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Omron’s first IO-Link devices will lead to smarter production

Omron has announced several ranges of IO-Link-compatible photoelectric and proximity sensors which, it says, will make it easier to integrate industrial equipment with the Internet of Things. Omron describes the launch of its first IO-Link sensors as “a big step” towards making production equipment smarter and combining factory automation components with ICT (information and communications technology) systems.

Nasa’s electric plane will cut running costs by up to 40%

The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) is building an aircraft powered by 14 electric motors which, it claims, could cut operating costs by up to 40% compared to conventional aircraft, as well as reducing energy use during high-speed cruising by around 80% .

Electrically assisted vehicle overcomes drawbacks of bicycles

The German bearings and automotive systems manufacturer Schaeffler has unveiled a concept two-seater vehicle designed to overcome some of the disadvantages of bicycles – such as their lack of stability, weather protection and storage space. The electrically-assisted, four-wheeled Bio-Hybrid vehicle can travel at speeds of up to 25km/h, does not need a driver’s licence, and is small enough to be used on bicycle lanes, thus reducing congestion in urban environments.

Fault-finder for rotating machines needs no expertise

The German bearings manufacturer Schaeffler has developed an automated system for analysing the condition of rotating plant and equipment with fixed or variable speeds from 100–15,000 rpm. The FAG SmartQB is a pre-configured, ready-to-use condition-monitoring system for electric motors, pumps, fans, compressors and gearboxes, which can be commissioned in five minutes and can be operated by staff with little or no expertise in vibration monitoring.

Vacuum-powered actuators mimic muscle behaviour

Researchers in the US have developed an actuator that generates movements similar to those of muscles by using vacuum to shrink rubber beams. Like real muscles, the actuators are soft, shock-absorbing, and pose no danger to their environment or humans working alongside them. They could pave the way to soft-bodied robots that are safer than conventional rigid designs, the developers suggest.

Monitoring system depicts production data in real time

Bosch Rexroth has developed a communication platform that continuously records, processes and filters production data and makes it available on the production line and elsewhere in real time via large touchscreens or tablets.

Collaborative demo shows 'batch of one' production in action

A crowd-puller at the recent Hannover Fair was a collaborative demonstration by several companies showing Industry 4.0 concepts – in particular, mass customisation – in action. The demo was manufacturing individual keyrings in colours and with text (names or phone numbers) specified by visitors via a Web site. They also had the option of incorporating a smartchip that would allow them to find the key using a smartphone.

Vision-based luggage ID system is ‘15% better than lasers’

The machine vision specialist Cognex has announced a vision-based system for identifying airport baggage which, it claims, is the first of its type and overcomes the limitations of laser-based baggage identification systems. It says that its ABH-ID (airport baggage handling identification) system achieves much higher read rates than laser-based systems, cutting the costs of delivering lost or late-checked luggage by hand.

Browser-based system turns block I/Os into PLCs

Turck has announced a technology that allows users to add logic functions to I/O devices without needing a PLC, thus driving down the cost per I/O point and increasing control flexibility. The Argee “field logic controller” (FLC) system is programmed via a Web browser, eliminating the need for third-party software or licensing that is common with PLCs.

Software links mechanical, electrical and PLC activities

At the recent Hannover Fair, Eplan and Cideon – both members of the German Friedhelm Loh Group – announced a software platform that, they say, will simplify collaboration between mechanical and controls engineers and PLC programmers. The Syngineer software interfaces mechanical and electrical computer-aided design (MCAD and ECAD) and PLC programming software via a mechatronic structure.

‘Smart’ cables can predict when they are about to fail

Two German companies – the sensor manufacturer Leuze Electronic and the connection specialist Murrelektronik – have joined forces with the French cable-maker Nexans to develop a cable that can sense when it is close to failure, thus alerting users and allowing them to replace the cable before it fails.

Energy recovery system ‘can pay for itself in a year’

The German automation developer Lenze has unveiled a system for recovering braking energy, which separates the supply and recovery paths, allowing them to be designed and dimensioned individually for an application. The Smart Energy Recovery r700 modules have a claimed conversion efficiency of 98% and Lenze says that, depending on the amount of energy recovered, they can pay for themselves in around a year.

Precision hydraulic-pneumatic drive ‘can thread a needle’

US engineers have developed a new type of hydrostatic transmission system that combines hydraulic and pneumatic technologies and can be used, for example, to drive robot arms safely and precisely, giving them the delicacy to pick up an egg without breaking it. The transmission system has almost no friction or play, resulting in high enough precision for tasks such as threading a sewing needle.

‘Plug-and-play’ IO-Link system speeds machine set-ups

The German industrial connectivity specialist Murrelektronik claims to be the first manufacturer to implement a “plug-and-play” technology for IO-Link devices that, it says, will make it much easier and faster to set up machines and systems. The “IODD on Board” technology stores information about IO-Link-supporting devices, such as sensors and actuators, inside distributed fieldbus modules so that as soon as an IO-Link device is connected to the module, data about it can be accessed directly by PLC software tools.

‘World’s fastest’ elevator will hit speeds of 73.8km/h

Mitsubishi Electric claims to have developed the world’s fastest elevator. It has designed and built a system that will travel from the basement to the 119th floor of China’s tallest building, the 632m-tall Shanghai Tower, in just 53 seconds.