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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.

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.

Soft-switching boosts drive efficiencies and cuts size and costs

A Californian company has developed a technology which, it claims, effectively eliminates transistor switching losses in hard-switched architectures for almost any power converter topology. Pre-Switch says that its soft-switching technology will dramatically reduce the cost, size and weight of converters used in motor drive, renewable energy, electric vehicle, traction and server applications, while increasing efficiency and reliability. The reduction in switching losses is claimed to be 70–90% for any type of solid-state switch and any converter topology.

SIG and GE link up to drive ‘new era for food and bev plants’

SIG, the Swiss packaging giant, has formed a strategic partnership with GE Digital to deliver digital innovation in food and beverage packaging. Starting in July, SIG will deploy GE’s Predix Asset Performance Management (APM) and Predix ServiceMax applications in more than 400 customer factories worldwide to drive new levels of efficiency, add intelligence and enable new possibilities for its customers. A full global rollout is expected to start in January 2019.

Push-in terminals ‘halve wiring times and simplify panels’

Rockwell Automation has announced a family of terminal blocks that, it claims, will improve connections and simplify panel designs. It adds that the Allen-Bradley Bulletin 1492-P push-in terminal blocks will halve wiring times, reduce maintenance and increase the reliability of the connections.

Sumitomo buys Italy’s Lafert for €172m to boost its motors arm

Japan’s Sumitomo Heavy Industries (SHI) is buying the Italian electric motor manufacturer Lafert for €172.65m to reinforce its position in the motors market, to expand its product portfolio, and to reach a wider range of customers. Lafert will join SHI’s Power Transmission and Controls (PTC) division – which uses the Sumitomo Drives Technologies brand – and will become its r&d competence centre for motors.

Technology integrates electrical and process data in one view

Rockwell Automation has announced a technology that gives plant operators a single, integrated view of process and electrical system data. Called the IntelliCenter Integration Unit, it combines intelligent electrical distribution devices with a process automation environment. Integrating these elements into a single control and software platform is said to avoid the need for a separate electrical Scada system and to give process and electrical operators a single, unified view of their data.

Emerson buys Aventics for €527m, to create $1.5bn giant

Emerson is buying Bosch Rexroth’s former pneumatics business, now known as Aventics, for €527m in cash from its current owner, the German-Scandinavian investor, Triton, which acquired it for around €200m in 2013. Emerson says that the deal will create a $1.5bn business, significantly expanding its reach in the $13bn market for smart pneumatics for machine and factory automation applications.

Sales of AGVs and mobile robots will hit $1.5bn this year

Demand for automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) used in manufacturing is “exploding”, with global sales set to reach nearly $1.5bn this year, and revenues from AMRs expected to grow by almost 75% during 2018. A new report from Interact Analysis predicts that, within five years, mobile robots will account for a quarter of all robot shipments for manufacturing applications, with sales worth more than $14bn.

All-electric actuators ‘out-perform hydraulics’

A US company has developed a maintenance-free electromechnical linear actuator technology that, it claims, offers higher power densities and better reliability than rollerscrew or hydraulic technologies. Massachusetts-based Rise Robotics says that its Rise Cylinder actuators can replace hydraulic systems of all sizes, resulting in quieter, more efficient, all-electric machines.

Omron-Techman deal will put cobots on mobile platforms

The Japanese automation giant Omron is forming a strategic alliance with Techman Robot, the Taiwanese manufacturer of integrated-vision collaborative robots (cobots), under which Omron will sell Techman’s TM series of cobots globally using a co-branded logo. The two companies will also cooperate to develop a new generation of collaborative robots that will be easier to integrate with Omron’s other factory automation products.

Sensorless vector control comes to MV drives below 200A

Rockwell Automation has enhanced its Allen-Bradley PowerFlex 6000 range of medium-voltage drives by adding sensorless vector control (SVC) for applications up to 200A, as well as introducing new voltage ratings (6.9kV and 11kV) and a standard-efficiency transformer option for the Asia-Pacific market.

Hands-free wearable technology guides plant workers

Honeywell has announced a wearable, hands-free technology that, it says, will allow industrial workers to perform tasks more safely, reliably and efficiently. It uses a head-mounted visual display that responds to voice commands, and shows live data, documents, videos, work procedures, as well as health and safety information.

European network aims to deliver ‘best Brexit’ for industry

Euris, the umbrella group of industrial trade organisations that together represent more than 25% of the UK’s imports and exports, has set up an advisory body to help deliver the best outcome from Brexit for the industrial product supply sector.

Integrating conveyors with smart transport is ‘a game-changer’

Just months after B&R Automation unveiled its AcoposTrak flexible production line transport technology at the SPS IPC Drives show, it has unveiled an enhancement that allows the technology to be integrated with conventional conveyors. The development, announced at the Hannover Fair, allows products to be carried almost entirely by low-cost conveyor belts – except for sections where they need to be handled and processed individually, where the AcoposTrak takes over.

Tiny industrial PC has a built-in UPS

At the recent Hannover Fair, Beckhoff unveiled the latest in its series of tiny industrial PCs – this time with an onboard one-second capacitive UPS (uninterruptible power supply), designed to store data in the event of a power failure.

‘World’s first’ 3D-printed motor can run at high temperatures

German researchers claim to have 3D-printed an entire electric motor for the first time. The researchers, from the Chemnitz University of Technology, demonstrated their machine at last month’s Hannover Fair.

Get ready for your machines to talk and listen to you

Beckhoff has developed a technology similar to Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri, that allows automation systems to listen and speak. At the Hannover Fair, it announced a software module, called TwinCat Speech, that will give machines these capabilities, in addition to the existing visual capabilities offered by TwinCat Vision and the “intellectual” capabilities offered by its TwinCat runtime software.

Group will drive the ‘disruptive’ use of 5G in industry

The German electrotechnical trade body ZVEI has set up a working group of companies and organisations to help establish the use of 5G in industrial production and to make the high-speed wireless communications technology “industry-ready”. The 5G Alliance for Connected Industries and Automation (5G-ACIA) initiative brings together 26 automation and IT organisations, including Beckhoff, Bosch, Deutsche Telekom, Endress+Hauser, Ericsson, Festo, Fraunhofer, Harting, Hirschmann, Huawei, Infineon, Intel, Mitsubishi, Nokia, Pepperl+Fuchs, Phoenix Contact, Siemens, Trumpf, Vodaphone, Weidmüller and Yokogawa.

SEW-Eurodrive announces its own encoders and gear oil

At the recent Hannover Fair, SEW-Eurodrive announced that had developed and is manufacturing its own high-resolution encoders for use in its motors, and will also offer own-brand gear oils which, it claims, will improve lubrication and reduce wear.

5G demo heralds ‘wireless’ PLCs of the future

At the recent Hannover Fair, the Chinese electronics giant Huawei and Beckhoff Automation demonstrated a 5G technology that could lead to the use of wireless PLCs in the factory of tomorrow. In a proof-of-concept demonstration, the companies showed two PLCs communicating via a prototype 5G wireless network, instead of using cables.

UK manufacturing is twice as big as usually thought

Manufacturing accounts for nearly a quarter of the UK economy and more than 7.4 million jobs depend on it – far more than usually thought – according to new research commissioned by the Manufacturing Technologies Association (MTA).

Oxlee is Drives & Controls’ new sales director

Damien Oxlee has been appointed director of sales for Drives & Controls magazine, the Drives & Controls Exhibition and associated products. He is taking on the role in addition to his existing position of director of sales for DFA Media’s Plant & Works Engineering Division.

Drives & Controls Show is another record-breaker

The recent Drives & Controls Show, held at the Birmingham NEC, set a new record for visitor attendance. By the time, the three-day exhibition had ended, it and the other events organised by DFA Media – Plant & Asset Management, Fluid Power & Systems, Air-Tech and the new Smart Industry Expo – had attracted a total of 13,518 visitors through the doors. This represents an increase of more than 3% on the attendance at the previous event in 2016.

ABB, Rittal and HPE develop rugged processing system

At the recent Hannover Fair, ABB, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Rittal unveiled a jointly developed technology for running data acquisition, analytics and control processes close to industrial equipment, thus avoiding latency issues and ensuring secure, reliable digital processing. The Secure Edge Data Center (SEDC) will be delivered as a factory-integrated and tested turnkey system, ready to operate in harsh environments.

DIN standard will ease IT to factory comms

A group of automation and IT organisations has joined forces to develop a standard to help ensure streamlined communications between IT systems and physical devices. Under the leadership of the German DIN standards body, they plan to draw up a DIN Spec standard – a way of fast-tracking the standardisation process, which could lead to the standard being completed by the end of this year.

‘First’ IP54 condition-monitoring kit can be running in a day

Bosch and Harting have collaborated to develop what they claim is the first IP54-protected, plug-and-play condition-monitoring IoT kit for industrial applications. It allows digital condition monitoring to be implemented quickly for of any kind of machinery, without needing any IT expertise. They say that it can be up-and-running within a day.

Sewtec aims to double turnover to £32m and workforce to 120

The West Yorkshire robotics and automation specialist Sewtec has announced plans to double its turnover to £32m within five years, following a management buyout in August last year. This would also entail a doubling of the number of skilled personnel in the company, taking its workforce to more than 120 people.

Smaller LiveDrive actuator will open new applications

Genesis Robotics, the Canadian company which unveiled a “revolutionary” direct-drive actuator technology at the 2017 Hannover Fair, has developed a smaller version of its LiveDrive actuator, broadening its potential applications. Genesis has also announced that US-based Koch Industries has taken a controlling interest in the business, which will help it to commercialise its technologies.

Stamp-sized 5kW servodrive wins innovation award

The Israeli manufacturer Elmo Motion Control has won the technical innovation of the year award in the 2018 Motion Control Industry Awards (MCIA), for its tiny Gold Twitter servodrive, which packs 5kW of “qualitative” power into a footprint the size of a stamp. Elmo, which set up a UK operation last year, was one of ten contenders for the award, which was announced at a ceremony at the National Conference Centre in the same week that the Drives & Controls Show was held at the nearby NEC. Elmo has recently announced a 10kW version of the Gold Twitter that weighs 33 grams.

Power quality meter is ‘world’s most accurate’

Schneider Electric has announced what it claims is the world’s most advanced and accurate power quality meter. It says that the PowerLogic ION9000 is twice as accurate as other meters on the market, opening up new possibilities for energy savings.