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Collaborative robot gripper wins 2017 Hermes Award

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.

Sumitomo buys US developer of spray motor technology

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.

Idec buys Apem for $266m to create a $500m HMI giant

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 buys Austria's B&R to plug PLC and industrial PC gap

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.

Hannover merges shows to form annual automation event

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.

Almost 40% of IPCs faced cyber-attacks in late 2016

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.

‘Revolutionary’ app-driven pneumatics will replace 50 parts

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”.

ABB's digital portfolio spans 180 products and services

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.

Siemens invests in power electronics for future converters

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.

$25m investment brings LV switchgear to North America

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.

Simulation shows how controls could be hit by ‘ransomware’

Cyber-security researchers in the US have shown how hackers could take control of industrial control systems and hold their operators to ransom. The researchers, from the Georgia Institute of Technology, have demonstrated how attackers could, for example, take control of PLCs in a water treatment plant to shut down valves, increase the amount of chlorine added to water in the plant, and display false readings. They could demand payments to stop the sabotage from happening.

Fieldbuses fall below 50% of the industrial networking market

Fieldbuses now account for less than half of the global industrial networking market for the first time, according to the latest analysis by the Swedish networking specialist, HMS. During 2016, fieldbuses represented 48% of installed nodes, down from 58% in 2015, while industrial Ethernet technologies accounted for 46%, up from 38%.

Siemens separates off mechanical drives business

Siemens is setting up its Mechanical Drives (MD) business as a separate company, in a move that could lead to its eventual sell-off. Siemens says that the new setup that will enable the business to operate more efficiently and flexibly in implementing its growth plans in a competitive environment.

ABB acquires Spanish 3D inspection pioneer, NUB3D

ABB has acquired a Spanish start-up company called NUB3D, which specialises in white-light 3D sensor technologies, which use digital scanning to optimise inspection and quality assurance in manufacturing. The sensors are said to detect defects in manufactured parts with high levels of accuracy.

Midea takes control of Israeli motion firm, Servotronix

The Chinese appliances giant Midea has taken control of the Israeli motion control specialist Servotronix Motion Control in a transaction that is reported to value Servotronix at $170m. The deal comes shortly after Midea acquired the German robot-maker, Kuka, for €4.5m, and a week after another Chinese company, Estun Automation, bought the UK motion control specialist, Trio Motion Technology, for £15.5m.