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Facial recognition could open up ‘no-touch’ controls

Omron has demonstrated a facial recognition technology that could open up new ways for humans to interact with machines and automation systems. On its stand at the recent SPS IPC Drives exhibition in Germany, the company was showing how its Okao technology – originally developed for consumer applications – could be used to control access to machines and to enhance safety by only allowing recognised personnel to approach moving machines.

Distributed processing cuts I/O cycle times to 1µs

At the recent SPS IPC Drives show in Germany, the Austrian automation manufacturer B&R unveiled a technology which, it claims, can reduce industrial automation cycle times down to 1µs. It says that, until now, the fastest response times achieved in the field – from receiving an input signal to sending an output signal – have rarely been less than 100µs.

Autonomous two-armed robot can see and feel

The Japanese robot-maker Seiko Epson has developed a prototype dual-arm robot that, it says, will expand the range of tasks that can be automated on the production floor. The robot, fitted with vision and force-sensing functions, can execute tasks autonomously by recognising objects, making decisions, and adjusting the amount of force applied, on the fly.

BLDC sensors avoid the need for chopper stabilisation

Honeywell Sensing and Control has developed a new sensor technology for brushless DC (BLDC) motors that removes the need to use chopper stabilisation. It claims that this results in faster response times, higher accuracies and minimal electrical noise levels, without needing extra filtering.

Silicon carbide devices could cost the same as silicon

A UK start-up company is developing a silicon carbide (SiC) technology for power semiconductor devices that could lead to devices offering SiC performance at the cost of silicon. Coventry-based Anvil Semiconductors has secured £1m of funding to develop and commercialise its low-cost SiC technology.

PM technology could save ship-owners €50,000 a month

The Switch, the Finnish developer of permanent magnet (PM) motor and generator systems, has entered the marine sector with a “next-generation” drivetrain for powering and propelling vessels efficiently. It says that the combination of PM and frequency converter technologies will allow ship-owners to cut their running costs by up to €50,000 per month.

Bearing and leadscrew combo slashes install times

Thomson has announced a linear motion technology that combines the functions of a linear bearing and a leadscrew in a single, compact package. The integrated and pre-aligned leadscrew and linear bearing – called the Glide Screw – is designed to actuate a moment load or side load smoothly and quietly, without additional support.

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.