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IIC testbed will apply machine learning to maintenance

The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) has launched a testbed project aimed at accelerating machine learning for predictive maintenance in high-volume manufacturing. The Smart Factory Machine Learning for Predictive Maintenance Testbed is being led by the Industrial IoT/Industry 4.0 specialist, Plethora IIoT, and the programmable semiconductor manufacturer, Xilinx. Other companies supplying equipment for the testbed include Bosch Software Innovations, Microsoft and National Instruments.

US-based Atkore buys British conduit maker, Flexicon

Atkore International, the US-based manufacturer of electrical raceway systems, has acquired Flexicon, the UK-headquartered manufacturer of metallic and non-metallic, flexible cable protection systems. The terms of the transaction have not been revealed.

Omron sets up two robot production lines in the Netherlands

Omron has installed two new lines to produce parallel robots at its European manufacturing site in Den Bosch, the Netherlands. The aim is to cut lead times, accelerate responses and improve productivity for robots delivered to customers in Europe.

SoftPLC runs on Linux platforms from Siemens and Wago

3S-Smart Software Solutions, the developer of the manufacturer-independent Codesys IEC 61131-3 automation software, has announced that its SoftPLC software is now available as a runtime environment for control systems based on the open Linux operating system, such as Wago’s PFC 100 and Siemens’ Simatic IOT2000.

Brammer and IPH unite to create a €2.2bn MRO giant

The European industrial equipment distributors Brammer and IPH have joined forces to form a single business, called IPH-Brammer, with close to €2.2bn in revenues and more than 8,000 employees in 23 European countries. The MRO (maintenance, repairs and operations) business will be headquartered in London, with Pierre Pouletty, former CEO of IPH serving as CEO of the merged operation, and Hermann Maier, former CEO of Brammer, serving as its chief operating officer.

IoT gateway uses OPC UA Publisher to link devices to the cloud

The industrial communications and automation supplier Moxa has joined forces with Microsoft and the OPC Foundation to develop an industrial IoT gateway with a built-in OPC UA Publisher module. By combining Windows 10 IoT and OPC UA Publisher, the MC-1121 gateway is said to offer a secure, reliable way of getting data from field devices to the cloud for analytics and monitoring.

CNC has built-in robot kinematics to simplify machining

Siemens has entered into a cooperative arrangement with the Italian robot-maker Comau to integrate robot kinematics with its CNC systems. At the 2017 Emo machine tool show in Hanover this month, the two companies are unveiling a jointly engineered product called Sinumerik Run MyRobot /DirectControl which, they say, will improve productivity, flexibility, dynamic responses and precision.

Controller is ‘first’ to bridge gap between DCS and PLC systems

Emerson has launched an industrial controller which, it claims, is the first to bridge small and large control applications, allowing manufacturers to scale its use up to DCS (distributed control system) applications, and down to PLC (programmable logic controller) applications. The DeltaV PK Controller offers scalable automation to process and discrete manufacturing users who have previously had to rely on complex, non-integrated PLCs with limited capabilities.

Machine-builders join forces to offer open IIoT platform

A group of machine-builders and software developers – consisting of DMG Mori, Dürr, Software AG, Zeiss and ASM PT – have formed a strategic alliance to set a new digital standard for machine- and plant-building, based on an open, non-proprietary IIoT platform, and customised to meet the needs of machine- and plant-builders and their customers. They want to establish the platform, called Adamos (ADAptive Manufacturing Open Solutions), as a global standard for the sector and to attract other machine-builders to become partners.

Rockwell CEO Blake Moret becomes chairman as well

Rockwell Automation has announced that Blake Moret, the company’s president and chief executive, has been elected chairman of the board, succeeding Keith Nosbusch, who has been chairman since 2005 and will remain a director. Moret will take on his expanded role on 1 January, 2018.

Hughes succeeds Randery as head of Schneider in the UK

Schneider Electric has announced that Mike Hughes is succeeding Tanuja Randery as president of its UK and Ireland business. Randery, who has been in the post since January 2015, is moving to a new role in the financial sector.

Consortium is designing tomorrow’s industrial network

A consortium of German companies and organisations including Bosch Rexroth, Festo and Siemens, is developing the foundation for the industrial Internet of the future, based on the latest networking and 5G wireless communications technologies. The three-year Find (Future Industrial Network Architecture) project has a budget of almost €7m, 61% of this coming from the German government.

Festo and Huawei collaborate on smart 5G manufacturing

The Chinese telecommunications and electronics giant Huawei has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the German pneumatics and automation supplier Festo to explore the use of ultra-high-speed 5G networks in manufacturing, and to promote the digital transformation of manufacturing using 5G “slicing” technology.

Hybrid trucks take power from overhead lines in German trial

A 10km stretch of autobahn near Frankfurt in Germany is being converted to provide power to hybrid-electric trucks from overhead lines. The technology, called eHighway, is said to be twice as efficient as internal combustion engines, halving energy consumption and reducing air pollution.

Automation system can run two operating systems at same time

B&R has released software for its automation systems that allows Windows or Linux to run alongside the company’s own real-time operating system. This allows users to combine control and HMI applications on one PC, for example, or to have an industrial PC double as both a real-time controller and an edge controller that sends pre-processed data to higher-level systems and the cloud via OPC UA.

Schneider Electric hopes to win Aveva at the third attempt

Schneider Electric is taking a majority stake in the British industrial software developer Aveva and plans to merge it with its own software operation “to create a global leader in engineering and industrial software”. The deal follows the failure of two earlier attempts to merge the businesses over the past three years.

Manufacturing Advisory Service is reborn as a helpdesk

The Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) has been relaunched as an online helpdesk and service to support Britain’s manufacturing industry and help businesses to access information.

Synchronised actuators can lift loads faster

Thomson Industries has developed a way of synchronising up to four heavy-duty electromechanical linear actuators to allow large or awkward loads to be moved repeatedly and evenly. It has built the capability into its Electrak HD actuators, resulting in what, it claims, will be more stable and potentially quicker lifts, the avoidance of additional guides, and improved handling of uneven loads.

EU project could result in machinery that repairs itself

Engineers and researchers from six European countries have been taking part in a collaborative project aimed at developing maintenance technologies capable of predicting when production machinery is going to fail. This will allow plant managers to rectify faults before the breakdowns occur. In some cases, the system will even be able to correct defects automatically.

Standard will integrate IO-Link with OPC UA

The IO-Link community has set up a technical working group to specify the integration of IO-Link into OPC UA. The Industry 4.0 platform sees OPC UA as a suitable architecture model for implementing IT at the field level. The IO-Link community has therefore decided to develop a standard for a data and function model that will represent future IO-Link devices and masters accurately in OPC UA. The working group will follow the general recommendations for developing OPC UA companion standards.

Phipson to succeed Scouler as chief executive of EEF

EEF, the UK manufacturers’ organisation, has announced that Stephen Phipson, currently Head of the Defence and Security Organisation (DSO) in the Department for International Trade, is to become its new chief executive from 1 December, succeeding Terry Scuoler who is stepping down.

Reconfigurable cell will allow SMEs to test technologies

Smaller British manufacturers will soon have access to a “reconfigurable factory” research cell where they can test machining and assembly technologies before building their own production machinery. The cell is being assembled at the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) for the Centre’s Integrated Manufacturing Group (IMG).

RS adds rugged, easy-to-use drives to its own-brand line-up

RS Components has added a range of easy-to-install and use AC inverters to its RS Pro own-brand portfolio. The range consists of 17 AC inverter drives for single- and three-phase AC induction motors, most of them being IP65-protected for washdown duties, with two models being rated at IP50.

Siemens and ISA join forces to raise cyber-security awareness

Siemens and the International Society of Automation (ISA) have entered a global partnership to raise the awareness about industrial security needs and standards, and to promote best practices for security to owner-operators of industrial equipment.

Omron buys code-reading specialist Microscan for $157m

Omron is buying the US-based industrial barcode-reader and machine vision specialist, Microscan Systems, from its UK parent, Spectris, for $157m (£123m) in cash. The Japanese automation supplier says that the aim of the purchase is “to further advance the control of manufacturing equipment and production lines, using IoT (Internet of Things) to connect virtually all objects on a manufacturing floor, including components and machines”.

Hackers ‘could turn collaborative robots into killers’

A US cyber-security researcher claims to have discovered vulnerabilities in collaborative robots (cobots) which, if exploited by hackers, “could directly threaten human life”.

‘GE restarts talks to sell industrial arm to ABB for over $2bn’

General Electric is reported to have resumed negotiations to sell its Industrial Solutions business to ABB after earlier talks broke down over the value of the business. According to the Reuters news agency, GE is looking to sell the operation – which makes and sells variable-speed drives, circuit-breakers, relays and other industrial electrical equipment – for more than $2bn.

Sercos master is made available as free, open-source software

A software-based Sercos industrial Ethernet master that can be implemented on industrial automation controllers instead of needing dedicated hardware, is now available as free, open-source software. The Sercos SoftMaster package is said to offer more than 95% of the capabilities of a Sercos HardMaster hardware version.

Owner’s son leads MBO at Sheffield gearbox repairs firm

A team of managers, led by managing director Lee Walkland, has acquired the Sheffield-headquartered gearbox repairs business TDR Transmissions for a seven-figure sum. Walkland is taking over from his father Ken Walkland, one of two existing owners. He will be joined by Darren Morland, Carl Smith and Jason Smith as the new owners.

North American half-year robot sales top $1bn for the first time

The first half of 2017 was the best-ever for the North American robotics market, with new records set for orders, revenues and units shipped, according to Association for Advancing Automation (A3). It also reports a 14% rise in orders for motion control and motor products, and the best-ever first-half performance by the machine vision sector.

Integrated drive saves space, time, cabling costs and energy

Leroy-Somer has announced an integrated drive that can be used to control its IMfinity induction motors with ratings from 0.25–7.5kW. The Commander ID300 drive is said to deliver dynamic performance and high efficiency, while its decentralised configuration provides flexibility in machine and plant design, as well as saving the space normally needed for a cabinet. Eliminating the need for cables between drive and motor cuts costs and reduces power losses and emissions.

China is world’s biggest buyer and user of robots

China has broken new records in its uptake of industrial robots. The number of robots it bought during 2016 soared by 27% to 87,000, making China the world’s largest market, both in terms of robots sold and the total number in service (340,000 – a 33% increase on 2015). These figures come from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), which predicts that the number of industrial robots bought in China will grow by 15–20% per year between 2018 and 2020.

Managers sew up deal to buy Yorkshire automation firm

A team of managers has bought the West Yorkshire automation and robotics specialist, Sewtec Automation, which designs and builds automated manufacturing and packaging systems for a global base of blue-chip customers.

CBI Manufacturing Council aims to guide UK industrial policy

The CBI (Confederation of British Industry) is bringing together dozens of CEOs from manufacturers of all sizes across the UK to create a high-powered group that aims to ensure that manufacturing is at the heart of the Government’s industrial strategy.

IPCs and thin clients support smart manufacturing

Rockwell Automation has announced a family of industrial computers, thin clients (the first from Rockwell) and monitors that, it says, will allow manufacturers to modernise standalone or distributed HMI applications to support smart manufacturing.

Database covers more than 80% of all IO-Link devices

A recently-launched database containing technical descriptions of IO-Link devices is claimed to cover more than 80% of all known IO-Link devices. The IODDfinder service, launched by the IO-Link community earlier this year, is being supported by more than 30 manufacturers of IO-Link devices who, between them, have stored about 1,900 IODDs (IO-Link Device Descriptions), which can be used to parameterise more than 3,900 different IO-Link devices.

‘Rotation for life’ plan guarantees that machinery will turn

SKF has launched a novel maintenance service package under which, in return for a fixed monthly fee, it will guarantee the reliability and availability of specified rotating machinery at a customer’s site. The package, called “rotation for life” sets out agreed performance targets which the bearing-maker commits itself to achieve.

$15m r&d centre brings motion experts together

The precision motion and nanopositioning specialist PI (Physik Instrumente) has opened a $15m research and development centre at its global headquarters in Karlsruhe, Germany. The 10,000m2 (108,000ft2) centre brings PI’s development teams together in a shared space, intended to promote interdisciplinary exchange and collaboration.

Nidec adds two more European companies to its portfolio

Nidec, the acquisitive Japanese motor-maker which now owns Control Techniques and Leroy-Somer, has added two more European businesses to its portfolio: the German compressor manufacturer, Secop, which it has bought for €185m in cash; and the Italian pump and motor producer, LGB Elettropompe.

Medium voltage drives add sensorless vector control

EXCLUSIVE  Rockwell Automation is expanding its family of medium-voltage variable-speed drives, adding sensorless vector control technology that will deliver improved performance compared to the previous V/Hz technology – including the ability to deliver 100% starting torque, compared to around 40% before.

Technique cuts linear stage thermal errors by up to 90%

Aeorotech has come up with a software-driven technique that, it claims, can eliminate up to 90% of the thermal errors that can affect the accuracy of precision linear positioning stages. It can be applied to both linear motor and ballscrew-driven linear stages, and operates regardless of the range of temperature change.

Bluetooth adds a mesh networking capability

The Bluetooth wireless communication system now supports mesh networking, allowing “many-to-many” device communications. The new version, announced by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), is optimised for creating large-scale networks of devices such as sensors, where tens, hundreds, or thousands of devices need to communicate with each other reliably and securely.

IoT gateway links field devices to the cloud

Festo has announced an IoT gateway that connects components and modules from the field level to the Festo Cloud via OPC UA. Using the CPX-IoT gateway, it is possible to have preconfigured, customisable dashboards for each component.

ISA White Paper will help SMEs to tackle cyber-security

At the request of the US Department of Homeland Security, ISA (the International Society of Automation), has produced a White Paper intended to help SMEs (small- and medium-sized enterprises) to recognise their vulnerability to industrial cyber-attacks and to forge effective cyber-security plans based on established standards and practices.

PLCopen releases safe motion specification to plug a gap

PLCopen has released version 1.0 of its PLCopen Safe Motion specification which fills a gap in specifications released earlier by PLCopen’s motion and safety activities, which only partially described the safety aspects involving motion.

UK automation sector returned to growth in 2016

The UK’s industrial automation sector returned to growth in 2016, with a 2.2% improvement on the previous year, according to the latest statistics from the sector’s trade organisation, Gambica. It attributes the growth to the low sterling exchange rate which boosted sales in the second half of the year, and to some relief from the political and economic uncertainty that was thought to be the main cause of the downturn in 2015.

Multibeam antenna boosts RFID accuracy and reliability

German researchers have developed a multibeam antenna for RFID (radio frequency identification) systems which, they claim, provides high levels of accuracy when capturing data from transponders, as well as improving reliability, especially in challenging environments. The antenna, which is compatible with all common RFID readers, is about to start pilot trials.

Third wave of space-spacing automation parts is released

Omron has announced a third wave of factory automation (FA) devices that comply with its Common Design Platform, saving space in control panels, or allowing panel-builders to include more components in panels and increase their functions.

First servomotor with built-in GaN amp ‘is half the size’

Yaskawa Electric says it has developed the world’s first servomotor with a built-in amplifier equipped with gallium arsenide (GaN) power semiconductors. It claims that the motor and amplifier are half the size of the amplifier portion of a conventional servopack, and will lead to smaller and more efficient servodrive systems.

Sensorless motor control system solves problems with others

A German start-up company is marketing a sensorless technology for determining the position of rotors in electric motors that, it claims, overcomes problems with other sensorless control technologies, such as reduced bandwidths, high noise levels, and difficulties transitioning between high and low speeds. The company, Bitflux, says that these drawbacks have limited sensorless control applications, and made them expensive to develop.

Camera captures 3D snapshots without an object having to move

The German sensor specialist Sick has announced an industrial camera that captures high-resolution 3D images of stationary or moving objects with a single “snapshot”. Unlike systems based on laser triangulation, the Visionary-T camera captures 3D images using a single shot of light, without needing to profile a moving object.

Dual-channel AC motor controller is ‘world’s first’

The US robot technology developer Roboteq has announced what it claims is world’s first dual-channel variable-frequency drive (VFD), capable of driving two AC induction motors simultaneously. Each motor can draw up to 60A at up to 60V, or 3.6kW per channel.

Dual-format motion controls can handle up to 128 axes

Omron and its US subsidiary, Delta Tau Data Systems (DT), have collaborated to develop a range of programmable multi-axis controllers (PMACs) in both standalone and PC-based formats. The PMACs, which can control up to 32 axes in the standalone format and 128 axes in the PC format, allow users to program their own motion algorithms and motion control functions – such as trajectory calculations and position compensation – in C and other programming languages.

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