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Video shows controller surviving high-energy blasts

The Californian controls manufacturer Bedrock Automation has released a video showing its Bedrock industrial control system surviving sustained multi-million volt strikes on top of a large Tesla coil. Bedrock claims to have produced the world's most powerful and cyber-secure automation platform.

Global LV motors market ‘is set to shrink by 13%’

The global market for low-voltage motors will plummet by nearly 13% between 2015, when was worth $11.8bn, to 2017, when sales will total $10.3bn, according to a new assessment by IHS Markit. It says that sales of integral horsepower motors up to 690V have suffered since the third quarter of 2014 as the market has faced “numerous economic and political headwinds”.

Emerson buys Pentair Valves & Controls for $3.15bn

Emerson is buying Pentair’s Valves & Controls business for $3.15bn in cash. It says that the acquisition will establish its global presence in control, isolation, pressure relief valves and actuation, as part of a larger strategy to build a broader automation portfolio.

Vulnerability could give attackers control of Rockwell PLCs

Cisco’s “threat intelligence organisation” Talos has discovered a vulnerability in Rockwell Automation’s MicroLogix 1400 PLCs that could allow cyber-attackers to take control of affected devices and to manipulate their settings, replace their firmware or disrupt their operation in other ways.

Robots will plug largest electric ferries into recharging points

The world’s largest battery-powered ferries, due to enter service next year between Denmark and Sweden, will be plugged automatically into recharging points at either end of their 4km crossing by industrial robots. The aim is to reduce connection times and thus maximise charging times.

Rockwell accuses two companies of infringing patents

Rockwell Automation has filed a complaint with the US International Trade Commission (ITC) alleging that the Taiwanese controls manufacturer, Advantech, and 3S-Smart Software Solutions, the German developer of the Codesys automation software, are infringing one or more of eight of its US patents covering industrial control systems.

Industrial Ethernet cable sales growing faster than 17%

The global market for industrial Ethernet cables is expanding with a CAGR of more than 17%, and will be worth $941m by 2020, according to a new study by Technavio. Although copper cables still dominate – with a market share of more than 77% in 2015 – fibre optic cables are the fastest-growing technology, due to their ability to operate at gigabit speeds over long distances and to withstand radio and electromagnetic interference. They are the preferred technology in the oil and gas, and pulp and paper industries.

Gearbox oil monitor will cut downtime and costs

Renold Gears has announced an oil condition monitoring system that it claims is 60 times more sensitive to oil contamination than conventional dielectric sensors and provides an all-round view of gearbox oil performance

TSN controller will help to rewrite system design

NI, Cisco and Intel are collaborating to develop synchronisation and communications technologies that will allow distributed systems to use standard Ethernet to perform synchronised I/O, code execution and deterministic communication for distributed control and measurement loops.

IO-Link master brings smart diagnostics to tough areas

Rockwell Automation has announced an IP67-rated IO-Link master that gives access to sensor diagnostics in harsh operating environments. It claims that the machine-mountable Allen-Bradley ArmorBlock will cut the time taken to resolve issues by up to 90%, as well as improving preventive maintenance and optimising system performance.

Soft-starts talk to smartphones, even when they are off

The Italian controls manufacturer Lovato Electric has developed a range of soft-starters that can be configured and interrogated wirelessly from a smartphone or tablet, even when they are not powered up. The ADXL series initially covers ratings from to 15–55kW, and will be expanded up to 160kW.

Magazine will be the UK’s first dedicated to smart manufacturing

DFA Media, the publisher of Drives & Controls, is launching the UK’s first magazine dedicated to the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0), the Industrial Internet of Things, and the transformation to the era of “smart” manufacturing.

Chinese firm takes control of German robot-maker, Kuka

In a controversial deal, the Chinese appliance manufacturer Midea has acquired almost 95% of the shares in the German robot-maker Kuka.

Idec Electronics changes its route to market in the UK

The Japanese automation manufacturer, Idec Electronics, has changed the way that it goes to market in the UK. Following a restructuring of its European business last year – which included closing its direct UK operation – Idec is now being represented by a new company, Sys-Tek, set up by Idec UK’s former MD, Stephen Schiller.

Vibratory bowls join the Industry 4.0 revolution

The German production equipment specialist Deprag has announced a new vibratory bowl feeder which, it claims, uses about 80% less energy then rival products and is “Industry 4.0-capable”.

Nidec pays $1.2bn for Emerson’s motors and drives businesses

The acquisitive Japanese motor-maker Nidec has agreed to pay $1.2bn in cash for Emerson Electric’s Motors & Drives and Electric Power Generation businesses. The acquired operations include the Welsh-based drives manufacturer Control Techniques and the French motor- and generator-maker, Leroy-Somer. A key driver for Nidec is a desire to reduce its current dependence on its small precision motors activities.

Brexit could hit the UK’s $30bn machinery market

The impact of the UK’s exit from the European Union on the country’s $30bn machinery production market will depend largely on whether it makes a “soft” or a “contentious” exit from the EU, according to a new analysis from IHS Markit.

‘Ground-breaking’ technology links legacy devices to IIoT

The Californian industrial automation manufacturer Opto 22 has released a free firmware update for its Snap PACs (programmable automation controllers) which, it says, will give users access to billions of existing sensors, machines and devices that are currently unable to connect to the IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things). It claims that this “significant and ground-breaking” innovation will allow rapid development of IIoT applications, cutting time-to-market when designing machines and systems, and leading to faster deployment of automation and control projects.

UK automation sector shrinks by 4.9%, after five years of growth

The UK industrial automation sector shrank by 4.9% in 2015, ending five years of continuous growth, according to figures released by Gambica, the trade body that represents the UK’s control, automation and instrumentation industries. The process instrumentation and control sector suffered an even steeper decline of around 12% in 2015, largely due to the collapse in the price of oil which resulted in many projects being put on hold.

Heavy-duty robot is first to offer ‘true collaboration’

At the recent Automatica exhibition in Germany, the Italian robot-maker Comau previewed what it claims is the first high-payload robot to achieve true collaboration with humans. Two of the Aura (advanced use robotic arm) collaborative robots were demonstrated working on a Maserati car – one polishing its bonnet (hood), while the other loading and unloading a battery from its boot (trunk).

High-spec optical encoders have built-in signal processing

The UK metrology specialist, Renishaw, has announced a family of compact, accurate digital incremental encoders with interpolation and digital signal processing built into their readheads, thus eliminating the need for external interfaces. The company says that the Vionic optical encoders deliver the highest performance that it has ever offered in an incremental encoder system.

Collaborative robots join humans on a Ford line in Germany

Ford has become one of the first car-makers to start using collaborative robots (cobots) alongside human workers on an assembly line. It is using cobots supplied by Kuka to help fit shock absorbers to Fiesta cars at its plant in Cologne, Germany, thus ensuring a perfect fit and avoiding the need for workers to access hard-to-reach places. The task requires pinpoint accuracy, strength and dexterity.

EV motor is ‘first’ to avoid the use of ‘heavy’ rare-earths

Two Japanese companies – Honda and Daido Steel – claim to have developed the world’s first practical “hot deformed” neodymium magnets that contain no “heavy” rare-earth materials, yet offer good temperature resistance and the magnetic performance needed for use in electric vehicles (EVs). The new magnets will be used for the first time in Honda’s new Freed hybrid vehicle, which is due to go on sale later this year.

Terminal blocks slash engineering time by ‘up to 75%’

Weidmüller has announced a new generation of terminal blocks that, it claims, will save space and cut engineering times by up to 75%. The Klippon Connect A-Series system, which includes both clamp and screw connection technologies, is also said to offer other attractions during the planning, installation and operating phases, such as error-free wiring and faster marking.

GE and Microsoft join forces to put Predix on the cloud

GE and Microsoft have announced a partnership that will make GE’s Predix platform for the industrial Internet available on Microsoft's Azure cloud for industrial businesses. The move marks the first step in a strategic collaboration between the two companies that will allow customers to capture intelligence from their industrial assets and take advantage of Microsoft’s enterprise cloud applications.

Koch backs AC Kinetics to deliver ‘third era for drives’

Koch Minerals – a subsidiary of the $115bn US conglomerate Koch Industries – has entered into strategic agreements with the US motor control software developer, AC Kinetics, to commercialise its software that runs on existing VFD (variable-frequency drive) hardware and is claimed to achieve energy savings of up to 50%, while maintaining performance in both steady-state and dynamic operation. The terms of the agreements have not been revealed.

HVAC drive saves space and is easy to install

ABB has announced a VSD (variable-speed drive) dedicated to HVAC (heating, ventilating and air-conditioning) applications, which can operate with any type of HVAC motor rated from 0.75–250kW, including induction, permanent magnet and synchronous reluctance (SynRM) types. The ACH580 drive, which incorporates and BACnet and Modbus communications, can be integrated with automation systems.

Will Emerson sell Leroy-Somer and CT to a Chinese buyer?

Two Chinese companies and a private equity group are among the potential bidders for Emerson Electric’s Motors and Drives business, according to a report from the Reuters news agency. Emerson announced last year that it was exploring “strategic alternatives” for the business, which includes the UK-based drives-maker Control Techniques and the French motor manufacturer Leroy-Somer, as part of a plan to streamline its portfolio and to drive growth. Reports suggest that Emerson wants to sell the business – potentially worth around €1bn – within the next few months.

‘Smart’ guides, cables and energy chains will boost uptime

The plastics engineering specialist igus has announced a series of “smart” technologies that add sensing, monitoring and communications capabilities to its cables, energy chains and linear bearings. The company says that these technologies – which it is marketing under the “smart plastics” banner – will help to increase plant availability and uptime, and cut costs through condition monitoring and predictive maintenance.

‘First’ collaborative robot gripper brings safety to end-effectors

At the recent Automatica show in Germany, Schunk unveiled what it claims is the first robotic gripper capable of interacting and communicating directly with humans, and designed to be used safely with collaborative robots. The JL1 Co-act gripper can detect if it comes into contact with a human, avoid injuries if it senses a human between its jaws, and ensure that it never loses grip of the object that it is holding.

UK engineers unite to offer advice for Brexit negotiators

A group of 38 organisations representing the UK engineering sector have joined forces to offer advice to the Government to help secure the best possible outcome in the negotiations to withdraw the UK from the European Union. They have asked the Royal Academy of Engineering, as a convener of UK engineering with close links to the government, to lead the work.

Non-contact monitor predicts when chains are going to fail

The German chain-maker iwis has developed a non-contact system for measuring the elongation of chains while they are running. The CCM (chain condition monitor) shows the wear status on an LED display in 0.5% increments, and can also export its readings to device such as PCs via a USB cable.

Plane powered by 50kg electric motor 'will change aviation'

An aircraft powered by a 50kg electric motor with a continuous output of 260kW has flown for the first time, from an airfield in northern Germany. The two-seater plane – an adapted aerobatic craft built by Extra Aircraft – flew for ten minutes on its maiden flight in June. Its developers believe that it could be the forerunner for hybrid-electric aircraft with four or more seats that will cut fuel consumption and emissions by up to 50%, as well as reducing noise levels dramatically.

UK manufacturing hit a five-month high before the Brexit vote

The UK manufacturing sector started to pick up in the first half of 2016 with the PMI (Purchasing Managers’ Index) reaching a five-month high in June, according to the latest figures from Markit and the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS). But the survey was conducted before the recent referendum in which the UK decided to leave the European Union.

Omron’s first IO-Link devices will lead to smarter production

Omron has announced several ranges of IO-Link-compatible photoelectric and proximity sensors which, it says, will make it easier to integrate industrial equipment with the Internet of Things. Omron describes the launch of its first IO-Link sensors as “a big step” towards making production equipment smarter and combining factory automation components with ICT (information and communications technology) systems.

32-axis motion controller can be set up in ‘minutes’

Galil Motion Control has announced its first 32-axis motion controller. The DMC-52xx0 EtherCat master can control up to 32 drives and two I/O modules, and includes uncommitted I/O for easy integration with EtherCat applications.

Nasa’s electric plane will cut running costs by up to 40%

The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) is building an aircraft powered by 14 electric motors which, it claims, could cut operating costs by up to 40% compared to conventional aircraft, as well as reducing energy use during high-speed cruising by around 80% .

EU: should we stay or should we go? A VSD repairer's view

If the UK votes to leave the EU in the upcoming referendum, it could have far-reaching effects for SMEs operating in the VSD (variable-speed drive) repair and refurbishment industry. Jordan Griffin, technical director at Northern Drives & Controls, gives his personal view on the challenges that NDC and others could face.

Rawlings returns to Festo as general manager for the UK

Eliza Rawlings has been appointed general manager of Festo in the UK. The appointment marks a return to Festo for Rawlings who was the company’s national sales manager from 2002 to 2010, after which she was appointed managing director of the cloud services provider, Cloud Direct.

Just 8% of UK manufacturers understand I 4.0

Only 8% of UK manufacturers have a significant understanding of Industry 4.0, despite 59% recognising that it will have a big impact on the sector, according to a new report published by the accountancy and business advisory firm BDO in association with the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE).

Electrically assisted vehicle overcomes drawbacks of bicycles

The German bearings and automotive systems manufacturer Schaeffler has unveiled a concept two-seater vehicle designed to overcome some of the disadvantages of bicycles – such as their lack of stability, weather protection and storage space. The electrically-assisted, four-wheeled Bio-Hybrid vehicle can travel at speeds of up to 25km/h, does not need a driver’s licence, and is small enough to be used on bicycle lanes, thus reducing congestion in urban environments.

Hannover Fair 2016 exclusive show report

The partner country for this year’s Hannover Fair was the US. This meant that the event was opened jointly by President Barack Obama and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. On the first day of the show, they did a walkabout of several halls, visiting a handful of carefully picked stands.

Drives lab will help users to test combos of motors and VSDs

ABB has set up a test laboratory at its drives factory in Helsinki, Finland, where customers can have their own motors tested with ABB’s variable-speed drives (VSDs) to verify their impact on performance and energy consumption.

Fault-finder for rotating machines needs no expertise

The German bearings manufacturer Schaeffler has developed an automated system for analysing the condition of rotating plant and equipment with fixed or variable speeds from 100–15,000 rpm. The FAG SmartQB is a pre-configured, ready-to-use condition-monitoring system for electric motors, pumps, fans, compressors and gearboxes, which can be commissioned in five minutes and can be operated by staff with little or no expertise in vibration monitoring.

US motor-maker buys gearmotor specialist to offer motion packages

The US motor manufacturer, HTI Technology, has acquired the fractional horsepower gearmotor producer, Klauber Machine & Gear (KMG), for an undisclosed sum. HTI plans to combine its own expertise in AC and DC motor and drives systems with Klauber’s technology and expertise in AC and DC gearmotors, to offer application-engineered motion packages.

IO-Link readout shows data, alarms and messages

Process values, alarms, warnings and QR codes from IO-Link installations can now be viewed on a dedicated display device developed by ifm electronic. The E30391 IO-Link display is connected to an IO-Link master like an actuator, and is controlled via PLC. No special software is needed to configure it.

Siemens stalwart will run ABB's automation and motion division

ABB has appointed Sami Atiya to be the new president of its Discrete Automation and Motion (DM) division, succeeding Pekka Tiitinen, who is returning to his home country to be managing director of ABB in Finland.

24V protection system is 'the first of its type'

One of five short-listed products for this year’s Hermes technology award at the Hannover Fair was a single-channel circuit-breaker system from the German coiled products specialist, Block, which claims that is first solid-state over-current protection system for 24V DC control circuits. The breaker addresses channels automatically during switch-on, avoiding the need for time-consuming manual assigning – a particular advantage if a system stops or if components need to be replaced quickly.

Vacuum-powered actuators mimic muscle behaviour

Researchers in the US have developed an actuator that generates movements similar to those of muscles by using vacuum to shrink rubber beams. Like real muscles, the actuators are soft, shock-absorbing, and pose no danger to their environment or humans working alongside them. They could pave the way to soft-bodied robots that are safer than conventional rigid designs, the developers suggest.

Demo links industrial drives to the cloud via a 3G router

The Taiwanese automation manufacturer Delta Electronics launched a slew of new ranges at the Hannover Fair, including AC drives, Ethernet switches, machine vision systems, motion control platforms, industrial and panel PCs, HMIs, remote I/Os, smart sensors, linear stages, Scada software and robot controllers.

Monitoring system depicts production data in real time

Bosch Rexroth has developed a communication platform that continuously records, processes and filters production data and makes it available on the production line and elsewhere in real time via large touchscreens or tablets.

German suppliers aim to simplify the ordering process

At the Hannover Fair, SEW-Eurodrive, Festo and Sick announced a joint initiative designed to make it easier for their customers to do business with them. They say that the Esis (Easy Supplier Integration Services) scheme will cut the time and costs of processing orders, as well as increasing reliability and integrating better with customers’ own IT systems.

ZF sets up industrial gearbox business

The German engineering giant, ZF, best-known as an automotive supplier, has set up an industrial drives business based on the large gearbox operation of Bosch Rexroth which is acquired last December. The ZF Industrieantriebe business, which employs 900 people in Germany and China, made its public debut at the recent Hannover Fair. The business will supply modular drive, winch and swing gearboxes for industrial applications and mobile machines.

New HQ doubles size of Plymouth automation firm

Applied Automation (UK) has officially opened its new headquarters in Plymouth, UK, which it moved into last year. The 13,000m2 (140,000ft2) site is more than twice the size of the two factories that it occupied before. The company now employs more than 130 people in Plymouth and at a second site in Cardiff, Wales.

Collaborative demo shows 'batch of one' production in action

A crowd-puller at the recent Hannover Fair was a collaborative demonstration by several companies showing Industry 4.0 concepts – in particular, mass customisation – in action. The demo was manufacturing individual keyrings in colours and with text (names or phone numbers) specified by visitors via a Web site. They also had the option of incorporating a smartchip that would allow them to find the key using a smartphone.

Smartphone app sets drive parameters remotely

Lenze’s compact i500 drives, which the company launched at the SPS IPC Drives show in Germany in late 2015, can now be accessed from a smartphone to perform diagnostics and parameter setting. At the recent Hannover Fair, Lenze also announced an extension of the drive's top power ratings from 45 to 75kW (with 110kW in the pipeline), as well as communications modules for EtherCat, Ethernet/IP and Profinet.

Motion control sales slumped in 2015, but are starting to recover

The global market for motion control hardware suffered a 10.6% decline during 2015, with total revenues amounting to $10.4bn, according to the latest research from the IHS Motion Controls Intelligence Service. But the analyst suggests that the market will gradually return to growth starting this year.

David Brown and Santasalo merge to create a global brand

David Brown and Santasalo – two mechanical power transmission companies owned by Clyde Blowers Capital – have merged to create David Brown Santasalo, a global industrial gearbox business with more than 1,000 employees, 5,000 customers, seven manufacturing plants and 23 service centres on six continents.

Vision-based luggage ID system is ‘15% better than lasers’

The machine vision specialist Cognex has announced a vision-based system for identifying airport baggage which, it claims, is the first of its type and overcomes the limitations of laser-based baggage identification systems. It says that its ABH-ID (airport baggage handling identification) system achieves much higher read rates than laser-based systems, cutting the costs of delivering lost or late-checked luggage by hand.

Profibus master interface for PCs is 'world's smallest'

Softing claims to have developed the world's smallest Profibus master interface for PCs. The matchbox-sized PBpro USB fits inside a Profibus connector housing. Its high-speed USB connection makes the interface suitable for tasks ranging from network configuration and device parameterisation, to plant maintenance and production data acquisition.

Proximity sensors have ‘world’s longest switching distances’

Turck claims to have achieved the world’s longest switching distances for proximity sensors ­– up to 50mm – with two devices that it launched at the recent Hannover Fair. The long switching distances mean that the sensors are less susceptible to damage.

Family of 600 control devices could cut panel sizes by 20%

Omron is introducing around 600 different control panel devices, in 18 different product categories, all built to a common design platform and incorporating a proprietary rapid wiring technology. It says that the components, which are all the same height, will reduce dead space in panels by up to 50% and cut panel sizes by up to 20%.

Browser-based system turns block I/Os into PLCs

Turck has announced a technology that allows users to add logic functions to I/O devices without needing a PLC, thus driving down the cost per I/O point and increasing control flexibility. The Argee “field logic controller” (FLC) system is programmed via a Web browser, eliminating the need for third-party software or licensing that is common with PLCs.

Modular robot control system allows users to mix-and-match

The Taiwanese automation manufacturer Nexcom has announced an open, modular robot control technology that allows users to mix-and-match components such as controllers, robots, and servodrives to suit their applications.

Software links mechanical, electrical and PLC activities

At the recent Hannover Fair, Eplan and Cideon – both members of the German Friedhelm Loh Group – announced a software platform that, they say, will simplify collaboration between mechanical and controls engineers and PLC programmers. The Syngineer software interfaces mechanical and electrical computer-aided design (MCAD and ECAD) and PLC programming software via a mechatronic structure.

In-wheel motor production gets going in China

Protean Electric, which develops in-wheel electric drive systems for vehicles, is to start manufacturing its motors in Tianjin, China, during the second half of 2016, and to build a factory on a permanent site by the end of 2017. The in-wheel motor technology incorporates power and control electronics, and is claimed to increase fuel economy by up to 30%. Protean has an engineering base in the UK, as well as US and Chinese operations.

Micro-PLC with Web server packs the power of a PAC

Japan’s Idec Corporation has released a micro-PLC which, it claims, offers the power of a PAC (programmable automation controller) and supports up to 520 I/O. The FC6A MicroSmart controller can execute basic instructions in 0.042µs, has a 640kB program memory, incorporates 1,024 timers and 512 counters (including six high-speed timers capable of up to 100kHz), has a built-in Web server, and can handle large programs with complex control requirements such as PID, flow totalisation and recipes.

‘Smart’ cables can predict when they are about to fail

Two German companies – the sensor manufacturer Leuze Electronic and the connection specialist Murrelektronik – have joined forces with the French cable-maker Nexans to develop a cable that can sense when it is close to failure, thus alerting users and allowing them to replace the cable before it fails.

Rexnord buys metal belt-maker Cambridge for $210m

Rexnord is buying the US-based metal conveyor belt manufacturer, Cambridge International Holdings, for an estimated $210m. Cambridge is one of the world’s largest suppliers of metal conveying and engineered woven metal systems, used mainly in food processing, as well as in architectural, packaging and filtration applications.

VSD-based hydraulic pack cuts energy use by up to 80%

Rexroth has developed a hydraulic power pack for machinery that integrates all of the hydraulic and electrical components, along with a variable-speed drive, to produce a compact system that can cut energy consumption by up to 80%. The plug-and-run CytroPac system also simplifies commissioning and maintenance.

‘First’ type 3 safety light grids will cut machine costs

The German safety specialist Pilz says it has developed the world’s first type 3 light grids, thus closing the “type gap” in the revised version of IEC 61496-1. The new PSENopt II grids offer level d (PL d) performance, avoiding the need to switch to type 4 grids to achieve PL d. They can be used to implement the performance level that precisely matches the safety requirement, without costly over-sizing.

Energy recovery system ‘can pay for itself in a year’

The German automation developer Lenze has unveiled a system for recovering braking energy, which separates the supply and recovery paths, allowing them to be designed and dimensioned individually for an application. The Smart Energy Recovery r700 modules have a claimed conversion efficiency of 98% and Lenze says that, depending on the amount of energy recovered, they can pay for themselves in around a year.

‘Game-changing’ soft-starts act as complete control systems

At the recent Hannover Fair, the New Zealand soft-start specialist AuCom announced a  “game-changing” range that, it predicts, will challenge industry approaches to fixed-speed motor control. The EMX4i low-voltage soft-starts offer the option of plugging in application-specific cards.

Single-tool valve system is fast and easy to assemble

At the recent Hannover Fair, Aventics launched a modular pneumatic valve system designed to cut the number of components needed and to simplify assembly by using a single tool. The time-saving ES05 Essential Valve System is said to reduce the risk of faults and to offer a cost-effective, tailored way of meeting users’ needs.

Precision hydraulic-pneumatic drive ‘can thread a needle’

US engineers have developed a new type of hydrostatic transmission system that combines hydraulic and pneumatic technologies and can be used, for example, to drive robot arms safely and precisely, giving them the delicacy to pick up an egg without breaking it. The transmission system has almost no friction or play, resulting in high enough precision for tasks such as threading a sewing needle.

Compact 20-axis controller promises big-system benefits

Rockwell Automation has announced a compact industrial controller for high-speed applications with up to 20 axes of motion which, it claims, has up to 20% more application capacity than its previous CompactLogix controllers. The new Allen-Bradley CompactLogix 5380 controller offers the benefits of Rockwell’s high-performance Integrated Architecture portfolio in a small format.

‘Plug-and-play’ IO-Link system speeds machine set-ups

The German industrial connectivity specialist Murrelektronik claims to be the first manufacturer to implement a “plug-and-play” technology for IO-Link devices that, it says, will make it much easier and faster to set up machines and systems. The “IODD on Board” technology stores information about IO-Link-supporting devices, such as sensors and actuators, inside distributed fieldbus modules so that as soon as an IO-Link device is connected to the module, data about it can be accessed directly by PLC software tools.

Ladder logic still dominates PLC programming

Ladder logic continues to be the dominant language for programming PLCs, accounting for more than 81% of the global market, despite the availability of several other languages defined in the IEC 61131-3 standard. New research from Technavio suggests that Functional Block Diagram (FBD) programming represents just over 11% of the market, with other languages accounting for the remaining 7.24%.

Inductive system reads absolute linear positions to ±4µm

Rexroth has developed a robust linear measuring system that reads absolute positions inductively to an accuracy of ±4µm – similar to that of glass scales. The company is building the IMS-A system into its linear guides, thus avoiding the need for external measurement or air purge systems. It says that the system is immune to contamination, vibrations, shocks and magnetic interference and needs no buffer batteries in the event of a power failure.

‘World’s fastest’ elevator will hit speeds of 73.8km/h

Mitsubishi Electric claims to have developed the world’s fastest elevator. It has designed and built a system that will travel from the basement to the 119th floor of China’s tallest building, the 632m-tall Shanghai Tower, in just 53 seconds.

Connector with ‘first’ with built-in Ethernet switch

Harting claims to have developed the first connector with a built-in Ethernet switch. Its new Han-Modular US4 connector can be used to network up to four EtherNet/IP or Profinet nodes with transmission speeds of up to 1,000 Mbit/s.

ABB buys Swedish robotic machine-tending specialist

ABB has bought SVIA, a Swedish company that specialises in systems for automated machine-tending, using robots to feed components to lathes and mills, and to processes such as assembly, washing and part-marking. The financial terms of the deal have not been revealed.

B&R enters the fray for linear motor transport systems

Austria’s B&R Automation is the latest company to offer a linear-motor-driven production transport system as a fast, flexible alternative to conventional conveyors. It has joined forces with Canada’s ATS Automation to offer a system called SuperTrak, which it demonstrated at the recent Hannover Fair.

UK manufacturers are not investing to tackle rise in cyber-attacks

Only about half of UK manufacturers have increased their spending on cyber-security in the past two years, despite Government figures showing that 90% of large businesses and 74% of small businesses reported a cyber-security breach last year – an increase on 2014. The average cost of these breaches was £1.46m–£3.14m for large firms, and £75,000–£311,000 for smaller businesses.

Tester analyses running motors without using sensors

Fluke has announced a motor tester that analyses a motor’s electrical and mechanical performance while it is running, without needing any mechanical load sensors. The Fluke 438-II power quality and motor analyser uses “innovative” algorithms to analyse not only three-phase power quality, but also torque, efficiency, and speed, to determine a motor's performance and to detect overload conditions.

Eplan opens up its product data library for use by others

Eplan, the German engineering design software developer, has announced that it is opening up its vast library of product data to users of rival products such as AutoCad. It is also making the data available to users of ERP (enterprise resource planning), PDM (product data management) and PLM (product life management) systems.

Plug-in drives modules save space and cut costs

At the recent Hannover Fair, Beckhoff announced a series of space-saving drives modules in a plug-in format for machines being built in volume production runs. The EtherCat-based EJ series modules make it possible to achieve high-volume runs without sacrificing customisation.

2016 Drives & Controls Show was a record-breaker

Visitor numbers at the cluster of exhibitions, including the Drives & Controls Show, held last month at the NEC set a new record, with a total of 13,115 visitors attending the three-day event. The number who registered to attend the Drives Show was up nearly 30% on the figure for the previous show in 2014.

New digital factory exhibition will join Drives & Controls Show in 2018

A new exhibition dedicated to digital manufacturing will make its debut alongside the next Drives & Controls Show in 2018. The new event, called Smart Machines and Factories (SM&F), will reflect the changing face of manufacturing and the growing importance of concepts such as Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things.

First motion industry awards attracts an audience of 250

The inaugural UK Motion Control Industry Awards, held in Birmingham during the same week as the Drives & Controls Show, attracted an audience of about 250 people to the National Conference Centre, near the NEC. The awards were produced by Touchwave Media in association with the UK Motion Control Alliance, which consists of the British Fluid Power Association (BFPA), the British Fluid Power Distributors Association (BFPDA) and the British Compressed Air Society (BCAS).

CC-Link and OPC agree to collaborate on an interface

At the recent Hannover Fair, the OPC Foundation and the CC-Link Partner Association (CLPA) signed a memorandum of understanding under which they will cooperate to develop an interface specification with harmonised access. The interface will connect CC-Link networks and devices to the cloud, and allow users of CC-Link networks to exchange data with other systems.

£2m investment in machinery leads to a trio of couplings

Following a £2m investment in new production machinery, the UK manufacturer Renold Couplings announced three new ranges of couplings at the recent Drives & Controls Show.

Build your own robot arms from €243 per axis

The German engineering plastics specialist igus is pushing further into the world of robotics with a kit system that will allow users to create plastic-and-aluminium robot arms with up to six degrees of freedom at costs starting from €243 ($281) per axis. At the recent Hannover Fair, igus had a stand dedicated to the robot kits, which have articulated joints driven by worm gears with stepper motors optionally built into the joints. The arms have been designed to operate safely in “collaborative” applications with human co-workers.

Toyota opts for EtherCat as its global Ethernet standard

The world’s largest car-maker, Toyota, has decided that EtherCat will be its industrial Ethernet technology of choice and that it will base all of its new factories worldwide on this communications technology. Announcing the decision at the recent Hannover Fair, Morihiko Ohkura, general manager of Toyota’s production engineering innovation division, said that it was based on a “thorough” analysis of various industrial Ethernet technologies.

Interface will simplify links between controls and the cloud

ODVA is to develop standards for gateway and interface technologies to move data between CIP-enabled industrial control systems (ICSs) containing EtherNet/IP and DeviceNet devices, and the cloud. The aim is to produce a specification for a “common industrial cloud interface”, based on open and interoperable standards supported by multiple vendors, that will allow cloud computing to support device management, process analytics, notifications, remote access, virtualisation, visualisation and – in the future – control. 

MCC is ‘first’ to marry arc prevention and resistance

Eaton has announced an arc-resistant version of its FlashGard MCC (motor control centre) technology, designed to prevent arc flash events and to protect personnel if an arc flash occurs. Eaton claims that it is the first manufacturer to combine arc-preventative and arc-resistant technologies in one MCC.

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