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Free software brings 3D CAD to non-experts

RS Components and its North American sister company Allied Electronics have released a free 3D solid modelling and assembly tool that can be used by CAD novices and is said to make it easy to move from 2D to 3D design. The DesignSpark Mechanical package, developed for RS and Allied by the 3D software specialist SpaceClaim, uses a gesture-based modelling technique to create concept designs quickly.

Reconfigurable windings allow motors to be used globally

The Brazilian motor-maker WEG and its Austrian subsidiary Watt Drive have developed a modular motor with a special winding design which allows the operating voltage to be reconfigured from the terminal box, allowing the same motor to be used around the world at voltages from 100–690V, and on 50 or 60Hz systems.

PLCopen aims to draw up control software guidelines

PLCopen has launched an initiative to draw up coding guidelines for industrial control software. It says that although such guidelines exist for many programming languages, there is no equivalent for IEC 61131-3 and its PLCopen extensions.

Unguarded robot operates alongside VW workers

For the first time, Volkswagen has installed an industrial robot to work alongside humans in an engine production plant in Germany without any form of protective barrier between the robot arm and the human workers.

Linear motors will drive Musk’s 1,220km/h Hyperloop system

Technology visionary Elon Musk has proposed a high-speed transport system powered by linear induction motors that would carry passengers at speeds of up to 1,220 km/h, and could cover the 615km distance between Los Angeles and San Francisco in about half an hour.

EtherCat protocol IP needs no upfront licence fees

The Californian electronics developer Altera and the German automation software developer Softing have announced the availability of a verified EtherCat protocol IP (intellectual property) for FPGAs (field-programmable gate arrays) that gives field device manufacturers a quick and low-cost way to implement interoperable industrial Ethernet systems without lengthy negotiations, up-front licensing fees, or per-unit royalties.

Bluetooth and WLANs capture 53% of the wireless market

More than half of all wireless-enabled industrial automation equipment shipped in 2012 used either Bluetooth or 802.11a/b/g/n wireless LAN (WLAN) technology, and these two standards are set to increase their domination of the market in the coming years.

Inverter-driven brake-motor engages instantly

The Italian motor-maker Carpanelli has developed an inverter-driven brake-motor that, unlike traditional brake-motors, provides instantaneous brake engagement because it is activated directly by the inverter. The MAI motor is said to cut installation time and costs because there is no need to connect a separate power supply.

Two-motor powertrain ‘can raise EV efficiencies by 15%’

An Italian vehicle transmission specialist, Oerlikon Graziano, and a UK controls specialist, Vocis Driveline, have jointly developed an electric vehicle transmission system that uses two traction motors in a compact powertrain that provides four speeds and operates with an efficiency of around 90%.

Project aims to develop lightweight motors using plastics

German researchers have embarked on a three-year collaborative project aimed at improving the power-to-weight ratios of electric motors by incorporating lightweight materials such as fibre-reinforced plastics.

Integrating electronics with motors could halve power-to-weight ratios

The German government is providing €10m of funding for a collaborative project aimed at integrating electronics into electric motors, thus improving power-to-weight ratios by up to 50% and cutting system costs by up to 40%, compared to using separate sub-systems.

Tiny current sensors could lead to smaller, more efficient VSDs

Japanese developers have produced a tiny, precision current sensor that, they predict, could lead to lighter, smaller, more efficient inverters. The GCBC sensor uses a proprietary magnetic sensing element that eliminates the need for a core to concentrate magnetic flux, resulting in a board-mounting device that weighs just 3g.

EtherCat semiconductor profile ‘could lead to dramatic developments’

The EtherCat Technology Group (ETG) has released a new profile for semiconductor manufacturing applications which, it says, provides a starting point for a new generation of tools and could lead to dramatic developments in the industry.

Single-tooth motors could bite into the EV market

German researchers are developing a new generation of high-efficiency motors for electric vehicles (EVs) with the aim of challenging two perceived limitations of EVs – their limited ranges and high purchase prices.

$34m contract will take electromagnetic railgun closer to firing

The US Office of Naval Research (ONR) has awarded BAE Systems a $34.5m contract to take development of an electromagnetic railgun to the next stage. These long-range “guns”, which work on the same principle as a linear motor, using electromagnetic energy instead of explosive chemical propellants, could launch a projectile farther and faster than any previous gun.