At the Hannover Fair, Beckhoff unveiled a stainless-steel version of its XTS (eXtended Transport System) which, it predicts, will open up many new applications, especially in the food and pharmaceutical sector, and for processing and filling liquids. On its stand, Beckhoff was demonstrating how the IP69K-protected Hygienic Design version of XTS can even operate under a continuous water spray.
Fanuc has brought all of its UK activities – robotics, machine tools and factory automation – together in a purpose-built headquarters in Coventry which has cost more than £19m to build and will employ more than 100 people. The three-storey, 9,940m2 (107,000ft2) facility is four times larger than the company’s previous location, and includes design, manufacturing and training facilities and offices, as well as a showroom area.
Graham Fick, technical director of the Yorkshire-based motor controls manufacturer Zikodrive, has won the “engineer of the year” award at the 2017 Motion Control Industry Awards, held in Birmingham, UK. He won the award for his work designing and developing the company’s ZDBL range of compact, custom-programmed brushless motor controllers.
Advent International, the private equity firm that bought the UK-based MRO (maintenance, repairs and operations) specialist Brammer earlier this year, is now negotiating to buy the European industrial supplies distributor, IPH. It plans to combine the two businesses to create a “leading” European distributor of industrial supplies with revenues of more than €2.1bn.
Rockwell Automation has announced an alternative to managed industrial Ethernet switches for manufacturers that use unmanaged switches but struggle with downtime or security concerns. The new “lightly-managed” Allen-Bradley Stratix 2500 switch provides the security, resiliency, segmentation and bandwidth-optimisation of a managed switch, without needing extensive configuration.
A Finnish drive manufacturer called Granite Devices claims to have set a new benchmark for servodrive compactness with a snap-on board-format 700W drive that measures just 70 x 37 x 7mm, yet has built-in motion control and SIL2 safety functions. Granite describes the Ioni drive as “the Swiss Army knife for motion control”, adding that it represents “a new era for servodrives” that will bring time and cost savings to machine automation.
Mitsubishi Electric says it has developed a technology for detecting cyber-attacks against critical control systems which can identify network traffic that deviates from normal commands. The technology detects cyber-attacks disguised as commands for critical infrastructure – such as electricity, gas, water and petrochemical installations – without affecting real-time control capabilities. The Japanese company says that this will help to ensure that the operation of such infrastructure remains stable.
A Canadian company has developed a gearless, high-torque rotary actuator which, it claims, out-performs traditional gear-based actuators in many ways, while potentially being much cheaper. Genesis Robotics has invested C$28m (US$20.4m / £15.8m) in developing its LiveDrive technology, which it is aiming principally at robotics applications – it believes that the backlash-free technology could revolutionise the design of robotic arms, and halve their costs. The company adds that the lightweight, direct-drive actuators could have many other applications, ranging from prosthetics to vehicles.
Rockwell Automation has developed what it claims is the world’s first solid-state cable-pull emergency-stop device, which uses a microprocessor-based technology to monitor and compensate for any thermal expansion or sagging of the trip-wire.
Researchers working for the cyber-security firm Trend Micro and at the Politecnico di Milano (Polimi) in Italy have demonstrated that it is relatively easy to hack an industrial robot to change its behaviour – with potentially deadly consequences.
The German safety expert Pilz has developed an electrically-operated emergency-stop pushbutton which, it says, can save time and energy, and allow machines to be returned to service more rapidly after a shutdown. The PITestop active device has a built-in light ring to indicate its status.
The IO-Link Community has announced a safety version of its technology, which is fieldbus and system-independent. The new IO-Link Safety achieves this by converting the many safety protocols on the market to IO-Link Safety in a master.
A new organisation has been created to represent the interests of the UK’s electrotechnical, electronics and firmware sector. The ElecTech Council has its roots in the former Esco (Electronics Systems Community) and is backed by trade bodies including Gambica and Beama, and organisations including the IET and BSI.
Eplan used the recent Hannover Fair to launch a software package that, it says, will generate electrical and fluid schematic diagrams automatically at the push of a button, without needing expert knowledge, programming abilities, or extensive training. The “unique” package, called Eplan Cogineer, does not require users to change their design methods, which “will simply become much faster”.
Molex, Phoenix Contact, Murrelektronik and Binder have agreed to work together to drive the standardisation of M12 push-pull connectors which interlock automatically when plugged in, avoiding the need for traditional screw connections. The interlock is based on Molex’s Brad Ultra-Lock technology, which is designed to bring the ease push-pull connections to IP67/68/69K sealed connections. It can be used without tools, simplifying mounting, especially in confined spaces.
Two Norwegian companies have announced plans to build the world’s first fully electric and autonomous container ship, which will be able to navigate without needing any crew.
A flurry of of collaborations and tie-ups were announced at the recent Hannover Fair, including a strategic collaboration between ABB and IBM aimed at combining ABB’s Ability digital portfolio with IBM Watson’s Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning capabilities. Some of the other collabrations are listed in the table below.
B&R Automation used the Hannover Fair to launch a retrofit system that collects and analyses data from existing production sites. The technology, called Orange Box, allows machine operators to gather data from previously isolated machines and lines and use the data in smart factory applications. B&R says it is as easy to use as a smartphone.
UK Business Secretary Greg Clark has announced plans to invest £1bn over the next four years in cutting-edge technologies that the government believes will create jobs and raise living standards. The funding, from the £23bn Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF), will be spent across six key areas, including robotics and AI (artificial intelligence), self-driving vehicles, and manufacturing and materials of the future.
PI (Profibus and Profinet International) is the latest organisation to adopt the IEEE’s TSN (Time-Sensitive Networking) technology, which combines the bandwidth of IT (information technology) networks with the latency of OT (operational technology) networks.
A noticeable trend at the recent Hannover Fair was the emergence of “intelligent” versions of previously “dumb” mechanical devices. Several exhibitors announced “smart” versions of traditional mechanical components, designed to connect to the Internet of Things and to Industry 4.0 applications.
A Dutch specialist in Profibus and Profinet technologies has developed a diagnostics tool for Industrial Ethernet installations which can display all of the devices on a network and how they are connected, and provide an overview of the network’s health. Procentec says that its Atlas module will help to prevent unexpected and expensive downtime.
The German bearings-maker Schaeffler – which has been offering sensor-equipped bearings and guidance systems for several years – stated at the recent Hannover Fair that its aim is to transform conventional mechanical products and to integrate them into the digital world. Its latest development is a 7mm-thick ring-shaped device that can contain a choice of sensing elements to suit an application, and occupies a similar space to the rotary shaft seal of a bearing. The housing is attached to a bearing’s outer ring, and the sensor ring to the inner ring.
Eaton has announced what it describes as “the first clamping enclosure for hazardous industrial environments”, and is hailing it as “a major safety enhancement” for explosion-proof enclosures.
At the recent Hannover Fair, the Austrian firm B&R Automation announced plans to expand its operations, including an expansion to accommodate new production lines for its mechatronic products, and a new surface-mount line which will boost its PCB production capacity by 20%. The company also plans to add 50 jobs at its r&d offices in Salzburg to work on communications, robotics and controls.
The Cambridge-based sensor-maker Zettlex has won one of 57 innovation awards in this year’s Queen’s Awards for Enterprise for its range of accurate position and speed sensors for use in harsh environments. Other winners of innovation awards include Saco (the Smart Actuator Company), located in Malvern Wells, for its high-efficiency, programmable electric actuators, and Bristol-based Third Dimension, for its laser-based GapGun optical measurement device used to control production quality.
By using specially-developed blue-light LEDs, Pepperl+Fuchs claims to have produced a range of incremental rotary encoders with the highest signal quality available. The ENI58IL encoders also offer higher resolutions, improved signal amplitudes, and the ability to operate with absolute accuracy at speeds of up to 12,000 rpm.
Peterborough-based Olympus Automation (OAL) and the University of Lincoln have been awarded a £448,850 grant by Innovate UK and the EPSRC’s Robotics and Autonomous Systems programme to develop robot-based materials-handling systems for food manufacturers. During the one-year project, they will focus on automating the processes of handling, weighing and transporting raw ingredients. The aim is to bring about a step-change in the adoption of robotics and automation in the food and drink industry, and thus to enhance productivity.
New from Lenze is a compact mechatronic drive that combines a motor with control electronics and software, and a gearbox that is integrated into the motor housing. The g350 drive is aimed, in particular, at materials-handling applications, where is it said to deliver high efficiencies.
Beckhoff has expanded into process control applications with a series of EtherCat terminals with IS (intrinsically safe) I/Os that can connect directly to field devices in Zone 0, 1 and 2 hazardous areas. Using the company’s PC-based controllers, automation and process technologies can now be combined, and EtherCat benefits such as diagnostics applied in hazardous areas.
At the Hannover Fair in Germany, the Japanese automation supplier Omron has announced what it claims is the first machine controller to be equipped with a machine-learning artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm. The AI-powered controller is the first in a series of AI and IoT (Internet of Things) automation technologies that the company plans to launch in a bid to tackle manufacturing issues such as the shortage of skilled engineers and rising labour costs. Omron has set itself a goal of making all of its FA equipment AI-/IoT-capable by 2020, and believes that AI could help to replace the skills of experienced workers who are reaching the ends of their working lives.
The German gripping systems specialist Schunk has won this year’s Hermes technology award at the Hannover Fair for an intelligent gripper for human-robot collaboration that can interact and communicate with human operators. It is the second time in three years that Schunk has won the prestigious award, which celebrates innovative technologies.
The Oxfordshire bearings specialist, Bowman International, has bought Midlands-based John Handley Bearings which sells products from Thomson Industries, Cooper Bearings and NSK Linear. The acquisition gives Bowman a stock-holding facility in the Midlands for its ranges of plain bearings, which include the BowMet, Oillite and Oilless brands.
Japan’s Sumitomo Heavy Industries (SHI) has acquired a US start-up, Persimmon Technologies, which is developing a “disruptive” electric motor manufacturing technology in which metallic particles are sprayed to form composite components that are used instead of conventional laminated cores. The magnetic composite cores suppress eddy currents and are claimed to have 40% higher power densities and up to 15% lower energy losses than today’s best motors.
Two US companies have stepped in to offer substitutes for controls products that Rockwell Automation has made obsolete. Real Time Automation is offering a replacement for the Allen-Bradley 1761-NET-AIC communications interface, which Rockwell discontinued in January, while AMCI (Advanced Micro Controls Inc) has an alternative for the Allen-Bradley 1746-HSTP1 motion module for SLC500 PLCs, also made obsolete recently.
Siemens has announced a new generation of severe-duty motors which will be able to link to its MindSphere cloud platform to analyse their status. The company says that users will be able to access data from the motors anywhere in the world to improve productivity through increased availability, improved performance and optimised servicing.
Siemens claims to have set two new world speed records for electrically powered aircraft, as well as performing the first tow of a glider by an electric plane. An adapted Extra 330LE aerobatic aircraft reached a top speed of around 337.5km/h over a 3km distance in Germany last month, thus beating the existing record for sub-1,000kg electric aircraft by 13.48km/h. A modified version of the craft, weighing more than 1 tonne, hit a top speed of 342.86 km/h.
The Japanese automation manufacturer Idec has bought the French HMI and switching components specialist Apem, to create one of the world’s largest producers of HMI components, panels and systems. With combined sales of more than $500m, the enlarged business will expand Idec’s European presence, and add new industry segments to its portfolio. Idec made the purchase by acquiring Apem’s parent, MMI Technologies, for 29.2 billion yen (US $266m).
ABB is buying the Austrian automation and drives manufacturer B&R in a move designed to plug a well-known weakness in ABB’s portfolio – its limited range of controls for discrete automation. The two parties have not disclosed the value of the deal, but reports suggest it is close to $2bn.
The German sensor-make Sick has announced an open software platform that allows systems integrators and OEMs to develop tailor-made applications based on the company's programmable devices, including smart vision systems and intelligent sensors. The AppSpace platform is supported by a multi-core processor, called the SIM4000 sensor integration machine, that can integrate multiple cameras and sensors together with powerful image processing.
Deutsche Messe, the organiser of the Hannover Fair, has announced that from 2018 it is merging its annual Industrial Automation (IA) show with the biennial Motion, Drive & Automation (MDA) event, to create a combined flagship tradeshow called Integrated Automation, Motion & Drives (IAMD). The new show, which will also be rolled out to other Deutsche Messe events around the world, will cover industrial automation, mechanical power transmission and fluid power technologies.
Rockwell Automation has announced a line of permanent magnet servomotors with efficiencies of at least IE4, designed to deliver high levels of continuous torque at high speeds for long periods of time, thus helping manufacturers to achieve high machine throughputs. The Allen‑Bradley Kinetix VPC motors are aimed at processes such as converting, printing and web-handling.
Almost 40% of computers in industrial applications were subjected to cyber-attacks in the second half of 2016, according to new research from Kaspersky Lab ICS Cert. It also reveals that the percentage of industrial computers (IPCs) under attack rose from more than 17% in July 2016 to more than 24% by December 2016. The top three sources of infection were the Internet, removable storage devices, and malicious e-mail attachments and scripts embedded in the body of e-mails.
Festo is claiming a “breakthrough” in pneumatic technology – a digital valve system that combines the functions of more than 50 separate components and is programmed to perform a variety of duties using on-board apps. Festo has spent three years developing its Festo Motion Terminal (codenamed VTEM) which, it says, will “catapult pneumatics into the era of Industry 4.0”.
The UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, has said that the Government will embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) to help transform the UK’s productivity and ensure that the country remains at the cutting edge.
Siemens has developed functions for its Simotion motion controllers that, it says, will improve the speed, reliability and quality of the winding operations used in converting applications such as processing corrugated cardboard or web materials, and manufacturing battery electrodes.
ABB has formally launched its portfolio of more than 180 digital products and services which it will market under the ABB Ability name. It says that that the digital offering, first revealed last year, will unlock the value of the fourth industrial revolution for its customers.
The UK is “badly underprepared” for Industry 4.0, says a new report from the industrial services company, Eriks. The report, based on a survey of 200 UK engineers, reveals that 61% are not undertaking any Industry 4.0 initiatives, despite the vast majority (80%) believing it will have a positive effect on their production and maintenance practices.
A new UK company has been created to help systems integrators and IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) developers to market their products faster and at a lower cost. Bristol-based Sixis has been set up by industry veterans Chris Begent and Tony Richardson and will sell technologies originally developed by Telemesis – formerly the telemetry division of AlanDick, which Begent and Richardson acquired as part of an MBO team in 2008.
A robotic gripper system with suction pads like those of an octopus is one of several pneumatically-powered robotic concepts that Festo will unveil at the Hannover Fair later this month. It will also be showing a collaborative robot arm with seven axes controlled pneumatically rather than using conventional servomotors, and a lightweight robot inspired by an elephant’s trunk.
Medium-sized UK manufacturers have outpaced their smaller and larger counterparts’ revenue growth over the past five years – but may be left to fend for themselves post-Brexit, according to business and accountancy firm BDO, which has released a report calling for the Government to prioritise the needs of mid-sized manufacturers.
Two new US companies, aiming to disrupt established industries, are using artificial intelligence to optimise operations at a recently completed $1.3bn scrap-metal recycling and steel production facility in Arkansas. In the mill’s first full month of production, in January, it produced more than 63,000 tons (57,152 tonnes) of hot-rolled steel. This is said to be a record for a plant of this type.
Wind River, the Intel-owned specialist in IoT (Internet of Things) software, has announced a platform that will allow ageing control systems, not originally designed to support the IoT, to link into IoT networks.
Siemens is investing in its Motion Control facility in Erlangen, Germany, to make it the company’s centre for power electronics. The move is in preparation for the next generation of power converters which will need highly integrated semiconductors to cut costs, boost reliability, and miniaturise product designs.
AEMT – the Association of Electrical and Mechanical Trades – has launched its own awards scheme to recognise the achievements of individuals and companies in this sector of UK industry. The first awards will be made at a dinner and ceremony to be held in Coventry, UK, on 29 November, 2017.
ABB has revealed a cost-effective way of using spare I/O channels on its AC500 PLCs to achieve higher levels of functional safety, without needing extra safety I/O modules or larger cabinets.
The UK’s departure from the European Union could have a further detrimental effect on the uptake of industrial robots in the UK, according to a new report from the Centre for Economic and Business Research (Cebr) and Redwood Software. The report also suggests that investment in robotics offers better long-term value-for-money than investments in financial services, property or transport.
Festo has developed a dynamic gantry system that, it claims, is 30% faster than conventional Cartesian handling systems, with initial costs that are comparable. The EXCH planar surface gantry is aimed at high-speed assembly operations where small, light mass-produced items need to be positioned quickly and flexibly.
The Japanese bearings manufacturer NSK has demonstrated what it claims is the world's first wheel-hub motor for electric vehicles with a built-in transmission system. It says that the motor can deliver both high torque and high speeds, and predicts that the development will improve the environmental performance, safety and comfort of EVs.
ABB has announced a family of low-voltage switchgear, motor control centres and panels which, it says, represent more than $25m of research and development investment to bring its switchgear to the North American market. The launch is an expansion of ABB’s power distribution equipment portfolio, in which all medium- and low-voltage systems are branded as ReliaGear for standard equipment, and SafeGear for arc-resistant equipment.
At next month’s Hannover Fair, Siemens will unveil an easy-to-commission servodrive system which uses a single-cable connection between the drive and motor which is just 9mm in diameter. The new system, based on the company’s Sinamics S210 converters and new-developed Simotics S-1FK2 servomotors, covers ratings from 50–750W in five sizes.
An Australian company is developing a “game-changing” series of high-power-density electric motors that could be used to propel aircraft, and for other applications needing small, powerful motors. Queensland-based magniX has received an A$2.5m (US $1.9m) grant from the Australian Government as part of a A$12m (US $9.1m) collaborative project aimed at developing motors with power densities of more than 5kW/kg – more than twice as high as the best conventional motors. Magnix believes that it could eventually achieve power densities of 25kW/kg – three times higher than modern aircraft engines.
Siemens has released functions for its Simotion motion controllers that, it says, will improve the speed, reliability and quality of the winding operations used in converting applications such as processing corrugated cardboard or material webs, and manufacturing battery electrodes.
GE Automation & Controls has announced a range of modular industrial PCs (IPCs) which, it says, usher in “a new era of customised computing platforms”. The new PCs, which will make their debut at the Embedded World exhibition in Germany later this month, allow a higher level of customisation to suit users’ needs. According to GE, they mark the end of the era of maximising standardisation in IPCs.
Mitsubishi Electric has developed a working model of an ultra-compact silicon carbide (SiC) inverter for hybrid electrical vehicles (HEVs) that, it believes, is the smallest of its type in the world, with a volume of just five litres. The inverter also is thought to offer the highest power density for two-motor HEVs of 86kVA per litre, thanks to its use of full-SiC power semiconductor modules with a high-heat-dissipation structure that solders the power semiconductor modules to heatsinks.
The Swiss conveyor drives specialist Interroll has announced a new generation of modular drum-motors aimed principally at conveyor belt applications. The motors, offering a choice of synchronous or asynchronous technologies, will be available first in 80mm-diameter formats and will then be rolled out across the rest of the company’s portfolio.
Mitsubishi Electric has announced the launch of an open platform for factory automation that is based on edge computing. It says that the FA-IT platform will simplify connections between factories and value chains via the IoT (Internet of Things), enabling the rapid collection, analysis and utilisation of data for smart manufacturing.
The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) has published its Industrial Internet Connectivity Framework (IICF) – a reference architecture for evaluating connection technologies when designing IIoT systems. The IIC says it developed the IICF to help unlock data in isolated systems, enabling interoperability between previously closed components and subsystems, and to accelerate the development of new applications within and across industries.
Harman Connected Services has joined forces with Intel to offer a predictive maintenance system for rotating equipment that generates predictions based on real-time analyses of machine vibrations, rather than historical data collected over time. The system, called Quick Predict, uses an analysis algorithm originally developed by Intel to cut maintenance in its own plants.
After 14 years of development, the cyber-security specialist Kaspersky Lab has launched a secure operating system for industrial control systems, network devices and the IoT (Internet of Things). Called KasperskyOS, the system has been built from scratch and is designed to minimise the risk of undocumented functions, thus thwarting the threat of cyber-attacks.
Sulzer has announced that Dowding & Mills (UK) has changed its legal name to Sulzer Electro Mechanical Services (UK). Its portfolio of electrical services and mechanical repairs will not change, and it will continue to repair and maintain rotating equipment, and provide specialised services for pumps and turbomachinery.