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Cobot pioneer Rethink Robotics shuts down

Rethink Robotics, the American pioneer of collaborative robots (cobots), is shutting down, with the loss of 91 jobs, after talks to sell the business collapsed at the last minute. The company is reported to have got into difficulties when a large Chinese order did not materialise after Rethink had customised its Sawyer cobot for the Chinese market.

Motor-drive analysers guide you through troubleshooting

Fluke has announced a pair of variable-speed drive (VSD) analysers designed to simplify the troubleshooting of complex motor-drive systems, and to save time. The portable Fluke MDA-510 and MDA-550 Motor Drive Analyzers incorporate graphical displays that guide users through the set-up procedure, while a report generator provides records of actions taken.

Direct-drive torque motors 'have half the cogging torque’

The CNC (computer numerical control) specialist NUM has launched a range of high-performance brushless torque motors which, it claims, display almost half of the cogging torque of rivals. The frameless, hollow-shaft TMX motors are said to be ideal for applications that need smooth, accurate rotation, especially at low speeds. Typical uses are expected to include direct-drive machine tools, rotary tables and radial positioning systems.

Microsoft releases Robot Operating System for Windows

Microsoft has announced an experimental release of the open-source Robot Operating System (ROS) for Windows. ROS is a set of libraries and tools that help to build complex robots, and is used in many robot projects around the world. Microsoft says that the development will bring the manageability and security of Windows 10 IoT Enterprise to ROS.

New Power-over-Ethernet spec triples power ratings

A new version of the IEEE’s Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) standard has added three new classes of operation and tripled the maximum amount of power that can be transmitted via Ethernet cables from 30W to 90W. According to the Ethernet Alliance, the ratification of IEEE 802.3bt - Amendment 2: Power over Ethernet (PoE) over 4 Pairs, “heralds a new era of robust market opportunity for PoE-enabled technologies”.

Emerson buys GE’s PLC business to broaden its portfolio

Emerson is buying General Electric’s Intelligent Platforms division, saying that GE’s PLC (programmable logic controller) technologies will enable it to offer its customers broader control and management of their operations. The terms of the deal have not been disclosed. It comes at a time when GE has been selling businesses to focus on its jet engine, power plant and renewable energy activities.

Thomas & Betts is reborn as ABB Installation Products

ABB has announced that its North American electrical products manufacturing operation Thomas & Betts will in future be called ABB Installation Products. ABB acquired the business for $3.9bn in 2012 and Thomas & Betts is one of 20 ABB-owned brands being migrated to the ABB name this year as part of its Next Level strategy.

Hydrogen-electric plane could carry 4 passengers 5,000km

A French-Singaporean specialist in hydrogen-based propulsion systems for drones has announced plans to develop world’s first hydrogen-electric passenger aircraft designed to serve regional routes. HES Energy Systems says that its Element One aircraft will be able to carry up to four passengers for distances of 500–5,000km, depending on whether it stores hydrogen in a gaseous or liquid form.

3D robot vision system can be picking ‘within minutes’

A Belgian company has developed a 3D robot vision system that, it claims, can be used to set up complex robotic picking operations in a few minutes, without needing to know a robot programming language. The Pick-It system will operate with robots from most major manufacturers and can identify, pick and place items from bins, trays, conveyor belts, buffer tables, pallets and shelves.

Commission aims to boost UK productivity and create jobs

A group of UK manufacturing business leaders and academics have joined forces with the government to create the Made Smarter Commission, which aims to make UK manufacturing “smarter”. The inaugural meeting of the commission, held on 27 September, was chaired by Siemens CEO Professor Juergen Maier and Business Secretary Greg Clark and follows the publication of the Made Smarter Review almost a year ago.

Barnes buys Italian robot tool specialist Gimatic for €370m

The US-based Barnes Group is expanding into the automation and robotics sector by buying the Italian automation and robotics supplier Gimatic for €370m ($435m) in cash. Barnes, whose existing activities include aerospace systems and services, moulding systems and gas springs, is buying Gimatic from its founder, Giuseppe Bellandi, and the European-Asian private equity firm Agic Capital and Xenon Capital Partners, who paid around €100m for the business in 2016.

‘Most accurate’ power meter can analyse four motors at a time

Yokogawa has developed what it claims is the world’s most accurate power analyser for evaluating the power consumption, loss and efficiency of electrical and electronic devices, including inverters. The WT5000 analyser boasts an accuracy of ±0.03% (±0.01% of reading and ±0.02% of range) at 44–66Hz, and can be extended using plug-in input modules to evaluate up to four electric motors simultaneously – an ability that is expected to appeal to developers of electric vehicles, among others.

Smart TV operating system will be applied to robots

The webOS operating system developed by South Korea's LG Electronics and used in more than 60 million of its smart TVs and digital displays, is going to be applied to other fields, including robotics, under a new partnership that LG has formed with the IT service provider, Luxoft.

Most UK industrial goods suppliers want to keep EU regs

A clear majority (83%) of UK manufacturers of industrial products want to continue regulatory alignment with the European Union after the UK leaves the EU, according to a new survey by Euris, the umbrella group of 13 British trade associations representing suppliers of industrial products.

$140m funding round is ‘biggest ever’ for industrial robotics

GreyOrange, a Singapore-headquartered business which specialises in AI-powered robotics systems for flexible automation in warehouses and fulfilment centres, claims to have attracted the largest round of funding ever raised by an industrial robotics company. The company will use the $140m of funds from Mithril Capital to develop the next generation of flexible supply-chain systems.

‘Tiniest tool-changer’ and first cobot gripper join range

Just two months after the Danish firm OnRobot was formed by merging three robotics accessories businesses, it has acquired another company – Purple Robotics, which has developed the world’s first gripper specifically designed for collaborative robots (cobots), as well as “the world’s lightest and smallest robotics tool-changer”.

AGV transports robot arm from one task to the next

Mitsubishi Electric and the British AGV (automatically guided vehicle) specialist Mirage have released more details of the mobile robot system that they demonstrated at the Smart Industry Expo in Birmingham, UK, earlier this year.

ABB launches UK cyber-security task force for automation

ABB UK has launched a dedicated team to tackle the growing cyber-security demands of sites that rely on industrial automation. The company is expanding its existing industrial cyber-security activities and adding multi-sector expertise to support operators both onsite and remotely.

Digital factory market ‘will be worth $111bn by 2026’

The digital factory market is expanding at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 35% and will be worth $111bn by 2026, according to a new report from ABI Research. Technologies included in its definition of “the digital factory” include PLCs, robots, motors and pumps.

Twin-spring flexible coupling needs no maintenance

A US couplings manufacturer has announced a new type of flexible coupling which, it claims, needs no maintenance. Twin Spring Coupling’s TSC500 coupling is made from two counter-wound torsion springs and has no internal components or bearings, resulting in a maintenance-free design that can work at larger angles than traditional universal, Cardan, beam, bellows or other flexible couplings, at both low and high speeds.

QA vision system can be set up in 'minutes’ without needing SIs

An Israeli-German company has developed a machine-vision-based QA (quality assurance) technology which, it claims, can be installed within minutes without needing systems integrators or the lengthy processes usually associated with setting up QA systems.

£5,500 delta robot can pay for itself within six months

The German engineering plastics specialist igus has combined several of its standard components – including maintenance-free belt drives, encoders, Nema stepper motors and lubrication-free link rods – to create a delta robot that costs less than half as much as some rival systems (which can exceed £20,000 or $26,000) and can pay for itself in around six months.

IIoT gateways provide optional smart functions

Beijer Electronics has announced a series of IIoT gateways, protocol converters and edge controllers that allow users to add optional smart functions. The BoX2 devices are said to solve the challenge of finding smart ways to access data and to bridge the gap between the worlds of automation and IT.

Megadyne and Ammeraal Beltech appoint a joint CEO

The belt-makers Megadyne and Ammeraal Beltech have appointed a Stijn Vriends as their combined CEO. His appointment follows the recent agreement by Partners Group, the global private markets investment manager, to acquire and merge both companies to create a full-service provider of industrial transmission and lightweight conveyor belts.

Researchers say they can cut rare-earth use in motors by 80%

German researchers say that they have found ways of reducing the amount of critical rare-earth materials needed to build electric motors by up to 80%. In a five-year project that has just ended, the researchers from eight Fraunhofer Institutes pooled their expertise to find ways of reducing the need for rare-earth materials by a combination of optimising manufacturing processes, developing new approaches to recycling, and looking for new materials that could replace rare-earths.

Nidec kicks off German 'shopping spree' with Graessner

The acquisitive Japanese motor-maker Nidec has bought the privately-owned German precision gear-maker MS-Graessner for an undisclosed sum. According to the Japanese news agency Nikkei, this the first of five acquisitions of German automation and robotics companies that Nidec is planning to make before March 2019, with a combined value of around 50 billion yen ($450m).

Danfoss buys Axco, Finnish maker of PM motor and generators

Danfoss is buying Axco-Motors, a Finnish manufacturer of large electric motors and generators – in ratings from 250kW up to 6MW – for applications such as renewable energy, marine vessels and off-highway vehicles. The financial terms of the deal have not been revealed.

Technology sends data from PLCs to mobile devices

The German controls manufacturer Beckhoff has announced a software technology that makes it easy for PLCs to communicate with mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, and to portray process data on them remotely. The TwinCat 3 IoT Communicator connects the controller directly and securely to a messaging service, and can transmit data to multiple end-devices, as well as monitoring status changes and sending information back to the controller.

Safety network controller is ‘first’ to support two protocols

Omron has announced a safety network controller that, it claims, is the first to support two safety protocols: CIP Safety (which adds safety functions to EtherNet/IP); and Functional Safety over EtherCat (FSoE). The NX-series controller provides modular safety control, avoiding the need to stop an entire production line for maintenance or when the layout is changed.

UK’s Megger buys Baker motor-testing business from SKF

The UK test equipment manufacturer Megger Group has entered into an agreement with SKF to purchase its Baker Instrument business which makes equipment for testing and diagnosing electric motors and other rotating machines. The terms of the deal of have not been disclosed.

Gateway supports OSIsoft PI, easing data extraction

HMS Industrial Networks has announced an edge gateway with native support for the OSIsoft PI system, making it easier to extract data from existing machines and to capture data from remote facilities. The system is based on HMS’s Flexy edge gateway.

Multi-axis controllers offer ‘world-beating’ output speeds

Omron has announced a programmable multi-axis controller that, it claims, delivers “world-beating” output speeds of 16.6µs per axis (or 50µs for five axes). The CK3M controller is designed to achieve nanoscale motion control to meet the future manufacturing needs of the semiconductor and automotive industries.

Yaskawa buys Siemens’ share of their automation JV

Yaskawa is buying Siemens’ share of their 50:50 joint venture, Yaskawa Siemens Automation & Drives (YSAD), giving it full control of the business. YSAD will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Yaskawa on 1 November, and will be renamed Yaskawa Automation Drives (YAD).

Free online tool helps to prepare for Industry 4.0

Festo has developed an free online tool that helps companies to assess their readiness for adopting Industry 4.0. Called Industry 4.0 Quick Check, it enables them to identify their current “maturity level” and what their next development and training priorities should be.

Andy Wylie joins the Drives & Controls team

Andy Wylie has joined Drives & Controls as advertising sales manager. He has a background in publishing and organising events.

Bearing protectors ‘can eliminate half of all failures’

The seals specialist AESSeal has developed a bearing protection technology that, it claims, can eliminate more than half of all bearing failures. The MagTecta-S bearing protector combines AESSeal’s existing MagTecta and LabTecta technologies and incorporates a proprietary magnet seal technology.

Electronics distribution giant targets automation

Digi-Key Electronics, the US-based global distributor of electronic components, has set its sights on becoming the world’s leading supplier of industrial automation (IA) components as well. The company has added more than 14,000 automation parts to its portfolio, including products from Sick, Idec, Carlo Gavazzi and Belden.

UK government commits almost £1bn to high-tech hubs

The Chancellor Philip Hammond has announced a further £780m of investment in the UK’s Catapult Centres – the network of high-tech hubs designed to create the technologies of tomorrow. Together with £180m announced by the Prime Minister for Centres in the North East last month, this takes the combined recent funding to almost £1bn – the largest investment in r&d for 40 years, according to the government.

Group plans ‘first mass-market Wi-Fi IIoT technology’

Four companies – Microsoft, Advantech, Behr Technologies (BTI) and Hitachi Solutions America – have joined forces to develop what, they claim, will be “the first mass-market, end-to-end wireless gateway solution to ensure connectivity with sensors for production-level industrial and commercial applications”.

SKF sells linear motion business to Triton for $310m

SKF is selling its linear and actuation technology business, SKF Motion Technologies, to the venture capital company Triton for a total of SEK 2.75bn ($310m) on a cash- and debt-free basis. The deal is expected to close by the end of 2018, provided that it receives regulatory approvals and is accepted by employee bodies.

Timken buys Italian linear motion specialist, Rollon

The US-based Timken Company is buying the Italian linear motion products specialist Rollon Group, for an undisclosed sum.

Cone Drive returns to US ownership as Timken buys it

The US bearings and power transmission company, Timken, is buying the precision mechanical drives manufacturer, Cone Drive, from Scotland’s Clyde Blowers Capital (CBC), for an undisclosed amount. The deal marks a return to American ownership for Cone Drive, which CBC acquired in 2008 as part of the Textron’s gear technology division (which also included AB Benzlers, the David Brown Group, Maag Pumps and Union Pumps).

ABB buys intrion to boost its logistics automation presence

ABB is buying the Belgian robotics automation provider intrion, with the aim of boosting its expertise in fast-growing logistics automation market. The two parties have agreed not to disclose the value of the transaction, which is expected to close later this year.

Megadyne and Ammeraal acquired in €2bn deal

Partners Group, the private markets investment manager, is buying two industrial belts businesses – the Italian group Megadyne and the Dutch firm Ammeraal Beltech. The combined value of the two transactions, which both include investments from their management teams, is €2bn. Partners Group is buying Ammeraal from Advent International (which acquired it in 2015), and Megadyne from its owners the private equity firm Astorg, the investment manager Fondo Italiano di Investimento, and the Tadolini family, which has run the business since Corrado Tadolini founded it in 1957.

HMS buys German embedded comms specialist Beck IPC

Sweden’s HMS Industrial Networks has acquired the German embedded communications specialist Beck IPC for €5m in cash. If Beck IPC achieves defined financial targets, an additional €2m may be paid in 2020.

Rolls-Royce plans electric planes that will take off vertically

Rolls-Royce has unveiled plans for an electric plane that would take off and land vertically, at the at the Farnborough International Airshow in the UK. The hybrid Evtol (electric vertical take-off and landing) aircraft will have tilting wings and will be able to carry four or five passengers at speeds of up to 250mph (400km/h) for about 500 miles (800km). Rolls-Royce says it could take to the skies in the early 2020s.

Field controller simplifies upgrades of DC motor systems

Users of DC motors can upgrade their installations to modern systems with digital communications, without needing complex external devices, using a new DC field controller released by Rockwell Automation. The Allen-Bradley PowerFlex controller will help them to gather data on their DC installations via digital networks.

Vision sensors help robots to pick parts from belts or bins

At the recent Automatica exhibition in Germany, the German sensor-maker Sick showcased a series of 2D and 3D vision-guided parts-locating technologies for quick and easy set-up of robots picking items from a belts or bins. Various sensing options are available – including streaming cameras, vision sensors, and smart cameras – offering a choice of measuring ranges, fields of view, and resolutions to suit particular tasks.

Robot grippers are inspired by geckos’ feet

A gripper technology inspired by the feet of geckos was one of the technologies demonstrated by the newly-formed robot peripherals company OnRobot when it made its public debut at the recent Automatic exhibition in Germany.

Industrial automation market will approach $210bn in 2018

The global market for industrial automation equipment was worth an estimated $202.2bn in 2017, and is predicted to grow by 3.8% this year to reach $209.8bn, and by a further 4% during 2019 to hit $218.2bn, according to the latest analysis by IHS Markit. It says that the growth is being driven by the strong global economy, and by the expanding production of increasingly automated machines.

Compact cobot ‘can be programmed by anyone’

Kuka has developed a lightweight collaborative robot (cobot) designed to be easy to program, even by non-experts. The LBR iisy cobot, which can handle payloads up to 3kg, adapts to the user’s knowledge of robotics – offering a choice of programming techniques from simple teaching of the arm using manual guidance, through to Java programming of complex activities.

Scara robots are ‘first’ with EtherCat and condition monitoring

Omron has announced a new generation of Scara robots which, it claims, are the first with a built-in condition monitoring and the ability to indicate when they need attention. It also says that they are the first with built-in EtherCat controls and communications, allowing them to synchronise their operation with other automation devices to perform fast, accurate assembly, insertion and mounting operations with high throughputs.

Pilz enters robot market with open, modular family

The German industrial safety specialist Pilz has entered the robotics market with a portfolio of modular products including a six-axis robot arm, a control module incorporating drive technology, and an operator module. The products made their debut at the recent Automatica exhibition in Germany, where Pilz was also demonstrating a prototype two-arm robot.

Next-generation cobots save time and improve accuracy

The collaborative robot (cobot) pioneer Universal Robots has announced a new flagship series of cobot arms with built-in torque/force sensors, easier programming, a high-speed system bus and extra safety functions. The new e-Series cobots look similar to the previous UR machines (which will continue to be available), offering a higher-specification alternative for applications that need improved performance.

Lightweight plastic parts will lead to low-cost robots

Igus, the German engineering plastics specialist, is expanding increasingly into robotics and had two new developments on show at the recent Hannover Fair and Automatica shows in Germany.

Chinese motors giant buys GE small motors business for $160m

China’s largest electric motor manufacturer, Wolong Electric, has bought GE’s Small Industrial Motors (SIM) business for $160m in cash. The deal covers the design, development, manufacturing and sales of low-voltage and TEFC (totally enclosed fan-cooled) medium-voltage motors up to 1,750hp (1.3MW), as well as an agreement that will allow Wolong to sell SIM products carrying the GE brand in the American market for ten years.

Digital manufacturing projects win £11.4m of EPSRC funding

The UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has awarded £11.4m in funding to seven projects aimed at creating novel digital tools, techniques and processes to support the use of digital technologies in the manufacturing sector. The projects will bring together academics and industrial partners.

Investment in PP Control puts it on track to hit £40m

PP Control & Automation, the UK company that specialises in manufacturing outsourcing, has received a “significant” investment from the Canadian corporate investor, Ardenton Capital Corporation, which now owns a majority stake in the business. Under the deal, aimed at boosting PP’s business to £40m within five years, managing director Tony Hague has become a significant shareholder and will become CEO, while founder David Fox will continue in the role of chairman.

Sensor skin adds safety to six-axis collaborative robot

Bosch Rexroth has entered the world of collaborative robots (cobots) with a six-axis arm, based on a Kuka design, which uses a capacitive sensor skin to avoid collisions, without needing to make physical contact with an object. Equipped with more than 120 sensors, the skin allows the robot to stop automatically at a safe speed of 0.5m/s with a typical secure switching distance of 50mm.

ABB finalises $2.6bn acquisition of GE Industrial Solutions

ABB has completed its $2.6bn acquisition of GE Industrial Solutions (GEIS), GE’s global electrification solutions business, to strengthen its position as global number two in this sector, behind Schneider Electric. The transaction, announced in September 2017, is expected to produce growth opportunities from combining ABB’s digital offering, ABB Ability, with GEIS’ installed base, and is forecast to deliver about $200m of annual cost synergies by year five.

JC-Electronics acquires UK-US spares supplier, Dax

JC-Electronics, a Dutch company that specialises in refurbishing industrial electronics, has acquired Dax Automation, the UK-based supplier of new, refurbished and obsolete industrial automation electronics, which also has an operation the US. The financial terms of the deal have not been released.

Conveyor belts: lease, don’t buy?

The German conveyor belt manufacturer Continental believes that technology is changing the way that we will buy and maintain conveyor belts in future. At the Hannover Fair earlier this year, it was demonstrating how sensors can now monitor the condition of belts in real time and transmit this information to the manufacturer for analysis, allowing belts to be serviced before they fail and cause downtime. Continental believes that, in future, belts will be leased as a “service”, rather than being bought outright.

Conveyor roller-drive is ‘the first to offer digital feedback’

SEW-Eurodrive claims to be offering the first conveyor roller-drive that can be monitored constantly using a digital feedback system. It says that other roller-drives are controlled by analogue signals, providing no feedback on the motor’s temperature or speed, and making it difficult to isolate the cause of any errors.

Novanta buys UK encoder-maker, Zettlex

The US-based high-tech component supplier Novanta has acquired Zettlex, the British manufacturer of inductive encoders, for an undisclosed sum. Novanta – which specialises in precision motion, vision and photonics technologies – will integrate Zettlex into its Celera Motion business, which supplies motion control components and subsystems, including encoders, motors and customised mechatronic systems, to industrial and medical OEMs.

Hannover Fair 2018 exclusive show report

Edge computing, the cloud and digital twins were among the dominant themes at this year’s Hannover Fair, the world’s largest industrial exhibition. But despite the show being bigger than ever with the addition of the CeMat logistics show, visitor numbers dipped slightly.

Modular PLCs combine redundancy and safety

Mitsubishi has announced that its Melsec iQ-R modular PLCs are now available as redundant pairs of controllers for extra reliability. The PLCs also include functions for monitoring and managing safety.

UK automation sector grew by a ‘record’ 14% during 2017

The UK’s industrial automation sector achieved record growth during 2017, with a 14% improvement over the previous year, according to figures issued by Gambica, the trade body that represents the sector. This growth, recorded by members of Gambica’s automation division, has returned the sector to the level that it would have been at without a downturn in 2015 that was thought to be due largely to political and economic uncertainty.

Next generation of industrial robots heralds ‘a new era’

ABB is launching a new generation of industrial robots designed to provide users with more flexibility and a better return on investment. The new machines, due to be released over the next two to three years, will replace most of ABB’s existing portfolio, and will double the size of the company’s range.

Europe’s largest MRO firm, IPH Brammer, is reborn as Rubix

UPDATED: Europe’s largest supplier of industrial maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) products and services, IPH Brammer, has been renamed Rubix. The group was created last year when the venture capital firm Advent International, which already owned Brammer, bought the European industrial supplies distributor, IPH, and combined the businesses.

1Gbit I/O modules boost productivity and flexibility

Rockwell Automation has announced a new generation of I/O modules that support real-time, intelligent process control. It says that the Allen-Bradley Flex 5000 I/O platform will lead to smarter, more productive and more flexible industrial control systems.

Global robot sales soar by 29% to hit a new record

Global sales of industrial robots soared by 29% last year to hit a new record of 380,550, according to preliminary statistics released by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) at the Automatica show in Germany. The 2017 sales were worth around $50bn.

Motortronics buys UK soft-start pioneer, Fairford Electronics

Fairford Electronics, the UK pioneer of soft-starter technology, has been bought by Motortronics, a manufacturer of solid-state AC motor controls and motor protection products, with headquarters in Florida, and operations in the British West Indies, Korea and China. Financial details of the deal have not been disclosed.

Control Techniques goes back to its roots to rebuild

Six months after he was appointed president of the Welsh drives-maker, Control Techniques, Tony Pickering is not mincing words. The company is half the size it was before its previous owner, Emerson, acquired it in 1994. CT which, in its heyday, held more than 30% of the UK drives market, is now down to around 2%. “People are asking: are you still in business?,” Pickering reports.

Edge system closes gap between local processing and cloud

Siemens was one of several companies at the recent Hannover Fair to unveil edge computing technologies. It says that its Industrial Edge system closes the gap between local data-processing and cloud-based services. By pre-processing large amounts of data locally, only relevant data is transferred to cloud or IT applications, saving memory and transfer costs.

Surge protection in I/O connectors saves space and costs

Voltage transients in control circuits can have a devastating impact on plant operation. Even relatively small peaks can cause catastrophic damage to some electronic components.

Drives & Controls’ circulation is now fully requested

Every copy of Drives & Controls is now going to someone who asked for it. The latest figures published by the independent Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) show that 87% of the 20,004 copies printed of each issue are going to people who have asked for their own individual copies, with the rest going to companies or organisations who have asked to subscribe.

Welsh IP66 drives make their debut at the Hannover Fair

One of a handful of UK automation companies at the recent Hannover Fair was the Welsh drives-maker Invertek, which launched a range of IP66-protected, outdoor-rated VSDs, as well as a pair of tools for its Optidrive family.

€120m investment applies Industry 4.0 to building enclosures

Rittal is investing €120m to build a new plant to manufacture large enclosures at its Rittershausen site in Germany, based on Industry 4.0 principles. It is also installing high-tech lines at a greenfield site in Haiger to produce its new VX25 generation of large enclosures.

Software helps OEMs to track, monitor and fix machines remotely

Schneider Electric has announced a software platform that lets OEM machine-builders track, monitor and fix their machines remotely, and pass on the benefits to their customers. The EcoStruxure Machine Advisor software is designed to turn data into key insights.

Service offers free support to users of larger drives

ABB has launched a service for users of its medium- and high-power drives, giving them complimentary access to a series of support functions during a VSD’s warranty period. After registering a drive to activate the service – called ABB Initial Care – they will receive access to on-site repairs, rapid exchange of faulty parts, telephone support during office hours, and technical query escalation.

£7.5m advanced manufacturing facility opens in Belfast

Queen’s University Belfast has opened a £7.5m advanced manufacturing technology facility, as part of a new Centre for Intelligent Autonomous Manufacturing Systems (i-AMS), which will lead innovation in new technologies for advanced manufacturing. Researchers spanning the disciplines of engineering, computer science, applied mathematics and psychology, will work together in i-AMS to tackle challenges faced by industry and to help make Industry 4.0 a reality.

Tool will help OEM machine-builders to sell extended services

Lenze believes it has spotted a gap in the market that will help machine-builders to take advantage of developments such as predictive maintenance and improved productivity, and to market them as services, rather than simply selling hardware. This model requires a secure location where data on machine components can be collected.

Remote monitoring system helps to cut downtime

Eriks has announced an Industry 4.0-compatible condition-monitoring system for remote access to, and predictive maintenance of, critical industrial assets. Called e-Connect, it monitors and gathers data on crucial assets to provide insights into their condition, behaviour and performance. This information can be used to cut the downtime and costs associated with unexpected maintenance and repairs.

Now, a bionic cuttlefish takes to the water

Just two months after it unveiled bionic spiders and fruit bats at the Hannover Fair, Festo has come up with another one of its mechatronic creatures – this time, a 370mm-long cuttlefish that was swimming through a transparent pipe filled with water at the Achema process industry show in Germany.

‘Revolutionary’ plastic gearbox ‘will out-perform metal boxes’

Genesis Robotics claims to have developed the world’s first plastic gearbox that can outperform metal gearboxes. The backlash-free box – which it calls the Reflex torque amplifier – has four times more engaged teeth than a conventional planetary gearbox, allowing it to achieve a similar torque-to-weight ratio. And because its parts can be injection-moulded, it should be easier and cheaper to manufacture.

Even machine beds are now becoming ‘smart’

At the recent Hannover Fair, Bosch Rexroth demonstrated a machine bed fitted with sensors designed to help optimise the performance of the machinery built on top of the bed. The “smart” machine bed – developed in conjunction with the machine-bed manufacturer, Rampf Machine Systems, and the sensor-makers Balluff and Sick – sends temperature, pressure and vibration data to the machine controller which can compensate for changes in these variables in real time.

ABB and Rittal link up to offer industrial data centres

Rittal and ABB have announced a global strategic alliance to supply edge data centre systems to industrial customers wanting to deploy robust IT capacity close to their operations. The alliance, based on an existing UPS (uninterruptible power supply) partnership, will cover areas such as secure edge data centre systems with fire protection, edge data centres for OEM manufacturers, scalable modular data centres, as well as power container systems.

Rockwell invests $1bn in PTC to form a strategic partnership

Rockwell Automation has entered a strategic partnership with the US software developer PTC, including a $1bn equity investment which gives Rockwell an 8.4% stake in PTC. The agreement is expected to accelerate growth for both companies who plan to target potential customers around the world wanting to transform their physical operations with digital technology.

Cobot trio merge to create a specialist in end-of-arm tooling

Three companies specialising in end-of-arm tooling for collaborative robots (cobots) have merged to create a market-leader in this rapidly-growing market which, they say, is currently “under-served”. US-based Perception Robotics, Hungary-based OptoForce and Denmark-based On Robot, have joined forces to create OnRobot, which will drive innovation and ease-of-use for robotic end-of-arm tooling.

Omron and Cisco join forces to enhance factory security

Omron and Cisco Systems have agreed to collaborate by integrating Cisco’s networking and security technology into Omron PLCs (programmable logic controllers) to enhance the security of manufacturing sites with IoT, and to help manufacturers to achieve safe and secure manufacturing.

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