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.
An aircraft powered by a 50kg electric motor with a continuous output of 260kW has flown for the first time, from an airfield in northern Germany. The two-seater plane – an adapted aerobatic craft built by Extra Aircraft – flew for ten minutes on its maiden flight in June. Its developers believe that it could be the forerunner for hybrid-electric aircraft with four or more seats that will cut fuel consumption and emissions by up to 50%, as well as reducing noise levels dramatically.
The UK manufacturing sector started to pick up in the first half of 2016 with the PMI (Purchasing Managers’ Index) reaching a five-month high in June, according to the latest figures from Markit and the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS). But the survey was conducted before the recent referendum in which the UK decided to leave the European Union.
Omron has announced several ranges of IO-Link-compatible photoelectric and proximity sensors which, it says, will make it easier to integrate industrial equipment with the Internet of Things. Omron describes the launch of its first IO-Link sensors as “a big step” towards making production equipment smarter and combining factory automation components with ICT (information and communications technology) systems.
Galil Motion Control has announced its first 32-axis motion controller. The DMC-52xx0 EtherCat master can control up to 32 drives and two I/O modules, and includes uncommitted I/O for easy integration with EtherCat applications.
The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) is building an aircraft powered by 14 electric motors which, it claims, could cut operating costs by up to 40% compared to conventional aircraft, as well as reducing energy use during high-speed cruising by around 80% .
If the UK votes to leave the EU in the upcoming referendum, it could have far-reaching effects for SMEs operating in the VSD (variable-speed drive) repair and refurbishment industry. Jordan Griffin, technical director at Northern Drives & Controls, gives his personal view on the challenges that NDC and others could face.
Eliza Rawlings has been appointed general manager of Festo in the UK. The appointment marks a return to Festo for Rawlings who was the company’s national sales manager from 2002 to 2010, after which she was appointed managing director of the cloud services provider, Cloud Direct.
Only 8% of UK manufacturers have a significant understanding of Industry 4.0, despite 59% recognising that it will have a big impact on the sector, according to a new report published by the accountancy and business advisory firm BDO in association with the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE).
The German bearings and automotive systems manufacturer Schaeffler has unveiled a concept two-seater vehicle designed to overcome some of the disadvantages of bicycles – such as their lack of stability, weather protection and storage space. The electrically-assisted, four-wheeled Bio-Hybrid vehicle can travel at speeds of up to 25km/h, does not need a driver’s licence, and is small enough to be used on bicycle lanes, thus reducing congestion in urban environments.
The partner country for this year’s Hannover Fair was the US. This meant that the event was opened jointly by President Barack Obama and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. On the first day of the show, they did a walkabout of several halls, visiting a handful of carefully picked stands.
ABB has set up a test laboratory at its drives factory in Helsinki, Finland, where customers can have their own motors tested with ABB’s variable-speed drives (VSDs) to verify their impact on performance and energy consumption.
The German bearings manufacturer Schaeffler has developed an automated system for analysing the condition of rotating plant and equipment with fixed or variable speeds from 100–15,000 rpm. The FAG SmartQB is a pre-configured, ready-to-use condition-monitoring system for electric motors, pumps, fans, compressors and gearboxes, which can be commissioned in five minutes and can be operated by staff with little or no expertise in vibration monitoring.
The US motor manufacturer, HTI Technology, has acquired the fractional horsepower gearmotor producer, Klauber Machine & Gear (KMG), for an undisclosed sum. HTI plans to combine its own expertise in AC and DC motor and drives systems with Klauber’s technology and expertise in AC and DC gearmotors, to offer application-engineered motion packages.
Process values, alarms, warnings and QR codes from IO-Link installations can now be viewed on a dedicated display device developed by ifm electronic. The E30391 IO-Link display is connected to an IO-Link master like an actuator, and is controlled via PLC. No special software is needed to configure it.
ABB has appointed Sami Atiya to be the new president of its Discrete Automation and Motion (DM) division, succeeding Pekka Tiitinen, who is returning to his home country to be managing director of ABB in Finland.
One of five short-listed products for this year’s Hermes technology award at the Hannover Fair was a single-channel circuit-breaker system from the German coiled products specialist, Block, which claims that is first solid-state over-current protection system for 24V DC control circuits. The breaker addresses channels automatically during switch-on, avoiding the need for time-consuming manual assigning – a particular advantage if a system stops or if components need to be replaced quickly.
Researchers in the US have developed an actuator that generates movements similar to those of muscles by using vacuum to shrink rubber beams. Like real muscles, the actuators are soft, shock-absorbing, and pose no danger to their environment or humans working alongside them. They could pave the way to soft-bodied robots that are safer than conventional rigid designs, the developers suggest.
The Taiwanese automation manufacturer Delta Electronics launched a slew of new ranges at the Hannover Fair, including AC drives, Ethernet switches, machine vision systems, motion control platforms, industrial and panel PCs, HMIs, remote I/Os, smart sensors, linear stages, Scada software and robot controllers.
Bosch Rexroth has developed a communication platform that continuously records, processes and filters production data and makes it available on the production line and elsewhere in real time via large touchscreens or tablets.
At the Hannover Fair, SEW-Eurodrive, Festo and Sick announced a joint initiative designed to make it easier for their customers to do business with them. They say that the Esis (Easy Supplier Integration Services) scheme will cut the time and costs of processing orders, as well as increasing reliability and integrating better with customers’ own IT systems.
The German engineering giant, ZF, best-known as an automotive supplier, has set up an industrial drives business based on the large gearbox operation of Bosch Rexroth which is acquired last December. The ZF Industrieantriebe business, which employs 900 people in Germany and China, made its public debut at the recent Hannover Fair. The business will supply modular drive, winch and swing gearboxes for industrial applications and mobile machines.
Applied Automation (UK) has officially opened its new headquarters in Plymouth, UK, which it moved into last year. The 13,000m2 (140,000ft2) site is more than twice the size of the two factories that it occupied before. The company now employs more than 130 people in Plymouth and at a second site in Cardiff, Wales.
A crowd-puller at the recent Hannover Fair was a collaborative demonstration by several companies showing Industry 4.0 concepts – in particular, mass customisation – in action. The demo was manufacturing individual keyrings in colours and with text (names or phone numbers) specified by visitors via a Web site. They also had the option of incorporating a smartchip that would allow them to find the key using a smartphone.
Lenze’s compact i500 drives, which the company launched at the SPS IPC Drives show in Germany in late 2015, can now be accessed from a smartphone to perform diagnostics and parameter setting. At the recent Hannover Fair, Lenze also announced an extension of the drive's top power ratings from 45 to 75kW (with 110kW in the pipeline), as well as communications modules for EtherCat, Ethernet/IP and Profinet.
The global market for motion control hardware suffered a 10.6% decline during 2015, with total revenues amounting to $10.4bn, according to the latest research from the IHS Motion Controls Intelligence Service. But the analyst suggests that the market will gradually return to growth starting this year.
David Brown and Santasalo – two mechanical power transmission companies owned by Clyde Blowers Capital – have merged to create David Brown Santasalo, a global industrial gearbox business with more than 1,000 employees, 5,000 customers, seven manufacturing plants and 23 service centres on six continents.
The machine vision specialist Cognex has announced a vision-based system for identifying airport baggage which, it claims, is the first of its type and overcomes the limitations of laser-based baggage identification systems. It says that its ABH-ID (airport baggage handling identification) system achieves much higher read rates than laser-based systems, cutting the costs of delivering lost or late-checked luggage by hand.
Softing claims to have developed the world's smallest Profibus master interface for PCs. The matchbox-sized PBpro USB fits inside a Profibus connector housing. Its high-speed USB connection makes the interface suitable for tasks ranging from network configuration and device parameterisation, to plant maintenance and production data acquisition.