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AI machine control algorithm slashes set-up times

Mitsubishi Electric has announced a deep-reinforcement algorithm for artificial-intelligence (AI) based control of machinery that, it says, needs just one-fiftieth of the number of trials needed to set up conventional AI-based controls. The new algorithm will allow smart equipment such as industrial robots and vehicles to use sensors and cameras to learn rapidly about their environments to allow finely-tuned AI-based control.

Hygienic IP69K transport system opens up applications

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.

Cyber-attack detection protects real-time controls

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.

Gear-free actuators could revolutionise robot designs

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.

IO-Link spawns a safety version

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.

Schematics are generated ‘at the push of a button’

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”.

‘First’ autonomous container ship will be electrically powered

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.

Retrofit gathers and analyses data from existing plants

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.

Ballscrews, belts and bearings become ‘smart’

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.

Seal-shaped bearing sensor adapts to the application

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.

Blue-LED encoders ‘double signal quality’ at up to 12,000 rpm

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.

Omron develops ‘first’ machine controller with real-time AI

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.

Severe-duty electric motors can be linked to the cloud

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.

Electric plane sets two speed records and performs first tow

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.

Octopus tentacles inspire pneumatic gripper

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.