope. There are motion control cards available, as well. You'll definitely be buying ease of design with the unit price of the cards, but it sounds like it'll work for you.
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snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com (jpoge66) wrote in message

Jason,
Hopefully you haven't given up your search yet!
I work for TERN; we design/manufacture x86-based true stand-alone embedded controllers for applications just as yours. Totally unconnected to any PC, and run off DC voltage in the 9-35V range.
For your application, there are a few options to consider. First, we have a line of MotionC controller products that integrates motion-control DSP chipsets from PMD (Performance Motion Devices, http://www.pmdcorp.com ). These implement, in hardware, a range of hardware motion behavior. With integrated quadrature decoders, closed-loop precision positioning with advanced velocity profiles are possible...
But we can't support motion across 5-15 axis; 4 inter-linked axis are the most we can achieve on a single board.
If you have the capability to implement your own software PID control, then more options are available to you. You can easily drive precise stepper outputs using fine-resolution, timer-driven digital I/Os on a variety of our products.
Here's a few links to get you started: http://www.tern.com/motionc21.htm (MotionC-2540 is what you should consider) http://www.tern.com/rengine_a.htm (RE-A has 60+ TTL I/Os, 6+ hardware counters...)
Let us know if you're at all interested in exploring these options. But if you're looking for a low-power, high-performance stand-alone product featuring analog/digital/industrial I/Os, our products are definitely a good place to start.
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