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Rolls-Royce plans electric planes that will take off vertically

Rolls-Royce has unveiled plans for an electric plane that would take off and land vertically, at the at the Farnborough International Airshow in the UK. The hybrid Evtol (electric vertical take-off and landing) aircraft will have tilting wings and will be able to carry four or five passengers at speeds of up to 250mph (400km/h) for about 500 miles (800km). Rolls-Royce says it could take to the skies in the early 2020s.

Robot grippers are inspired by geckos’ feet

A gripper technology inspired by the feet of geckos was one of the technologies demonstrated by the newly-formed robot peripherals company OnRobot when it made its public debut at the recent Automatic exhibition in Germany.

Lightweight plastic parts will lead to low-cost robots

Igus, the German engineering plastics specialist, is expanding increasingly into robotics and had two new developments on show at the recent Hannover Fair and Automatica shows in Germany.

Next generation of industrial robots heralds ‘a new era’

ABB is launching a new generation of industrial robots designed to provide users with more flexibility and a better return on investment. The new machines, due to be released over the next two to three years, will replace most of ABB’s existing portfolio, and will double the size of the company’s range.

Edge system closes gap between local processing and cloud

Siemens was one of several companies at the recent Hannover Fair to unveil edge computing technologies. It says that its Industrial Edge system closes the gap between local data-processing and cloud-based services. By pre-processing large amounts of data locally, only relevant data is transferred to cloud or IT applications, saving memory and transfer costs.

Surge protection in I/O connectors saves space and costs

Voltage transients in control circuits can have a devastating impact on plant operation. Even relatively small peaks can cause catastrophic damage to some electronic components.

‘Revolutionary’ plastic gearbox ‘will out-perform metal boxes’

Genesis Robotics claims to have developed the world’s first plastic gearbox that can outperform metal gearboxes. The backlash-free box – which it calls the Reflex torque amplifier – has four times more engaged teeth than a conventional planetary gearbox, allowing it to achieve a similar torque-to-weight ratio. And because its parts can be injection-moulded, it should be easier and cheaper to manufacture.

Now, a bionic cuttlefish takes to the water

Just two months after it unveiled bionic spiders and fruit bats at the Hannover Fair, Festo has come up with another one of its mechatronic creatures – this time, a 370mm-long cuttlefish that was swimming through a transparent pipe filled with water at the Achema process industry show in Germany.

Even machine beds are now becoming ‘smart’

At the recent Hannover Fair, Bosch Rexroth demonstrated a machine bed fitted with sensors designed to help optimise the performance of the machinery built on top of the bed. The “smart” machine bed – developed in conjunction with the machine-bed manufacturer, Rampf Machine Systems, and the sensor-makers Balluff and Sick – sends temperature, pressure and vibration data to the machine controller which can compensate for changes in these variables in real time.

Soft-switching boosts drive efficiencies and cuts size and costs

A Californian company has developed a technology which, it claims, effectively eliminates transistor switching losses in hard-switched architectures for almost any power converter topology. Pre-Switch says that its soft-switching technology will dramatically reduce the cost, size and weight of converters used in motor drive, renewable energy, electric vehicle, traction and server applications, while increasing efficiency and reliability. The reduction in switching losses is claimed to be 70–90% for any type of solid-state switch and any converter topology.

Hands-free wearable technology guides plant workers

Honeywell has announced a wearable, hands-free technology that, it says, will allow industrial workers to perform tasks more safely, reliably and efficiently. It uses a head-mounted visual display that responds to voice commands, and shows live data, documents, videos, work procedures, as well as health and safety information.

Integrating conveyors with smart transport is ‘a game-changer’

Just months after B&R Automation unveiled its AcoposTrak flexible production line transport technology at the SPS IPC Drives show, it has unveiled an enhancement that allows the technology to be integrated with conventional conveyors. The development, announced at the Hannover Fair, allows products to be carried almost entirely by low-cost conveyor belts – except for sections where they need to be handled and processed individually, where the AcoposTrak takes over.

‘World’s first’ 3D-printed motor can run at high temperatures

German researchers claim to have 3D-printed an entire electric motor for the first time. The researchers, from the Chemnitz University of Technology, demonstrated their machine at last month’s Hannover Fair.

Get ready for your machines to talk and listen to you

Beckhoff has developed a technology similar to Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri, that allows automation systems to listen and speak. At the Hannover Fair, it announced a software module, called TwinCat Speech, that will give machines these capabilities, in addition to the existing visual capabilities offered by TwinCat Vision and the “intellectual” capabilities offered by its TwinCat runtime software.

5G demo heralds ‘wireless’ PLCs of the future

At the recent Hannover Fair, the Chinese electronics giant Huawei and Beckhoff Automation demonstrated a 5G technology that could lead to the use of wireless PLCs in the factory of tomorrow. In a proof-of-concept demonstration, the companies showed two PLCs communicating via a prototype 5G wireless network, instead of using cables.