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Owner’s son leads MBO at Sheffield gearbox repairs firm

A team of managers, led by managing director Lee Walkland, has acquired the Sheffield-headquartered gearbox repairs business TDR Transmissions for a seven-figure sum. Walkland is taking over from his father Ken Walkland, one of two existing owners. He will be joined by Darren Morland, Carl Smith and Jason Smith as the new owners.

North American half-year robot sales top $1bn for the first time

The first half of 2017 was the best-ever for the North American robotics market, with new records set for orders, revenues and units shipped, according to Association for Advancing Automation (A3). It also reports a 14% rise in orders for motion control and motor products, and the best-ever first-half performance by the machine vision sector.

Integrated drive saves space, time, cabling costs and energy

Leroy-Somer has announced an integrated drive that can be used to control its IMfinity induction motors with ratings from 0.25–7.5kW. The Commander ID300 drive is said to deliver dynamic performance and high efficiency, while its decentralised configuration provides flexibility in machine and plant design, as well as saving the space normally needed for a cabinet. Eliminating the need for cables between drive and motor cuts costs and reduces power losses and emissions.

China is world’s biggest buyer and user of robots

China has broken new records in its uptake of industrial robots. The number of robots it bought during 2016 soared by 27% to 87,000, making China the world’s largest market, both in terms of robots sold and the total number in service (340,000 – a 33% increase on 2015). These figures come from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), which predicts that the number of industrial robots bought in China will grow by 15–20% per year between 2018 and 2020.

Managers sew up deal to buy Yorkshire automation firm

A team of managers has bought the West Yorkshire automation and robotics specialist, Sewtec Automation, which designs and builds automated manufacturing and packaging systems for a global base of blue-chip customers.

CBI Manufacturing Council aims to guide UK industrial policy

The CBI (Confederation of British Industry) is bringing together dozens of CEOs from manufacturers of all sizes across the UK to create a high-powered group that aims to ensure that manufacturing is at the heart of the Government’s industrial strategy.

IPCs and thin clients support smart manufacturing

Rockwell Automation has announced a family of industrial computers, thin clients (the first from Rockwell) and monitors that, it says, will allow manufacturers to modernise standalone or distributed HMI applications to support smart manufacturing.

Database covers more than 80% of all IO-Link devices

A recently-launched database containing technical descriptions of IO-Link devices is claimed to cover more than 80% of all known IO-Link devices. The IODDfinder service, launched by the IO-Link community earlier this year, is being supported by more than 30 manufacturers of IO-Link devices who, between them, have stored about 1,900 IODDs (IO-Link Device Descriptions), which can be used to parameterise more than 3,900 different IO-Link devices.

‘Rotation for life’ plan guarantees that machinery will turn

SKF has launched a novel maintenance service package under which, in return for a fixed monthly fee, it will guarantee the reliability and availability of specified rotating machinery at a customer’s site. The package, called “rotation for life” sets out agreed performance targets which the bearing-maker commits itself to achieve.

$15m r&d centre brings motion experts together

The precision motion and nanopositioning specialist PI (Physik Instrumente) has opened a $15m research and development centre at its global headquarters in Karlsruhe, Germany. The 10,000m2 (108,000ft2) centre brings PI’s development teams together in a shared space, intended to promote interdisciplinary exchange and collaboration.

Nidec adds two more European companies to its portfolio

Nidec, the acquisitive Japanese motor-maker which now owns Control Techniques and Leroy-Somer, has added two more European businesses to its portfolio: the German compressor manufacturer, Secop, which it has bought for €185m in cash; and the Italian pump and motor producer, LGB Elettropompe.

Medium voltage drives add sensorless vector control

EXCLUSIVE  Rockwell Automation is expanding its family of medium-voltage variable-speed drives, adding sensorless vector control technology that will deliver improved performance compared to the previous V/Hz technology – including the ability to deliver 100% starting torque, compared to around 40% before.

Technique cuts linear stage thermal errors by up to 90%

Aeorotech has come up with a software-driven technique that, it claims, can eliminate up to 90% of the thermal errors that can affect the accuracy of precision linear positioning stages. It can be applied to both linear motor and ballscrew-driven linear stages, and operates regardless of the range of temperature change.

Bluetooth adds a mesh networking capability

The Bluetooth wireless communication system now supports mesh networking, allowing “many-to-many” device communications. The new version, announced by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), is optimised for creating large-scale networks of devices such as sensors, where tens, hundreds, or thousands of devices need to communicate with each other reliably and securely.

IoT gateway links field devices to the cloud

Festo has announced an IoT gateway that connects components and modules from the field level to the Festo Cloud via OPC UA. Using the CPX-IoT gateway, it is possible to have preconfigured, customisable dashboards for each component.

ISA White Paper will help SMEs to tackle cyber-security

At the request of the US Department of Homeland Security, ISA (the International Society of Automation), has produced a White Paper intended to help SMEs (small- and medium-sized enterprises) to recognise their vulnerability to industrial cyber-attacks and to forge effective cyber-security plans based on established standards and practices.

PLCopen releases safe motion specification to plug a gap

PLCopen has released version 1.0 of its PLCopen Safe Motion specification which fills a gap in specifications released earlier by PLCopen’s motion and safety activities, which only partially described the safety aspects involving motion.

UK automation sector returned to growth in 2016

The UK’s industrial automation sector returned to growth in 2016, with a 2.2% improvement on the previous year, according to the latest statistics from the sector’s trade organisation, Gambica. It attributes the growth to the low sterling exchange rate which boosted sales in the second half of the year, and to some relief from the political and economic uncertainty that was thought to be the main cause of the downturn in 2015.

Multibeam antenna boosts RFID accuracy and reliability

German researchers have developed a multibeam antenna for RFID (radio frequency identification) systems which, they claim, provides high levels of accuracy when capturing data from transponders, as well as improving reliability, especially in challenging environments. The antenna, which is compatible with all common RFID readers, is about to start pilot trials.

Third wave of space-spacing automation parts is released

Omron has announced a third wave of factory automation (FA) devices that comply with its Common Design Platform, saving space in control panels, or allowing panel-builders to include more components in panels and increase their functions.

First servomotor with built-in GaN amp ‘is half the size’

Yaskawa Electric says it has developed the world’s first servomotor with a built-in amplifier equipped with gallium arsenide (GaN) power semiconductors. It claims that the motor and amplifier are half the size of the amplifier portion of a conventional servopack, and will lead to smaller and more efficient servodrive systems.

Sensorless motor control system solves problems with others

A German start-up company is marketing a sensorless technology for determining the position of rotors in electric motors that, it claims, overcomes problems with other sensorless control technologies, such as reduced bandwidths, high noise levels, and difficulties transitioning between high and low speeds. The company, Bitflux, says that these drawbacks have limited sensorless control applications, and made them expensive to develop.

Camera captures 3D snapshots without an object having to move

The German sensor specialist Sick has announced an industrial camera that captures high-resolution 3D images of stationary or moving objects with a single “snapshot”. Unlike systems based on laser triangulation, the Visionary-T camera captures 3D images using a single shot of light, without needing to profile a moving object.

Dual-channel AC motor controller is ‘world’s first’

The US robot technology developer Roboteq has announced what it claims is world’s first dual-channel variable-frequency drive (VFD), capable of driving two AC induction motors simultaneously. Each motor can draw up to 60A at up to 60V, or 3.6kW per channel.

Dual-format motion controls can handle up to 128 axes

Omron and its US subsidiary, Delta Tau Data Systems (DT), have collaborated to develop a range of programmable multi-axis controllers (PMACs) in both standalone and PC-based formats. The PMACs, which can control up to 32 axes in the standalone format and 128 axes in the PC format, allow users to program their own motion algorithms and motion control functions – such as trajectory calculations and position compensation – in C and other programming languages.

ABB completes B&R purchase and announces r&d centre

ABB has completed its acquisition of the automation supplier B&R (Bernecker + Rainer Industrie-Elektronik) and announced plans to build an r&d centre next to B&R’s headquarters near Salzburg, Austria. The deal, which was announced on April 4, 2017, is being financed in cash and is expected to be EPS-accretive in the first year.

44MW synchronous motor ‘breaks world efficiency record’

ABB claims that to have set a new world record for motor efficiency. It says that tests carried out on a newly-built 44MW six-pole synchronous motor shortly before it was delivered to a customer recorded an efficiency that was 0.25% higher than the 98.8% stipulated in the contract. This improvement could save around $500,000 in electrical energy costs over the expected 20-year lifetime of the motor.

Motion control sales rebound, with robotics in the lead

Following a significant decline in 2015, the global market for motion control products returned to solid growth in 2016, with more than $10.8bn of revenues from hardware, and more than 21 million systems being shipped. In a new study, the analyst IHS Markit predicts that the market will maintain a steady growth from 2016 to 2021, with a CAGR in revenues of 4.4%, to reach a global total of almost $13.4bn by 2021.

Siemens to spin off mechanical drives unit as Flender GmbH

Siemens has announced that its mechanical drives (MD) business will operate as a separate, wholly-owned subsidiary to be known as Flender GmbH, a Siemens company, from 1 October, 2017.

Diagnostics tool simplifies pneumatic cushioning settings

The pneumatics manufacturer Aventics has developed a tool that, it claims, will simplify and speed the adjustment of cushioning systems for pneumatic cylinders. Optimal adjustment of cushioning is important to achieve high cycle frequencies, quiet running and trouble-free operation of cylinders.

Nine-seater electric aircraft will have a range of 965km

At the recent Paris Air Show, an Israeli aircraft developer unveiled a prototype of an all-electric aircraft that could carry nine passengers and two crew a distance of up to 965km (600 miles) at speeds of up to 445 km/h (240 knots). Eviation Aircraft hopes to start trial flights of its Alice Commuter plane in late 2018 and to put it on sale in 2021.

Robot controller can supervise entire machines

Schneider Electric has announced a robot controller that can control multiple delta robots and Scara robots, as well as third-party six-axis robots. The PacDrive 3 controller also provides discrete and motion control functions, allowing synchronised control of production lines from a central point, as well as providing integrated safety and simplifying machine topologies.

Planetary motor-gearbox could raise power density by 50%

Researchers at the Vienna University of Technology (TU Wien) have developed a novel motor with an integrated gearbox. Instead of a single rotor, four mechanically linked rotors are used, creating what the developers call a “planetary motor”. They say that it offers high efficiency, a power density up to 50% higher than that of a conventional motor of a similar size, ease of use, and failsafe operation, at a relatively low cost. The motor made its global debut at the Hannover Fair earlier this year.

Plug-in modules tailor combined scope and data recorder

Yokogawa has announced a portable instrument for capturing, recording, analysing and displaying electrical and physical parameters. The DL350 ScopeCorder combines oscilloscope functions with those of a high-performance data acquisition recorder.

Plug-in modules give light curtains their ‘personality’

Rockwell Automation has announced a range of safety light curtains with a patented technology that uses plug-in modules to determine whether a transceiver operates as a transmitter or receiver. Once powered up, the Allen-Bradley GuardShield 450L transceivers adopt their functions from the module.

Berlin will get world’s first rope-less, direct-drive elevators

The world’s first rope-less, direct-drive elevator system, using cabins that can move sideways, as well as up and down, is to be installed in a project in Berlin, Germany, described as “the world’s most sustainable office building”. The first functional version of the Multi system, developed by ThyssenKrupp Elevator, is being tested in a 246m-tall tower which the company has just inaugurated in Rotweil, Germany.

Hannover Fair 2017 exclusive show report

The 2017 edition of world’s biggest industrial exhibition, the Hannover Fair, drew the biggest crowd in its 70-year history. As usual, the event gave a taste of what is to come in automation and factory equipment, and highlighted the increasingly closer links between the automation and IT sectors.

'First' four-layer cable can replace up to five e-chain cables

A German cable-maker has developed what it claims is the world’s first 500V drag-chain cable with four layers. Hradil Spezialkabel says that its 18.8mm-diameter, 61-conductor High-Endurance cable can replace up to five individual drag-chain cables, “massively” reducing the downtime when an energy-chain cable fails.

Teco invests $10m in smart plant and signs Finnish deal

The Taiwanese motor manufacturer Teco Electric & Machinery has invested more than $10m to create what is describes as the world’s first “smart” motor production facility. It has upgraded an existing plant in Taoyuan, more than doubling its production capacity for IE3 motors from 100,000 to 220,000 motors per year, and cutting production costs by about 10% compared with traditional manufacturing processes.

High-efficiency contactors ‘use up to 80% less energy’

Schneider Electric has announced a range of energy-efficient contactors with “best-in-class” electronic coils that, it says, use up to 80% less energy and generate up to 50% less heat inside cabinets than electromechanical contactors. The TeSys D Green contactors’ standard dimensions and terminal assignments allow them to be used as direct replacements for other standard contactors, regardless of manufacturer. They can also be combined with Schneider’s new TeSys LR9D electronic overload relays to help lower energy consumption and heat generation in cabinets.

Anti-sloshing tech moves liquids faster without spills

B&R Automation has announced a technology that, it says, will allow liquids to be moved quickly on production and packaging lines without any spillages. It claims that its Super-Trak linear transport system is the only one on the market to offer an anti-sloshing technology.

Tinder inspires automation diagnostics app

At the recent Hannover Fair, Rockwell Automation was demonstrating a variety of automation concepts that make use of consumer technologies such as virtual reality headsets, social media apps and interactive “bots”.

Digitalisation of motor plant boosts throughput by 40%

Siemens is using one of its German factories that produces electric motors as a testbed and showcase and for the “digitalisation” of manufacturing and has already cut throughput times by 40%. It has also reduced correction loops by 50% at the plant in Bad Neustadt an der Saale, and improved ramp-up times for new machines by 60%.

Axial-flux motor-maker attracts £4.2m to help it expand

An Oxfordshire-based developer of efficient, high-power motors has raised more than 70% of the £5.85m it needs to expand its activities. Saietta develops and manufactures axial-flux motors designed by its chief scientist, Cedric Lynch. The £4.2m raised so far values the company at £24m.

Portable sensor and phone apps simplify machine monitoring

SKF has developed an easy-to-use machine-health monitoring technology based on a portable sensing device that is placed on a machine and transmits vibration and temperature data wirelessly to a smartphone or tablet where an app analyses the data.

Software tool sends sensor data direct to higher-level apps

The sensor manufacturer ifm has developed a software tool that transmits data from IO-Link-equipped sensors directly to high-level systems, such as SAP, for applications including predictive maintenance and energy management. Ifm argues that argues that around 90% of the sensor data required for such applications is not needed for control tasks and is not available from shopfloor PLCs.

Feeder system simplifies motor starter assembly

Eaton has announced a fast, cost-effective method of assembling motor starters for multi-motor applications. The Motor Starter Feeder System (MSFS) includes backplates with integral three-phase busbars rated at 125A, complemented by feed-in terminal blocks and adapter plates for motor-protective circuit-breakers, motor starter combinations, and soft-starters. Other components, such as measuring modules, can be added.

Easy-access separator ‘revolutionises’ energy chains

The German plastics engineering specialist igus claims that a new separator system that it has developed for energy chains will cut installation times by up to 80%. The system, which is easy to open and fill from any side, also simplifies the division of e-chain interiors. It is used in the E4.1L chain which igus describes as “the lightest cable-carrying e-chain on the market”.

Kit ensures that human-robot interactions are safe

Pilz has come up with a package for measuring forces and pressures in accordance with ISO/TS 15066 to ensure the safety of human-robot collaborations (HRCs).

Price pressures drive motor suppliers into new markets

Electric motor suppliers, uncertain about the effectiveness of energy efficiency legislation and facing increasing price pressures, are venturing into other product categories to remain competitive, according to a new report from IHS.

Compact servomotors handle simple positioning tasks

At the 2017 Hannover Fair, Lenze launched a range of compact synchronous servomotors aimed at higher-power, medium-dynamic applications. The quiet, smooth-running m850 motors cover ratings from 2–9.2kW and, when combined with Lenze’s TopLine inverters, can deliver 4.8–200Nm of torque.

‘World’s smallest servodrive’ maker sets up shop in the UK

The Israeli servodrive and motion controls developer, Elmo Motion Control, has set up a UK operation in the West Midlands, with Gary Busby as managing director. Busby has previously worked for Control Techniques, Omron, ABB, PP Electrical and Applied Automation, among others.

Wireless control panels link drives to smartphone apps

Danfoss’ VLT AC drives now come with a wireless operating panel that can communicate with mobile devices such as smartphones, making them easier to install, configure, monitor and control. The VLT Wireless Communication Panel LCP 103 (supplied with the company’s HVAC, Aqua and AutomationDrives) communicates with Danfoss’ MyDrive Connect app running on an IoS or Android device to display the same information as the panel with options for expanded graphic visualisations.

VSD-controlled chillers cut energy use by up to 70%

Rittal has developed a variable-speed system for chilling machine tool cooling liquids which, it says, marks “a huge leap in energy efficiency”, achieving energy savings of up to 70% compared to chillers that use hot gas bypass control systems.

IP66-protected variable-speed drives can be used outdoors

At the 2017 Hannover Fair, the Welsh drives-maker Invertek unveiled a range of IP66-protected variable-speed drives that can be used outdoors. It was also demonstrating an app that allows users of its Optidrive VSDs to commission and monitor their equipment from their smartphones via a wireless Bluetooth link.

Cloud-based motor monitor can cut downtime 'by 70%’

ABB’s wireless motor-monitoring technology, originally announced at last year’s Hannover Fair, is now entering the commercial phase, allowing users of many LV motors (not just ABB’s) to check the condition of their machines via a smartphone or Web portal. The quick-mounting Ability Smart Sensor, which does not needed any wired connections to the motor, transmits data to the cloud where predictive analysis reveals information on the motor and its performance.

Only 26% of IoT projects are regarded as a complete success

A survey by Cisco has revealed that 60% of IoT (Internet of Things) initiatives stall at the proof-of-concept stage, with only 26% of companies having had an IoT initiative that they considered a complete success, and a third of all completed projects regarded as failures.

New steel doubles bearing lives in tough applications

Schaeffler has developed a new steel for rolling bearings which, combined with a carbonitriding heat treatment process, offers both harder surfaces and a higher ductility than other steels. Compared to standard bearings, devices made from this material – called Mancrodur – can have 30% higher load ratings and operating lives that are up to six times longer.

Doug Devlin: the heart of Drives & Controls

It is with deep regret that we announce that Doug Devlin, Drives & Controls’ advertising sales director for more than 30 years, has passed away unexpectedly after a short illness that he contracted while he was on holiday. He was 64.

Sick opens up its Hiperface DSL servodrive technology

The German sensor-maker Sick is opening up its single-cable Hiperface DSL (Digital-Servo-Link) motor feedback technology for use by any servodrive or motor manufacturer.  Since its launch in 2011, the technology has been adopted by more than 40 manufacturers, including ABB, Baumüller, Beckhoff, B&R, Kollmorgen, Lafert, LTI, Moog, NUM, Parker, Sigmatek, Stöber, and WEG.

Push-in busbar clamp challenges traditional connections

Rittal has invented a new method for connecting wires and cables to copper busbars which, it claims, is the fastest way of making such connections easily and securely. It adds that the technology will reduce the possibility of defects such as incorrect compression and clamp loosening, while its maintenance-free design should be more reliable and will cut maintenance costs.

Electronic monitor for 24V circuits ‘ushers in a new era’

Eaton has developed an electronic circuit-breaker for protecting 24V DC control circuits which, it says, will usher in a new era in monitoring these circuits, as well as improving their reliability and reducing the time and space needed to install them. In addition to the selective overload protection provided by other electronic fuses, the PXS24 module offers extra control, switching and signalling functions.

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