Drives and Controls Magazine
Robots will plug largest electric ferries into recharging points

The world’s largest battery-powered ferries, due to enter service next year between Denmark and Sweden, will be plugged automatically into recharging points at either end of their 4km crossing by industrial robots. The aim is to reduce connection times and thus maximise charging times.

TSN controller will help to rewrite system design

NI, Cisco and Intel are collaborating to develop synchronisation and communications technologies that will allow distributed systems to use standard Ethernet to perform synchronised I/O, code execution and deterministic communication for distributed control and measurement loops.

‘Ground-breaking’ technology links legacy devices to IIoT

The Californian industrial automation manufacturer Opto 22 has released a free firmware update for its Snap PACs (programmable automation controllers) which, it says, will give users access to billions of existing sensors, machines and devices that are currently unable to connect to the IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things). It claims that this “significant and ground-breaking” innovation will allow rapid development of IIoT applications, cutting time-to-market when designing machines and systems, and leading to faster deployment of automation and control projects.

Heavy-duty robot is first to offer ‘true collaboration’

At the recent Automatica exhibition in Germany, the Italian robot-maker Comau previewed what it claims is the first high-payload robot to achieve true collaboration with humans. Two of the Aura (advanced use robotic arm) collaborative robots were demonstrated working on a Maserati car – one polishing its bonnet (hood), while the other loading and unloading a battery from its boot (trunk).

Collaborative robots join humans on a Ford line in Germany

Ford has become one of the first car-makers to start using collaborative robots (cobots) alongside human workers on an assembly line. It is using cobots supplied by Kuka to help fit shock absorbers to Fiesta cars at its plant in Cologne, Germany, thus ensuring a perfect fit and avoiding the need for workers to access hard-to-reach places. The task requires pinpoint accuracy, strength and dexterity.

EV motor is ‘first’ to avoid the use of ‘heavy’ rare-earths

Two Japanese companies – Honda and Daido Steel – claim to have developed the world’s first practical “hot deformed” neodymium magnets that contain no “heavy” rare-earth materials, yet offer good temperature resistance and the magnetic performance needed for use in electric vehicles (EVs). The new magnets will be used for the first time in Honda’s new Freed hybrid vehicle, which is due to go on sale later this year.

‘Smart’ guides, cables and energy chains will boost uptime

The plastics engineering specialist igus has announced a series of “smart” technologies that add sensing, monitoring and communications capabilities to its cables, energy chains and linear bearings. The company says that these technologies – which it is marketing under the “smart plastics” banner – will help to increase plant availability and uptime, and cut costs through condition monitoring and predictive maintenance.

‘First’ collaborative robot gripper brings safety to end-effectors

At the recent Automatica show in Germany, Schunk unveiled what it claims is the first robotic gripper capable of interacting and communicating directly with humans, and designed to be used safely with collaborative robots. The JL1 Co-act gripper can detect if it comes into contact with a human, avoid injuries if it senses a human between its jaws, and ensure that it never loses grip of the object that it is holding.

Plane powered by 50kg electric motor 'will change aviation'

An aircraft powered by a 50kg electric motor with a continuous output of 260kW has flown for the first time, from an airfield in northern Germany. The two-seater plane – an adapted aerobatic craft built by Extra Aircraft – flew for ten minutes on its maiden flight in June. Its developers believe that it could be the forerunner for hybrid-electric aircraft with four or more seats that will cut fuel consumption and emissions by up to 50%, as well as reducing noise levels dramatically.

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.