Drives and Controls Magazine
Cloud-based platform will enhance VSD performance

At the Hannover Fair in April, Siemens plans to unveil a digital platform for using and evaluating VSD (variable-speed drive) data, based on its MindSphere cloud-based open IoT operating system. Called Sidrive IQ, it will give users of networked drive systems direct access to functions designed to support production and maintenance tasks. Siemens says it will improve the productivity, reliability and serviceability of drive systems over their entire lifecycles.

Replacing neodymium could slash PM motor costs

The Japanese car-maker Toyota says that it has developed a magnet that uses much less of the costly rare-earth material neodymium than is normally needed for high-power PM (permanent magnet) motors used in electric vehicles, robots and other applications. It has replaced up to half of the neodymium (Nd), which currently costs around $100 per kilogram, with two other rare-earth materials, lanthanum (La) and cerium (Ce), each costing around $5-7/kg, potentially cutting the cost of PM motors – and their applications – substantially.

Worn steel-cutting tools can blunt motor efficiencies

German researchers have discovered that the sharpness of the tools used to cut the electrical steels used in the cores of electric motors, can have a profound effect on the motor’s efficiency. The researchers, from the Technical University of Munich (TUM), found that using blunt tools could quadruple the amount of electricity needed to magnetise the cores of the finished machines.

‘Groundbreaking’ control system ‘brings future to the present’

The Californian industrial controls developer Opto 22 has announced a “groundbreaking” industrial control technology that, it says, “brings the future of automation to the present” by combining I/O, real-time control, local and remote HMI, and industrial/IT data exchange in a single compact package.

AI learns how to control equipment faster and cheaper

Mitsubishi Electric has developed a technology that uses model-based artificial intelligence (AI) to control equipment autonomously. Using AI, the technology constructs models of a system’s dynamics through repeated trial-and-error, and then uses these models to learn the control rules needed to reach pre-defined goals automatically.

AI adapts robots to shapeshifting objects in real time

Mitsubishi Electric has developed an AI (artificial intelligence) based control technology that allows machines such as industrial robots to grasp items rapidly, and to adapt their behaviour in real time to handle non-rigid objects, even if they move or change shape. The company predicts that the technology will simplify and speed up automation tasks, even when conditions are changing “dramatically”.

IIC and Industrie 4.0 look to align their architectures

Two of the organisations leading the transition to the fourth industrial revolution – the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) and Plattform Industrie 4.0 – have published a joint White Paper mapping alignments between their IIoT (industrial internet of things) reference architecture models.

Groups of PLCs swap process and safety data in real time

ABB has launched a series of safety CPU modules that can function both as safety controllers and safety devices, allowing users to move from a single central PLC to multiple PLCs, each capable of communicating with many machines. Each machine controller can exchange large volumes of process and safety data simultaneously in real-time with more than one central controller.

Spray-formed magnets could cut electric motor costs

Two Canadian researchers have developed a new method of producing magnets for electric motors which, they claim, could lead to significant cost reductions, as well as leading to designs that are impossible using traditional magnet manufacturing techniques. Fabrice Bernier and Jean-Michel Lamarre, from the National Research Council of Canada (NRC), add that magnets produced using their robot-controlled “cold-spray additive manufacturing” process have good mechanical and thermal properties.

Open controller heralds ‘a new era in automation’

A year after it announced its PLCnext “open” control technology, Phoenix Contact has released its first controller based on the technology. At the recent SPS IPC Drives show in Germany, Phoenix’s chief technology officer, Roland Bent, hailed the development as “the start of a new era in automation”.

Coupler is the first to link Profinet to CC-Link

The first device that can link Profinet and CC-Link networks made its debut at the recent SPS IPC Drives exhibition, less than a year after PI (Profinet and Profibus International) and CLPA (CC-Link Partner Association) agreed on the specification for such devices. The NT 151-CCIE-RE coupler, developed by Hilscher, was demonstrated on CLPA’s SPS stand linking PLCs from Mitsubishi and Siemens.

Drives perform condition monitoring without sensors

At the recent SPS IPC Drives show in Germany, at least two drives manufacturers – Nord Drivesystems and Danfoss – were demonstrating VSDs (variable-speed drives) that can perform condition-monitoring functions without needing the usual sensors.

Easy-to-build servo platform offers architecture choice

At the recent SPS IPC Drives show in Germany, Danfoss unveiled a modular motion control platform which can be used to create centralised or decentralised architectures. The VLT FlexMotion system is based on a multi-axis servodrive and can also include integrated and decentralised servodrives as well as integrated gearmotor-servodrive combinations.

YuMi cobot loses an arm to create a smaller version

ABB has unveiled a single-arm collaborative robot (cobot), based on its YuMi dual-arm cobot, which it launched in 2015. Like YuMi, the new robot has a 500g payload and is designed to be integrated into small-parts assembly lines to boost their productivity.

Sensors built into spindle bearings will reduce failures

Schaeffler has developed range of sensors for monitoring machine-tool spindles that are built into the spindle bearings. It says that the first-of-its-kind system will reduce spindle failures, while extending their lives.