A US financial analyst has suggested that Schneider Electric is looking to buy Rockwell Automation in a deal that could value the US automation giant at around $18bn. Rockwell’s share price surged by 6.9% on the news, before dropping back to a 4.2% gain for the day (21 October). It closed at $122.99 – its highest price since July 2015.
Rockwell Automation has announced a new line of current-limiting, moulded-case circuit-breakers (MCCBs) which, it says, react to circuit overloads two to three times faster than standard breakers. The Allen-Bradley Bulletin 140G breakers protect against overloads, short-circuits and ground-fault conditions.
Altra Industrial Motion is buying the brake, clutch and couplings manufacturer Stromag from GKN for around €184m (£164m). GKN says the sale will allow it to redeploy capital into its core aerospace and automotive businesses. The deal includes the transfer of debt-like obligations of around €14m (£13 million) for a total enterprise value of €198 million (£177 million).
Siemens has announced a new generation of motor-protection relays designed to protect motors against overheating by measuring the temperatures at points at risk of overheating in a motor using PTC (positive temperature coefficient) thermistors integrated into the windings. The Sirius 3RN2 relays replace the earlier 3RN1 series and, with widths of 17.5 and 22.5mm, need less space in control cabinets.
Yaskawa has released a new range of general-purpose variable-speed drives that can control induction, permanent magnet (PM) or synchronous-reluctance motors without needing any tuning. The GA700 drives, which were previewed at the 2015 SPS IPC Drives Show in Germany, incorporate a “smart power saver” function claimed to boost the efficiency of induction motors by 6% at 20% speed, as well as improving the efficiency of PM motors by up to about 2%. Another function, called MPTA (maximum torque per ampere), minimises the current drawn, according to the load.
Engineering graduates don’t have the right skills for today’s workplace, according to 62% of the 400 engineering employers across the UK quizzed by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) for its 2016 Skills and Demand in Industry report.
Rockwell Automation has appointed Mark Bottomley as its new UK sales director, succeeding Dave Nicholl, who has become CEO of Philips Lighting for the UK and Ireland. Bottomley will be responsible for overseeing the continued growth of Rockwell Automation products, solutions and services in the UK, and for leading the expansion of Connected Enterprise principles and solutions.
Rockwell Automation has announced an industrial security appliance incorporating new security technologies designed to protect plant-floor systems. It says that the Allen-Bradley Stratix 5950 overcomes limitations of most IT firewalls, which cannot protect against threats to industrial network traffic.
Electric motor manufacturers in North America and Europe are working together to develop efficiency standards for complete motor-driven systems, rather than focusing on motors in isolation.
Omron Adept Technologies has developed a free-roaming mobile robot with on-board artificial intelligence (AI) that allows it to transport materials weighing up to 130kg to a target location, calculating the optimal route and avoiding humans and obstacles en route. The Mobile Robot LD Platform is aimed at industrial applications such as transporting car parts, electronics, foods and pharmaceuticals. It is also suitable for use in warehouses and research facilities.
Researchers in the US have created a high-voltage, high-frequency silicon carbide (SiC) power switch that could cost about half as much as conventional HV SiC power switches. They say that their device could help to cuts the costs and boost the performance of applications such as medium-voltage drives, solid-state transformers, HV transmission systems and circuit-breakers.
The Japanese robot-maker Fanuc has teamed up with the computer technology specialist Nvidia to apply artificial intelligence (AI) to robotics to boost productivity and to bring new capabilities to automated factories.
The global market for PLCs (programmable logic controllers) shrank by 11.5% in 2015, and is continuing to contract this year, according to analysis by IHS Markit. It attributes the decline to a combination of factors, including the unfavourable economic climate in emerging economies, China’s economic slowdown, over-capacity in heavy industries, as well as the end of the commodity super-cycle.
ABB’s Discrete Automation and Motion division is being reborn as Robotics and Motion in the latest stage in its Next Level Strategy designed “to unlock value for customers and shareholders”. The former Process Automation division is being renamed Industrial Automation.
ABB has released what it claims is the first variable-speed drive (VSD) control software that uses Model Predictive Control to regulate torque.
Omron in Japan has announced a total of 15,583 controls products, in seven categories, forming a second wave of factory automation control devices built on a common design platform for unified product specifications. The products include many items for use in control panels – such as relays, switch-mode power supplies, pushbutton switches and terminal blocks, and power monitors – as well as a compact machine controller which executes Ladder Diagram (LD) instructions in 3.3ns, said to be the fastest in its class.
Rockwell Automation has acquired North America’s largest independent systems integrator, Maverick Technologies, to help it to deliver control and information systems to customers in industries such as chemicals, food and beverage, and oil and gas. The terms of the deal have not been disclosed.
The Switch, the Finnish specialist in advanced drivetrain technology which is owned by Yaskawa, is buying Wärtsilä’s marine drives business which produces Megawatt-scale drives for marine applications. The deal will give The Switch a stronger foothold in the growing marine drives sector and allow it to offer drivetrain components for marine applications, while Wärtsilä’s Norwegian Electrical and Automation (E&A) business will be able to focus on system-level offerings.
GE Automation & Controls has announced a modular control technology that integrates with the industrial Internet to deliver what it claims are new levels of productivity. It says that early adopters of the Industrial Internet Control System (IICS) have reported 7% gains in asset performance and 22% increases in efficiency. It also expects the IICS to cut maintenance costs by around 40%.
More than 1.4 million new industrial robots will be installed in factories around the world by 2019, taking the total number to 2.6 million, according to the latest forecast from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR).
The test tool giant Fluke has acquired US-based eMaint Enterprises, which specialises in computerised maintenance management software (CMMS). The terms of the deal have not been released.
Prices of medium-voltage motors are falling for the first time in more than a decade, according to the market analyst, IHS Markit, which expects average selling prices for MV motors to drop by 2.3% year-on-year by the end of 2016. It attributes the fall largely to lower materials prices, especially for copper, steel and wire cable.
A consortium of American researchers has won a $3.8m grant from the US Department of Energy to develop better materials for electric motors, especially for use in transport applications. The project – which includes researchers from Iowa State University, the DOE’s Ames Laboratory, the University of Delaware, and the United Technologies Research Center – is part of a $59.2m federal programme comprising 35 research projects aimed at cutting the costs and improving the efficiencies of electric, alternative-fuel and conventional vehicles.
California-based Maxim Integrated Products has announced a pocket-sized PLC development platform that, it asserts, will redefine how factories operate, as well as enabling Industry 4.0 applications. In a volume of less than 10in3 (164cm3), the platform provides 30 IOs (including four analogue inputs, one analogue output, eight digital inputs and eight digital outputs), four IO-link ports, three motion controllers, and diagnostics. It incorporates what are claimed to be the industry’s smallest brushed DC motor drivers, as well as incremental encoder inputs.
Following a complaint lodged by Rockwell Automation, the US International Trade Commission (USITC) has voted to start an investigation into certain industrial control software, systems and components. The products at issue are programmable industrial controllers and associated software used for the automation of industrial processes.
A Canadian company called NanoXplore, which specialises in the production and application of graphene and derived materials, has joined forces with Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) to support the commercialisation of lighter, more reliable and higher-efficiency components for electric motors using graphene-enhanced engineering plastics instead of metals. The value of the project – which is targeting transport applications, in particular – is $10.4m.
NSK has announced a pair of laser-based systems for aligning belts and shafts which, it says, are easy to set up, even over long distances. The tools have been developed in response to the fact that more than half of machines run out-of-alignment, causing higher loadings than necessary, and reducing performance.
The Swedish industrial communications specialist HMS Industrial Networks has announced a wireless access point that is designed to be mounted on a machine or cabinet like a bolt to provide wireless access via a WLAN, or Bluetooth or Bluetooth Low Energy. The IP67-protected Anybus Wireless Bolt can be used to configure a machine remotely, to replace cables, or to connect the system to a cloud service.
The Californian controls manufacturer Bedrock Automation has developed an industrial power supply which, it asserts, sets new standards for onboard intelligence, durability and cyber-security. Starting with a blank sheet of paper, Bedrock’s engineers designed the SPS.500 to be “the ultimate power supply”.
Belden has developed a “game-changing” RJ-45 connection system that, it claims, will cut termination times by up to 60%. The REVConnect system uses the same termination core for either a plug or a socket, and is suitable for all Category 5e, Category 6 and Category 6A RJ-45 connections. A single tool performs every step of the termination process, including cable preparation.
The belt-maker Gates claims to have developed the first bandless V-belt that needs no servicing or maintenance. Its new Quad-Power 4 belt does not need to be “run in” or re-tensioned within 48 hours of being installed, resulting in fewer production standstills and lower maintenance costs, especially for difficult-to-reach belt drives.
Rockwell Automation has acquired US-based Automation Control Products (ACP), which specialises in centralised thin-client, remote desktop and server management software. ACP’s two core products, ThinManager and Relevance, help to manage information and streamline workflows in connected manufacturing environments.
Danfoss claims that it has become the world leader in hydraulic motors following approval from the competition authorities for it to proceed with its acquisition of US-based White Drive Products. The bid was announced in July. No financial details have been revealed.
The Russian cyber-security specialist, Kaspersky Lab, is reported to have developed a dedicated operating system for industrial control systems, which will be more resistant to hacking attempts than general-purpose operating systems. It has taken four years for the company to develop the new OS – called KasperskyOS – “from the ground up”.
The industrial communications specialist Belden and the Danish software developer Secomea have joined forces to offer a simple, secure way to provide remote network access, programming and diagnostics. They are offering a combined hardware and software package that will help users to take advantage the increased connection of devices made possible by the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
The West Midlands industrial controls and sub-contracting manufacturer, PP Control & Automation, is investing more than £1m in a new extension that will add 1,000m2 of production space to its Cheslyn Hay site, including a new logistics department and a clean assembly area.
Four members of the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) – SAP, ifm electronic, TE Connectivity and the OPC Foundation – have been given the go-ahead for a research testbed that will link sensors in existing installations to the cloud.
The robot-maker Yaskawa has unveiled its first collaborative robot to be sold outside of Japan. The Motoman HC10 can handle loads up to 10kg and has a reach of 1.2m.
The Wolverhampton-based chain-maker Donghua has moved to new premises more than three times the size of its previous site, to meet the growing demand for its products.
The German connector manufacturer Harting Electronics has teamed up with Japan’s Hirose Electric, to develop, standardise and market a miniaturised connection technology for 10Gbit industrial Ethernet.
Mitsubishi Electric has announced a compact, easy-to-install alternative to line-scan cameras for inspecting defects on flat surfaces. Called the line-scan bar, it offers high-quality, distortion-free images up to the edges of materials moving at speeds of up to 1,000m per minute, or even faster.
The drives-maker Control Techniques (CT) and the motor manufacturer Leroy-Somer (LS) - both part of Emerson Industrial Automation - have launched a new service, called Express Availability, designed to cut European delivery times for their motors, drives, servos, geared motors, options and accessories, in ratings from 0.09–500kW. The companies are committing themselves to shipping products in one to ten working days inside Europe, with the option of a 24-hour service in emergencies.
Siemens is using a virtual reality (VR) installation at its Congleton variable-speed drives factory in Cheshire, UK, to simulate and optimise assembly processes, to design workcells, and for factory planning. It is even using VR for everyday tasks, such as organising office moves.
A survey of members of the Gambica trade body has revealed that their top priority, following the UK’s vote to leave the European Union, is to retain access to the EU’s single market.
ABB has announced a new version of its Azipod electric propulsion system for ships, which, it claims, will further increase vessel fuel efficiencies by up to 20% compared to modern shaft line propulsion systems – or 5–10% more than the previous generation. The efficiency gain of the new Azipod XL version is achieved using a "unique" nozzle system that accelerates the water flow into the propeller to increase thrust, and by redesigning the thruster for reduced water resistance.
Three automation industry groups – Omac (the Organisation for Machine Automation and Control), the OPC Foundation, and PLCopen – have joined forces to help advance the communications protocols needed for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). The organisations develop and promote standards to improve manufacturing efficiency, but until now they have been working in parallel on different aspects of automation standardisation.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
In a controversial deal, the Chinese appliance manufacturer Midea has acquired almost 95% of the shares in the German robot-maker Kuka.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.