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Mobile apps ‘free users from control rooms’

GE Intelligent Platforms has announced the first in a series of apps for mobile devices designed to deliver “real-time operational intelligence” (RtOI), and allowing users to transform data into “actionable knowledge”. The app, called Proficy Mobile, provides real-time access to operational data via Apple iOS or Android devices, and an interface with GE’s GEO-intelligence technology which provides intelligent information based on the user’s location, role and asset location.

Mechatronic dragonfly takes to the air

The latest member of Festo’s mechatronic menagerie – a “dragonfly” that can hover, fly backwards, glide and take off from a standstill – will make its debut at next month’s Hannover Fair. The company has a tradition of unveiling a new mechatronic creature at the exhibition every year. Previous developments have included swimming penguins and jellyfish, as well as flying gulls and other birds.

Levitating platform positions to an accuracy of 10nm

A group of German organisations has built a novel system that can position a platform to accuracies of a few nanometres, based on the principle of magnetic levitation. The prototype platform, which levitates on a magnetic field generated by six coils, can be positioned to an accuracy of 10nm in three dimensions. By comparison, a human hair is about 100,000nm in diameter, a virus is 30-50nm wide, and a human fingernail grows 1nm every second.

'Third era' for drives could cut motor energy use by 40%

An American technology firm claims to have developed software that can be added to almost any AC drive to cut the energy consumed by the motor up to 40%, as well as improving the motor's performance. AC Kinetics (ACK), based in New York State, contends that its technology represents a “third era” for variable speed drives, following V/f controls in 1960s and vector controls in the 1980s.

Free tool automates machine safety designs

Rockwell Automation has released a free tool to help machine-builders and manufacturers to save time when designing machine safety systems. The Safety Automation Builder (SAB) guides them through the safety-system design process by providing layout options, analysing safety performance levels (PL) based on ISO 13849-1, and selecting appropriate Allen-Bradley safety products.

Bluetooth module that gathers factory data is ‘first’

A US manufacturer has developed what it claims is the first handheld Bluetooth transmitter designed to gather production data and send it to Bluetooth-enabled smartphones, tablets and computers. The iBlue device, developed by Indiana Technology and Manufacturing Companies (Itamco), can replace tools such as temperature readers, micrometers and hardness testers.

Vibration analyser speeds up machine designs

Cobham Technical Services has extended the capabilities of its Opera-3D finite element software for electromagnetic design, by adding a new solver that can analyse natural vibration modes. The tool is expected to be particularly useful for developers of electrical machines, who can use it to investigate and minimise forces that might cause oscillations close to a machine’s natural frequencies. They can thus avoid excessive vibrations or collisions between rotating and stationary parts.

Ferrite magnets replace rare-earths in EV motor

Yaskawa says it has developed an electric vehicle (EV) motor that avoids the need for neodymium magnets, using much cheaper and easier-to-obtain ferrite magnets instead. The development is intended to reduce the company’s dependence on rare-earth materials, such as neodymium and dysprosium, whose prices have fluctuated widely in recent years, with China dominating and controlling their supply.

Young robot-builders will be guided by 3D instructions

Autodesk, the company behind AutoCAD, has joined forces with Lego to provide 3D interactive building instructions for a new generation of Lego’s Mindstorms robot-assembly kits, due to be released later this year. 

3D simulations avoid the need for CNC trial cutting

Mitsubishi Electric has developed an ultra-high-resolution 3D technology for representing the shapes of machined surfaces for numerically controlled (NC) machine tools. The technology provides detailed representations of surfaces at resolutions down to 1µm, which machine operators can use to evaluate surface textures without needing to perform trial cutting. They can, for example, check for over- or under-processing marks and for scratches.

Swapping roles with humans can boost robot productivity

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have discovered that robots can operate more effectively if their training includes swapping roles with humans working alongside them.

Micro-PLC data is gathered via the cloud

The French controls manufacturer Crouzet has joined forces with the Swedish industrial communications specialist HMS Industrial Networks to allow users of its Millenium 3 Smart micro-PLC to access data from their equipment remotely via the Web.

Composite busbars are 35% cheaper and half the weight

Rittal is offering a composite busbar technology as a cheaper, lighter alternative to traditional copper busbars used in enclosures.

Network chips will come in three formats

Following its development of a new chip that allows industrial devices to communicate with almost any industrial network, HMS Industrial Networks has announced that it is to offer the technology in three formats.

First battery-powered ferry will be recharged during turn-arounds

The world’s first battery-powered car ferry is due to enter service in Norway in 2015, carrying up to 120 cars and 360 passengers across the Sognefjord.