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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.

Idec partners with AMCI to simplify multi-axis controls

The Japanese automation manufacturer Idec has joined forces with the US motion controls specialist Advanced Micro Controls (AMCI) to offer a family of components ‒ including drives, stepper motors, indexers and integrated controls ‒ which will be sold under the “AMCI by Idec” banner. The global arrangement will allow users to implement single- and multi-axis controls quickly and easily, based on Idec’s FC6A PLC, which has embedded motion control macro instructions. In addition, users of Idec PLCs will be able to add motion controls without having to buy separate software.

IoT platform allows manufacturers to create their own apps

A US company has developed an IoT-enabled software platform that allows engineers to create shop-floor apps that connect workers, machines and IT systems.

Next-generation LabView caters for non-programmers

National Instruments (NI) has announced new generation of its LabView engineering system design software which bridges the gap between configuration-based software and custom programming languages with a new approach to measurement automation.

Wood Group pushes into automation by buying CEC for $59m

The Scottish-based Wood Group has pushed further into the industrial automation and controls sector by buying CEC Controls, a US designer and builder of industrial and process control systems, mainly for the automotive industry. Wood is paying of $44m in cash, with a further deferred consideration of $15m payable over the next three years.

AI machine control algorithm slashes set-up times

Mitsubishi Electric has announced a deep-reinforcement algorithm for artificial-intelligence (AI) based control of machinery that, it says, needs just one-fiftieth of the number of trials needed to set up conventional AI-based controls. The new algorithm will allow smart equipment such as industrial robots and vehicles to use sensors and cameras to learn rapidly about their environments to allow finely-tuned AI-based control.

1.1kW synchronous drum motor is ‘the most powerful’

Interroll, the Swiss specialist in products for internal logistics, claims to have developed the world’s most powerful synchronous drum motor for belt conveyor systems. The new motor has an output of up to 1.1kW, delivers up to 100Nm of torque, and can achieve belt speeds of up to 3.34m/s.

Hygienic IP69K transport system opens up applications

At the Hannover Fair, Beckhoff unveiled a stainless-steel version of its XTS (eXtended Transport System) which, it predicts, will open up many new applications, especially in the food and pharmaceutical sector, and for processing and filling liquids. On its stand, Beckhoff was demonstrating how the IP69K-protected Hygienic Design version of XTS can even operate under a continuous water spray.

Fanuc’s £19m HQ brings UK activities under one roof

Fanuc has brought all of its UK activities – robotics, machine tools and factory automation – together in a purpose-built headquarters in Coventry which has cost more than £19m to build and will employ more than 100 people. The three-storey, 9,940m2 (107,000ft2) facility is four times larger than the company’s previous location, and includes design, manufacturing and training facilities and offices, as well as a showroom area.

Motor control designer chosen as ‘engineer of the year’

Graham Fick, technical director of the Yorkshire-based motor controls manufacturer Zikodrive, has won the “engineer of the year” award at the 2017 Motion Control Industry Awards, held in Birmingham, UK. He won the award for his work designing and developing the company’s ZDBL range of compact, custom-programmed brushless motor controllers.

Advent plans to add IPH to Brammer to form €2.1bn business

Advent International, the private equity firm that bought the UK-based MRO (maintenance, repairs and operations) specialist Brammer earlier this year, is now negotiating to buy the European industrial supplies distributor, IPH. It plans to combine the two businesses to create a “leading” European distributor of industrial supplies with revenues of more than €2.1bn.

Switch closes gap between unmanaged and managed devices

Rockwell Automation has announced an alternative to managed industrial Ethernet switches for manufacturers that use unmanaged switches but struggle with downtime or security concerns. The new “lightly-managed” Allen-Bradley Stratix 2500 switch provides the security, resiliency, segmentation and bandwidth-optimisation of a managed switch, without needing extensive configuration.

Tiny 700W drive launches ‘a new era for servodrives’

A Finnish drive manufacturer called Granite Devices claims to have set a new benchmark for servodrive compactness with a snap-on board-format 700W drive that measures just 70 x 37 x 7mm, yet has built-in motion control and SIL2 safety functions. Granite describes the Ioni drive as “the Swiss Army knife for motion control”, adding that it represents “a new era for servodrives” that will bring time and cost savings to machine automation.

Cyber-attack detection protects real-time controls

Mitsubishi Electric says it has developed a technology for detecting cyber-attacks against critical control systems which can identify network traffic that deviates from normal commands. The technology detects cyber-attacks disguised as commands for critical infrastructure – such as electricity, gas, water and petrochemical installations – without affecting real-time control capabilities. The Japanese company says that this will help to ensure that the operation of such infrastructure remains stable.

Gear-free actuators could revolutionise robot designs

A Canadian company has developed a gearless, high-torque rotary actuator which, it claims, out-performs traditional gear-based actuators in many ways, while potentially being much cheaper. Genesis Robotics has invested C$28m (US$20.4m / £15.8m) in developing its LiveDrive technology, which it is aiming principally at robotics applications – it believes that the backlash-free technology could revolutionise the design of robotic arms, and halve their costs. The company adds that the lightweight, direct-drive actuators could have many other applications, ranging from prosthetics to vehicles.

Electronic cable-pull switch is ‘the world's most advanced’

Rockwell Automation has developed what it claims is the world’s first solid-state cable-pull emergency-stop device, which uses a microprocessor-based technology to monitor and compensate for any thermal expansion or sagging of the trip-wire.

Cyber-researchers show how to hack an industrial robot

Researchers working for the cyber-security firm Trend Micro and at the Politecnico di Milano (Polimi) in Italy have demonstrated that it is relatively easy to hack an industrial robot to change its behaviour – with potentially deadly consequences.

Electrically activated e-stop buttons will save time and energy

The German safety expert Pilz has developed an electrically-operated emergency-stop pushbutton which, it says, can save time and energy, and allow machines to be returned to service more rapidly after a shutdown. The PITestop active device has a built-in light ring to indicate its status.

IO-Link spawns a safety version

The IO-Link Community has announced a safety version of its technology, which is fieldbus and system-independent. The new IO-Link Safety achieves this by converting the many safety protocols on the market to IO-Link Safety in a master.

New body champions UK electrotechnical sector

A new organisation has been created to represent the interests of the UK’s electrotechnical, electronics and firmware sector. The ElecTech Council has its roots in the former Esco (Electronics Systems Community) and is backed by trade bodies including Gambica and Beama, and organisations including the IET and BSI.

Schematics are generated ‘at the push of a button’

Eplan used the recent Hannover Fair to launch a software package that, it says, will generate electrical and fluid schematic diagrams automatically at the push of a button, without needing expert knowledge, programming abilities, or extensive training. The “unique” package, called Eplan Cogineer, does not require users to change their design methods, which “will simply become much faster”.

Manufacturers want to standardise push-pull M12 connectors

Molex, Phoenix Contact, Murrelektronik and Binder have agreed to work together to drive the standardisation of M12 push-pull connectors which interlock automatically when plugged in, avoiding the need for traditional screw connections. The interlock is based on Molex’s Brad Ultra-Lock technology, which is designed to bring the ease push-pull connections to IP67/68/69K sealed connections. It can be used without tools, simplifying mounting, especially in confined spaces.

‘First’ autonomous container ship will be electrically powered

Two Norwegian companies have announced plans to build the world’s first fully electric and autonomous container ship, which will be able to navigate without needing any crew.

Hannover tie-ups include ABB-IBM plan to apply AI

A flurry of of collaborations and tie-ups were announced at the recent Hannover Fair, including a strategic collaboration between ABB and IBM aimed at combining ABB’s Ability digital portfolio with IBM Watson’s Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning capabilities. Some of the other collabrations are listed in the table below.

Retrofit gathers and analyses data from existing plants

B&R Automation used the Hannover Fair to launch a retrofit system that collects and analyses data from existing production sites. The technology, called Orange Box, allows machine operators to gather data from previously isolated machines and lines and use the data in smart factory applications. B&R says it is as easy to use as a smartphone.

Government pledges to invest £1bn in future technologies

UK Business Secretary Greg Clark has announced plans to invest £1bn over the next four years in cutting-edge technologies that the government believes will create jobs and raise living standards. The funding, from the £23bn Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF), will be spent across six key areas, including robotics and AI (artificial intelligence), self-driving vehicles, and manufacturing and materials of the future.

Profinet jumps aboard the TSN bandwagon

PI (Profibus and Profinet International) is the latest organisation to adopt the IEEE’s TSN (Time-Sensitive Networking) technology, which combines the bandwidth of IT (information technology) networks with the latency of OT (operational technology) networks.

Ballscrews, belts and bearings become ‘smart’

A noticeable trend at the recent Hannover Fair was the emergence of “intelligent” versions of previously “dumb” mechanical devices. Several exhibitors announced “smart” versions of traditional mechanical components, designed to connect to the Internet of Things and to Industry 4.0 applications.

Diagnostics tool shows all of the devices on a network

A Dutch specialist in Profibus and Profinet technologies has developed a diagnostics tool for Industrial Ethernet installations which can display all of the devices on a network and how they are connected, and provide an overview of the network’s health. Procentec says that its Atlas module will help to prevent unexpected and expensive downtime.

Seal-shaped bearing sensor adapts to the application

The German bearings-maker Schaeffler – which has been offering sensor-equipped bearings and guidance systems for several years ­– stated at the recent Hannover Fair that its aim is to transform conventional mechanical products and to integrate them into the digital world. Its latest development is a 7mm-thick ring-shaped device that can contain a choice of sensing elements to suit an application, and occupies a similar space to the rotary shaft seal of a bearing. The housing is attached to a bearing’s outer ring, and the sensor ring to the inner ring.

First hazardous area clamping enclosure is ‘97% faster’

Eaton has announced what it describes as “the first clamping enclosure for hazardous industrial environments”, and is hailing it as “a major safety enhancement” for explosion-proof enclosures.

ABB-B&R merger is 'a fantastic platform for growth'

At the recent Hannover Fair, the Austrian firm B&R Automation announced plans to expand its operations, including an expansion to accommodate new production lines for its mechatronic products, and a new surface-mount line which will boost its PCB production capacity by 20%. The company also plans to add 50 jobs at its r&d offices in Salzburg to work on communications, robotics and controls.

Zettlex and Saco win Queen’s innovation awards

The Cambridge-based sensor-maker Zettlex has won one of 57 innovation awards in this year’s Queen’s Awards for Enterprise for its range of accurate position and speed sensors for use in harsh environments. Other winners of innovation awards include Saco (the Smart Actuator Company), located in Malvern Wells, for its high-efficiency, programmable electric actuators, and Bristol-based Third Dimension, for its laser-based GapGun optical measurement device used to control production quality.

Blue-LED encoders ‘double signal quality’ at up to 12,000 rpm

By using specially-developed blue-light LEDs, Pepperl+Fuchs claims to have produced a range of incremental rotary encoders with the highest signal quality available. The ENI58IL encoders also offer higher resolutions, improved signal amplitudes, and the ability to operate with absolute accuracy at speeds of up to 12,000 rpm.

£450,000 project will develop robotics for the food industry

Peterborough-based Olympus Automation (OAL) and the University of Lincoln have been awarded a £448,850 grant by Innovate UK and the EPSRC’s Robotics and Autonomous Systems programme to develop robot-based materials-handling systems for food manufacturers. During the one-year project, they will focus on automating the processes of handling, weighing and transporting raw ingredients. The aim is to bring about a step-change in the adoption of robotics and automation in the food and drink industry, and thus to enhance productivity.

Mechatronic drive targets materials applications

New from Lenze is a compact mechatronic drive that combines a motor with control electronics and software, and a gearbox that is integrated into the motor housing. The g350 drive is aimed, in particular, at materials-handling applications, where is it said to deliver high efficiencies.

EtherCat terminal system expands into hazardous areas

Beckhoff has expanded into process control applications with a series of EtherCat terminals with IS (intrinsically safe) I/Os that can connect directly to field devices in Zone 0, 1 and 2 hazardous areas. Using the company’s PC-based controllers, automation and process technologies can now be combined, and EtherCat benefits such as diagnostics applied in hazardous areas.

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