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Linear axis is ‘as easy to set up as making a cup of coffee’

The German clamping and gripping specialist, Schunk, has developed a compact linear axis with a 24V linear motor drive which, it claims, is as easy to commission as making a cup of coffee and will revolutionse automated assembly.

Customisable drives can be configured from a smartphone

The German automation manufacturer Lenze has announced a family of customisable frequency inverters that users can configure from their smartphones. Lenze says that the functions and power of the i500 inverters can be tailored to almost any application or environment. The drives comply with the IE2 VSD efficiency class (as defined in the new EN 50598-2 standard), and cover the power range 0.25–45kW.

Light curtains detect direction of travel without sensors

The Austrian automation specialist B&R has joined forces with the Italian sensor-maker Datalogic to develop a safety light curtain that can sense the direction in which an object is travelling, and determine its height and length, without needing the position sensors that have traditionally been used for muting and blanking applications.

Standards-based HMI system represents ‘a paradigm shift’

At the recent SPS IPC Drives show in Germany, the automation manufacturer Beckhoff unveiled a new approach to HMIs (human-machine interfaces) which it is hailing as a “paradigm shift” in HMI technologies. Instead of using proprietary systems for engineering and communications, the new Web-based TwinCat HMI system uses IT standards such as Microsoft Visual Studio for the engineering, HTML5 for the design, and Websockets and HTTPS for secure communications.

8.5mm-tall robot crawls through airgaps in motors

ABB has developed a remotely controlled device that crawls in the air-gap between the stator and rotor of large motors or generators to inspect their status, thus cutting downtime, inspection costs and the need to remove the rotor. The 8.5mm-high InSight inspection crawler is fitted with five cameras that provide high-resolution coverage of the whole length of the stator core. The results are recorded for later assessment.

EtherCat+power cable heralds ‘no-cabinet automation’

The German automation company Beckhoff, which developed the EtherCat communications system, has announced a new version that uses a single four-core cable to carry both the industrial Ethernet communications protocol and currents of up to 3A at present - and, later, up to 64A. The new EtherCat P system, unveiled at the SPS IPC Drives show in Germany, includes specially developed connectors, and compatible versions of devices such as remote I/O modules. Beckhoff says that the new system will cut component and installation costs and save space, potentially resulting in smaller machine footprints.

€8,000 Scara arm will help to ‘democratise’ robots

A French start-up company has developed a Scara robot that it is selling for prices starting at around €8,000 ($8,500), rather than the €20,000 typical of horizontal-arm robots of this type. MIP Robotics says that, at this price, payback periods can be as short as six months.

Drive-on-a-chip is first to support digital and analogue sensors

Texas Instruments (TI) claims to have developed the first drive control system-on-a-chip (SoC) that supports both analogue and digital position sensors. It says that its TMS320F28379D and TMS320F28379S microcontrollers (MCUs) will eliminate the challenges of interfacing with position sensors in industrial AC inverter and servodrive applications.

Carbon fibre linear guides are up to 60% lighter

The German plastics engineering specialist igus has developed a linear guide system that is made entirely of carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP), making it up to 60% lighter than traditional steel rail systems, and 40% lighter than aluminium rail. As well as saving weight, the drylin W guides are said to be stiffer than metallic guides, and to be non-magnetic. They need no lubrication, and are therefore maintenance-free.

Demo of rope-free linear motor elevator system is unveiled

One year after the German lift manufacturer ThyssenKrupp announced a rope-free elevator system that uses linear motors to move passenger cabins both horizontally and vertically, it has demonstrated a third-scale working version of its “game-changing” technology.

Two-armed robot uses sensitive three-finger grippers

The Italian robot-maker Comau is the latest company to develop a two-armed humanoid robot for industrial applications. At the recent EMO machine tool exhibition in Milan, it demonstrated a concept version of the robot with the two arms working together to assemble complex objects.

US trio develops assembly platform using linear motors

Three US engineering companies – the conveyor system manufacturer, MagneMotion, the automation specialist, Tek-Matic, and the engineering designer, Accelerated Machine Design & Engineering (AMD&E) – are developing a flexible platform for assembling products that is powered by MagneMotion’s QuickStick linear synchronous motor (LSM) technology.

Fruit-sorting robot ‘will disrupt the industry’

A British design and development organisation has produced a robotic gripper and vision system that can distinguish and selectively pick fruit of different varieties, shapes, sizes and colours. Cambridge Consultants says its system paves the way for robots to take on complex picking and sorting tasks involving irregular organic items –  such as sorting fruit and vegetables, or locating and removing specific weeds from a field of crops.

UK start-up will sell six-axis collaborative robot for $4,600

A British start-up is developing a six-axis collaborative robot which it aims to sell for around £3,000 ($4,600). London-based Automata Technologies was set up earlier this year by two architects who spotted a gap in the market for affordable, easy-to-use robots while they were working on advanced manufacturing and construction techniques for the renowned architect, Zaha Hadid.

Hepco and Beckhoff collaborate on linear transport system

The British linear motion specialist HepcoMotion has joined forces with the German automation giant Beckhoff to offer a version of Beckhoff’s linear-motor-based Extended Transport System (XTS) that is suitable for heavy-duty applications. The combined system made its debut at the recent Motek handling exhibition in Germany.