Drives and Controls Magazine
Michelin buys Fenner for £1.3bn to boost its high-tech activities

The French tyres to maps giant, Michelin, is buying Fenner, the UK-headquartered conveyor belt and reinforced polymer products manufacturer, in a deal that values Fenner at £1.3bn. Michelin sees the acquisition as being “in perfect strategic alignment” with its ambition to enhance its expertise in high-technology materials.

Seven years on, Baldor Electric becomes ABB

Seven years after ABB bought the motor and power transmission manufacturer Baldor Electric for $4.2bn, it has announced that it is integrating the Baldor name into the ABB brand. The move is part of ABB’s Next Level strategy, which includes harmonising different ABB-owned brands under the global ABB master brand. Baldor Electric will now be known as ABB.

Altra adds Portescap and Kollmorgen in $3bn deal

The electromechanical power transmission and motion control products manufacturer Altra Industrial Motion is buying four businesses from Fortive's Automation and Specialty (A&S) platform – including its Kollmorgen, Thomson and Portescap brands – in a $3bn deal that will double Altra's revenue to around $1.8bn and increase its EBITDA to around $350m, before synergies estimated to be worth more than $50m. The combined company – which Altra says will be a “global leader in the power transmission and motion control industry” – is expected to generate cumulative five-year free cashflows worth more than $1bn.

Banks to run Siemens' Integrated Drive Systems in the UK

Siemens UK & Ireland has appointed Phil Banks to be head of strategy for its Integrated Drive Systems (IDS) business. As part of his new role, he will be responsible for developing and implementing a business strategy to drive further growth for IDS.

TSN-supporting controllers offer sub-µs synchronisation

National Instruments (NI) has announced a range of industrial controllers that incorporate TSN (Time Sensitive Networking) and NI-DAQmx, and offer deterministic communication and synchronised measurements across standard Ethernet networks. The controllers, part of the CompactRio  family, will allow users to synchronise distributed systems across networks, eliminating the need for costly synchronisation cables. NI says that they will boost performance, help to improve productivity, and make installations more flexible.

Danfoss Drives appoints Baird as UK and Ireland manager

Danfoss Drives has appointed Alan Baird as its new country manager for the UK and Ireland, following John Martin’s move to the position of head of sales. Baird will be responsible for all aspects of the company’s activities in the region, including sales, marketing, drive solutions, technical and aftermarket support.

UK motor-maker has won more than £50m of orders in 2018

A Northumberland manufacturer of axial-flux electric motors has won more than £50m of new business for its motors since the start of this year, with export orders to Germany, Poland, Spain, the US and Asia already in the pipeline for 2018. The company, Avid Technology, is currently focussing on the EV (electric vehicle) market and claims that its motors have one of the highest power and torque densities of any EV drive motor, making them suitable for high-performance drivetrains. The motors are also attracting interest from the robotics and aerospace sectors.

Cloud-based platform will enhance VSD performance

At the Hannover Fair in April, Siemens plans to unveil a digital platform for using and evaluating VSD (variable-speed drive) data, based on its MindSphere cloud-based open IoT operating system. Called Sidrive IQ, it will give users of networked drive systems direct access to functions designed to support production and maintenance tasks. Siemens says it will improve the productivity, reliability and serviceability of drive systems over their entire lifecycles.

SEW-Eurodrive and GE do deal to sell each other’s products

GE Power’s Automation and Controls business and SEW-Eurodrive have reached an agreement to sell each other’s motion control and automation products around the world. They plan to offer complementary solutions for drive and controller-based motion controls for discrete and process applications.

Switched reluctance motor aims to disrupt the market

A Californian company has developed a new form of high-efficiency switched reluctance motor which, it claims, will dramatically improve the performance of HVAC, refrigeration, pumping and other applications. The Sunnyvale-based Software Motor Company (SMC) says that its motors will cut energy use by 20–50% compared to Nema Premium motors in the 1-5hp (0.75–3.7kW) range, and will typically pay for themselves within 6–36 months.

Hybrid switching soft-starters can talk to the cloud

Siemens has announced a new generation of soft-starters that use an efficient hybrid switching technology, and can communicate with the company’s cloud-based MindSphere open IoT operating system. The Sirius 3RW5 devices are designed to soft-start three-phase asynchronous motors from 5.5kW to 1.2MW.

New-generation photo sensors are ‘the first with Bluetooth’

The German sensor-maker Sick has launched a new generation of “smart” photoelectric sensors designed to be easy to use and to detect objects reliably. The W16 and W26 proximity, reflex and through-beam sensors incorporate several new technologies including an alignment assistant called BluePilot which uses a line of five LEDs on top of the sensor for quick, easy and accurate alignment of the light spot, even over long distances.

Drives & Controls Show bookings surge as the deadline looms

With a matter of weeks to go before the doors open for the 2018 Drives & Controls Show at the Birmingham NEC, last-minute exhibitors are still booking stands. Nigel Borrell, the show’s sales director, reports that in the past week more than 500m2 of floor space has been reserved. “We have seen a surge in stand sales, and strongly advise companies who are considering exhibiting this year to confirm their stand requirements as a matter of urgency,” he says.

UK's first automated enclosure-making machine gets going

The British electrical engineering and controls group LCA has combined the operations from its sites in Runcorn and Ewloe in a new multi-million pound manufacturing plant in Hawarden, North Wales. The facilities include a £500,000 laser machining centre for the automated production of enclosures ­– the first of its kind in the UK, and one of only seven in use around the world.

Replacing neodymium could slash PM motor costs

The Japanese car-maker Toyota says that it has developed a magnet that uses much less of the costly rare-earth material neodymium than is normally needed for high-power PM (permanent magnet) motors used in electric vehicles, robots and other applications. It has replaced up to half of the neodymium (Nd), which currently costs around $100 per kilogram, with two other rare-earth materials, lanthanum (La) and cerium (Ce), each costing around $5-7/kg, potentially cutting the cost of PM motors – and their applications – substantially.

Worn steel-cutting tools can blunt motor efficiencies

German researchers have discovered that the sharpness of the tools used to cut the electrical steels used in the cores of electric motors, can have a profound effect on the motor’s efficiency. The researchers, from the Technical University of Munich (TUM), found that using blunt tools could quadruple the amount of electricity needed to magnetise the cores of the finished machines.

Technology allows a network of devices to communicate as one

Turck has announced a technology that allows a network of up to 33 devices (one master and 32 slaves), or 480 bytes of data, to appear to a PLC as a single device on a single connection using a single IP address. By reducing the number of connections that the PLC sees, it will allow users to create high-density I/O networks with low-cost PLCs with fewer connections.

Industrial Ethernet sales overtook fieldbus in 2017

Industrial Ethernet has for the first time overtaken traditional fieldbuses in terms of the number of new nodes installed for factory automation, according to the latest in a series of annual surveys of the industrial networking market conducted by HMS Industrial Networks. During 2017, industrial Ethernet accounted for 52% of new installed nodes (up from 46% in 2016), while fieldbus nodes dropped from 48% to 42% of the market. EtherNet/IP is now the most widely installed network, with 15% of the market, followed by Profinet and Profibus, both on 12%. Wireless technologies held steady with a 6% market share.

‘Groundbreaking’ control system ‘brings future to the present’

The Californian industrial controls developer Opto 22 has announced a “groundbreaking” industrial control technology that, it says, “brings the future of automation to the present” by combining I/O, real-time control, local and remote HMI, and industrial/IT data exchange in a single compact package.

AI learns how to control equipment faster and cheaper

Mitsubishi Electric has developed a technology that uses model-based artificial intelligence (AI) to control equipment autonomously. Using AI, the technology constructs models of a system’s dynamics through repeated trial-and-error, and then uses these models to learn the control rules needed to reach pre-defined goals automatically.

Failsafe PC-based controller is 'first' with independent OS

Siemens claims to have developed the world’s first software controller to offer failsafe PC-based control which functions independently of the operating system. The Simatic ET 200SP Open Controller CPU 1515SP PC 2 combines the functions of a PC-based software controller with visualisation, Windows applications and central I/Os in a single compact device. It is aimed at standard and failsafe applications up to Performance Level e

AI adapts robots to shapeshifting objects in real time

Mitsubishi Electric has developed an AI (artificial intelligence) based control technology that allows machines such as industrial robots to grasp items rapidly, and to adapt their behaviour in real time to handle non-rigid objects, even if they move or change shape. The company predicts that the technology will simplify and speed up automation tasks, even when conditions are changing “dramatically”.

IIC and Industrie 4.0 look to align their architectures

Two of the organisations leading the transition to the fourth industrial revolution – the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) and Plattform Industrie 4.0 – have published a joint White Paper mapping alignments between their IIoT (industrial internet of things) reference architecture models.

UK drops below the global average in use of industrial robots

The UK has fallen below the global average in its use of industrial robots – the only G7 country to be in this position. Figures just released by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) reveal that the UK had 71 robots per 10,000 people employed in manufacturing industry during 2016, putting it below the global average of 74, and in 22nd position behind countries such as Slovenia (on 137 per 10,000), Slovakia (135) and the Czech Republic (101).

Groups of PLCs swap process and safety data in real time

ABB has launched a series of safety CPU modules that can function both as safety controllers and safety devices, allowing users to move from a single central PLC to multiple PLCs, each capable of communicating with many machines. Each machine controller can exchange large volumes of process and safety data simultaneously in real-time with more than one central controller.

‘World’s fastest’ high-load ballscrews will cut cycle times

The Japanese bearings and ballscrews manufacturer NSK claims to have developed the world’s fastest high-load ballscrews, capable of linear speeds of up to 3m/s – twice as fast as conventional ballscrews, according to the company. The ballscrews have been designed to achieve faster accelerations and higher final speeds in applications such as clamping and dynamic axes for all-electric plastic injection-moulding machines.

Users of MindSphere open IoT platform form a global group

Siemens is setting up a global organisation for users of its MindSphere cloud-based open IoT operating system, in partnership with 18 companies, including Festo, Heitec, Kuka, Rittal, Sick and Trumpf. The aim is to expand the global reach of the ecosystem based on MindSphere.

Spray-formed magnets could cut electric motor costs

Two Canadian researchers have developed a new method of producing magnets for electric motors which, they claim, could lead to significant cost reductions, as well as leading to designs that are impossible using traditional magnet manufacturing techniques. Fabrice Bernier and Jean-Michel Lamarre, from the National Research Council of Canada (NRC), add that magnets produced using their robot-controlled “cold-spray additive manufacturing” process have good mechanical and thermal properties.

Japanese trio form JV to develop smart edge systems

Three Japanese companies – Fanuc, Hitachi and Preferred Networks (PFN) – are establishing a joint venture company to develop “the world’s most advanced” intelligent edge systems using AI (artificial intelligence) technologies to achieve cyclic, real-time control by linking edge devices such as industrial machines, machine tools and robots to the cloud. They will also work on other next-generation control systems.

Axial-flux motor-maker opens plant and attracts £15m

Yasa, the UK electric motor manufacturer which claims to be the world’s leading producer of axial-flux motors and controllers, has opened a factory in Oxford with the capacity to produce 100,000 motors a year. The company has also raised a further £15m in growth funding, bringing the total raised so far to £35m.

Open controller heralds ‘a new era in automation’

A year after it announced its PLCnext “open” control technology, Phoenix Contact has released its first controller based on the technology. At the recent SPS IPC Drives show in Germany, Phoenix’s chief technology officer, Roland Bent, hailed the development as “the start of a new era in automation”.

SPS IPC Drives 2017 Exclusive Report

The booming German automation sector was reflected in a record-breaking SPS IPC Drives show in Nuremberg at the end of November. We look at some of the event’s highlights.

Coupler is the first to link Profinet to CC-Link

The first device that can link Profinet and CC-Link networks made its debut at the recent SPS IPC Drives exhibition, less than a year after PI (Profinet and Profibus International) and CLPA (CC-Link Partner Association) agreed on the specification for such devices. The NT 151-CCIE-RE coupler, developed by Hilscher, was demonstrated on CLPA’s SPS stand linking PLCs from Mitsubishi and Siemens.

Rexnord buys Centa, adding $100m of couplings revenues

The American power transmission and water management corporation, Rexnord, is buying the German mechanical couplings manufacturer, Centa Power Transmission (Centa Antriebe Kirschey), for an undisclosed sum. The deal, which is expected to close by the end of February, will add about $100m of revenues to Rexnord’s existing $1.9bn.

Preparing machinery for Industry 4.0 applications

Eaton has published a White Paper entitled Preparing machines and systems for connection to the Internet of Things (IoT). It describes, in plain words, the basic points of the Industry 4.0 architecture, such as horizontal and vertical integration, cyber-physical systems and smart devices.

Drives perform condition monitoring without sensors

At the recent SPS IPC Drives show in Germany, at least two drives manufacturers – Nord Drivesystems and Danfoss – were demonstrating VSDs (variable-speed drives) that can perform condition-monitoring functions without needing the usual sensors.

Modular 400V servodrives are ‘the world’s smallest’

Nidec Control Techniques used the recent SPS IPC Drives show in Germany to preview a new generation of modular servodrives which, it claims, are the smallest 400V servodrives available. A 40mm-wide EtherCat variant of the Unidrive M750 will support five axes in the same width as a sheet of A4 paper, with 10mm to spare. The drive is also designed to fit into shallow 200mm cabinets.

IP67 controller supports IIoT edge applications

National Instruments (NI) has announced its first IP67-protected industrial controller. The IC-3173 controller can be used as an IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) edge node in harsh locations, including washdown manufacturing environments, test cells and outdoor locations, without needing a protective enclosure.

Smart Industry Expo expands the Drives Show by 20%

The 2018 Drives & Controls Show will be at least 1,000m2 bigger than the 2016 exhibition – an increase of more than 20% –  thanks to the addition of the new Smart Industry Expo event. More than 100 companies have already signed up to exhibit at the Drives Show, which takes place from 10–12 April at the Birmingham NEC, with a further 25 booking stands for the new event, which is dedicated to the factory of the future.

Easy-to-build servo platform offers architecture choice

At the recent SPS IPC Drives show in Germany, Danfoss unveiled a modular motion control platform which can be used to create centralised or decentralised architectures. The VLT FlexMotion system is based on a multi-axis servodrive and can also include integrated and decentralised servodrives as well as integrated gearmotor-servodrive combinations.

AEMT reveals its inaugural industry award-winners

The UK's Association of Electrical and Mechanical Trades (AEMT) has held its first-ever awards ceremony at an event in Coventry. The six inaugural award-winners were:

Inductive system gauges distance between actuators

The German automation manufacturer Pepperl+Fuchs has developed an inductive position-sensing system that can detect the absolute position of one actuator, or the distance between two actuators in complex applications. Simultaneous measuring and switching functions in one device avoid the need for extra sensors.

YuMi cobot loses an arm to create a smaller version

ABB has unveiled a single-arm collaborative robot (cobot), based on its YuMi dual-arm cobot, which it launched in 2015. Like YuMi, the new robot has a 500g payload and is designed to be integrated into small-parts assembly lines to boost their productivity.

Control Techniques names Pickering as its new president

Control Techniques has appointed drives industry stalwart Tony Pickering as its new president. He joins the Welsh-based drives-maker almost a year after it was acquired from Emerson by Japan's Nidec group of companies.

Sensors built into spindle bearings will reduce failures

Schaeffler has developed range of sensors for monitoring machine-tool spindles that are built into the spindle bearings. It says that the first-of-its-kind system will reduce spindle failures, while extending their lives.

Hiperface DSL encoders expand uses for digital protocol

The German sensor manufacturer Sick has expanded applications for its Hiperface DSL digital motor feedback protocol by introducing two new ranges of encoders that support the protocol.

Slim hybrid motor controls save up to 75% space

Small, enclosure-mounted drives rated up to 9A are usually protected by conventional motor circuit-breakers. However, when space is limited in the enclosure, it can be difficult to accommodate enough protective devices. Rittal has therefore developed a range of motor controllers which perform the functions of direct starter and reversing starter in a single device.

WEG invests €30m to build its biggest European plant

The Brazilian motor manufacturer WEG has invested more than €30m to build a new plant in Portugal where it will produce standard and customised low-voltage motors, mainly for the European market. The factory – WEG’s largest in Europe – is a further step in WEG’s expansion of its European operations, which has included the acquisition in recent years of the Austrian company Watt Drive, two German companies, Katt and Württembergische Elektromotoren, and Autrial in Spain.

‘First’ IP67 safety PLC can be mounted directly on machines

The German industrial safety specialist Pilz claims to have developed the world's first safety PLC with IP67 protection, allowing it to be mounted directly onto machinery. It says that the PSS67 PLC will save space and reduce wiring as well as offering users more flexibility when implementing decentralised control architectures.

Production transport system is ‘first’ to handle batches of one

At the recent SPS IPC Drives show in Germany, ABB’s recently-acquired subsidiary, B&R Automation, unveiled an “intelligent” transport system designed to bring new levels of flexibility to the movement of production-line components at high speeds, using independently controlled shuttle carriages.

Servodrive system uses motors with built-in SiC devices

At the recent SPS IPC Drives show in Germany, Beckhoff unveiled a distributed servodrive system based on compact motors with built-in high-efficiency silicon carbide (SiC) power electronics – the first of their type, according to the company.

‘World’s smallest’ servodrive doubles output to 10kW

The Israeli motion controls manufacturer Elmo Motion Control has doubled the power of its tiny Gold Twitter servodrive – which it already claims is the world’s smallest – so that it can now deliver more than 10kW of “qualitative” power from a package that weighs a mere 33 grams.

Nidec Leroy-Somer sets up traction motor JV with PSA

The Japanese electric motor-maker Nidec is setting up a joint venture with Europe’s second-largest automotive manufacturer, Groupe PSA, to design, develop, manufacture and sell electric traction motors. The partners are investing an initial €220m in the as-yet-unnamed business, which will combine PSA’s automotive experience with Nidec Leroy-Somer’s expertise in electric motors and related equipment.

Rockwell buys Scottish 3D imaging specialist, Odos

Rockwell Automation has bought Odos Imaging, a Scottish company that develops and manufactures three-dimensional, time-of-flight sensing systems for industrial imaging applications. Details of the transaction have not been released.

Consortium plans to build a hybrid-electric passenger plane

Siemens, Rolls-Royce, and Airbus have formed a partnership to develop a partly electric powered passenger aircraft as a step towards a new generation of commercial aircraft with hybrid-electric propulsion. By 2020, they are planning to fly a testbed aircraft in which one of the four gas turbine engines has been replaced by a 2MW electric motor.