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Regal Beloit sells its drives businesses to Sun Capital

Regal Beloit is selling its engineered drives and control systems businesses to Sun Capital Partners, a private investment firm specialising in leveraged buyouts and investments. The terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

Spain’s Fersa Bearings takes control of Austria’s NKE

The Spanish bearings manufacturer Fersa Bearings has acquired 100% of the Austrian bearings-maker NKE, completing a process that started in in 2016, when the Fersa bought 49% of NKE’s shares. With the acquisition of the remaining 51%, NKE is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Fersa and there are two commercial brands: Fersa for the automotive sector; and NKE for the industrial sector. Fersa has not ruled out adding further brands to its portfolio in the near future.

Molex expands into sensing through deal with Contrinex

The electronics and connectivity giant Molex has announced a collaboration with the Swiss sensor-maker Contrinex, under which it will integrate inductive and photoelectric sensors into its industrial range.

Free 3D CAD modelling software is given an upgrade

RS Components has released a new version of its free 3D CAD modelling tool, DesignSpark Mechanical. Version 4.0 – the first update for three years – offers new functions and a more intelligent design engine, as well as being faster. The additions and enhancements are based on feedback from users.

Safety PLC is ‘first’ with failsafe condition monitoring

ABB has developed what it claims is the world’s first safety PLC with integrated condition monitoring. It says the combination will enhance the functional safety of applications and reduce the need for manual inspections and maintenance.

Tiny PLC board will ‘unleash’ the power of the IIoT

The electronics developer Maxim Integrated has produced a reference PLC design that packs 17 configurable IOs into a space half the size of a credit card. It says that the Go-IO board will “unleash” the full power of the IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) and allow designers to bring greater intelligence into Industry 4.0 factory equipment, while meeting the stringent size and power demands of PLCs.

Engineering centre doubles to service ABB VSDs and others

ABB has more than doubled the size of its UK Engineering Centre in Coalville, Leicestershire – from 830m2 to 1,789m2 – to meet a rising demand for variable-speed drive (VSD) servicing, customer training, and developing specialist test rigs (STRs). As well as repairing and upgrading ABB’s own low-voltage AC and DC drives and medium-voltage AC drives, the centre will upgrade MV drives made by third parties.

Google reveals plans to launch cloud robotics platform

Google has announced that it is working on a cloud robotics platform that will combine the power of artificial intelligence, robotics and the cloud. It says that initiative, due to go commercial in 2019, will create “an open ecosystem of automation solutions” using cloud-connected collaborative robots. It will enable efficient robot automation in dynamic environments.

Gateways open an easy path to IIoT via MQTT and OPC UA

HMS Industrial Networks has announced a pair of gateway families that support MQTT (Message Queue Telemetry Transport) and OPC UA, enabling data to flow between equipment on any major industrial network, and IIoT applications.

Conferences will help UK SMEs to decipher digitalisation

DFA Media, which publishes Drives & Controls and Smart Machines & Factories, has launched a series of one-day conferences aimed at helping UK companies – especially SMEs – to make the move to digitalisation. Under the umbrella title of Demystifying the jargon: How to make the digitalisation transition, each conference with focus on the needs of a particular sector.

‘First multi-colour camera’ adapts to product changes

Omron has announced what it calls the “world’s first multi-colour smart camera”. When a product design is changed or a new model introduced on a production line, users can simply change parameters on the FHV7 camera, rather than needing to fine-tune or replace the lighting.

TSN core could simplify real-time Ethernet networks

Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems (IPMS) has developed a TSN IP core to simplify the implementation of endpoints in TSN-capable Ethernet networks. The core consists of modules for time synchronisation, traffic-shaping and Ethernet MAC communications.

Module adds safety functions to drive controller

The German drives specialist Stober has collaborated with the safety specialist Pilz to develop a safety module for its SD6 drive controller which allows safe drive monitoring of applications up to SIL 3 / PL e (Cat 4), in accordance with EN 61800-5-2 and EN ISO 13849-1. A worst-case response time of less than 10ms results in fast stopping, and minimises safety distances.

European Centre of Expertise includes drives workshop

Eriks has opened a European Centre of Expertise for power transmission in the UK, which will include a repair and test workshop for drives. It is one of a series of technology centres the group is setting up and will provide customers with technical and engineering support.

Novel cooling boosts power densities of air-cooled HV motors

Siemens has announced a range of compact, lightweight high-voltage motors which incorporate an innovative cooling system that combines fin and tube cooling, and is claimed to improve temperature distribution in the motor and boost power densities “significantly”. The Simotics HV C motors, which come in ratings up to 3.2MW, can be connected to Siemens’ new Sidrive IQ digital platform to allow cloud-based analyses of their condition.

Challengers chip away at UR’s dominance of cobot market

The Danish pioneer of collaborative robots, Universal Robots, still dominates the cobot market, but its share is starting to slip – from more than 55% in 2016 to 46% in 2017 – according to a new study by Interact Analysis. It estimates that UR’s market share dipped further in the first nine months of 2018, to around 40%, despite raising its revenues by more than 40%.

Rockwell announces first control devices to support CIP Security

Rockwell Automation has announced the first industrial control products that support CIP Security – the protocol developed by ODVA to protect critical industrial communications as part of a defence-in-depth security strategy

Rockwell Automation unveils a new logo and brand promise

At its annual Automation Fair in the US, Rockwell Automation has unveiled a new logo and a new brand promise: “expanding human possibility by combining the imaginations of people with the intelligence of machines”. It says that the promise supports its emphasis on bringing the connected enterprise to life and how, by linking people, machines and data across an entire business, manufacturers can become more effective and productive.

SPS IPC Drives exhibition is changing its name

The organisers of the German automation megashow, SPS IPC Drives, have announced that the event will be changing its name to SPS – Smart Production Solutions, from 2019 – the 30th anniversary of the show’s founding.

Brexit is a factor in Schaeffler’s plan to halve UK workforce

Schaeffler has announced plans to shut two of its three UK manufacturing plants: its Barden site in Plymouth, which produces spindle bearings and machine parts for its industrial division, as well as specialised bearings for the aerospace and defence industries; and its Llanelli site, which makes tappets and special-purpose bearings for automotive and industrial users. It also plans to transfer the activities currently undertaken at its logistics centre in Sutton Coldfield to its other UK logistics site in Hereford.

Extending OPC UA to the field level ‘will end fieldbus wars’

The OPC Foundation has announced plans to extend vendor-independent end-to-end interoperability down to field-level devices such as sensors and actuators. This is part of a wider initiative aimed at delivering an open, cohesive approach to implementing OPC UA, including TSN (Time-Sensitive Networking) and associated application profiles, with the ultimate aim of creating a global industrial interoperability standard that integrates field devices with the shop floor.

£600,000 lab will show how robots can solve users’ problems

Omron has opened a robotics innovation lab at its UK headquarters in Milton Keynes. The lab, which represents an investment of £600,000 with a creation of five new jobs, will show potential users how robots could enhance their applications.

New CT VSDs revive Commander name and green colour

Control Techniques has revived the Commander name and green colour for a new family of general-purpose variable-speed drives (VSDs) that will make their debut at the SPS IPC Drives show in Germany later this month. The easy-to-use Commander C200 and C300 drives will span ratings from 0.25–132kW and are claimed to have among the smallest footprints in their class, making them attractive to machine-builders and OEMs.

Cloud app boosts drive productivity and reliability

Siemens has announced a digital platform for evaluating and using data gathered from networked drive systems in ratings up to several megawatts. The cloud-based Sidrive IQ application is available for medium- and high-voltage motors and drives, and is claimed to open up an array of benefits, ranging from optimised maintenance and availability, to increases in productivity across the entire lifecycle.

Module allows safety and standard control on one network

Rockwell Automation has announced an optional module for its Allen-Bradley PowerFlex 755 and 755T AC drives that allows users to integrate safety and standard control systems on a single network using one controller. The Integrated Safety Functions Option Module offers safety functions based on IEC 61800-5-2 standards and can be used to monitor speed, direction and position on an EtherNet/IP network. Rockwell claims that it will cut hardware and installation costs, and boost productivity.

ABB invests $150m to build ‘most advanced robot factory’

ABB is investing $150m to build “the world’s most advanced, automated and flexible robotics factory” in Shanghai, China. The new Kangqiao manufacturing centre, located near ABB’s existing robotics campus, will combine the company’s connected digital technologies, collaborative robotics and innovative artificial intelligence research to create “the most sophisticated and environmentally sustainable factory of the future.” It is expected to start operating by the end of 2020.

Novel Hall sensor chip will ‘transform’ brushless DC motors

A Japanese chip-maker has developed a magnetic sensor IC (integrated circuit) that it predicts will “transform” the development, manufacture and performance of brushless DC motors. Ablic, located in Chiba City, claims that its ZCL Hall IC overcomes a weakness with existing bipolar Hall effect ICs, which cannot detect signals passing the 0mT (zero millitesla) south- and north-pole switching points, thus delaying the signal output.

Entry-level motor management system supports Profinet

Siemens has announced an entry-level, Profinet-enabled motor management device which monitors, protects and controls constant-speed motors and incorporates predictive maintenance functions. The compact Simocode pro V PN GP system is said to provide easy, economical motor management, and is suitable for direct-on-line, reversing and star-delta (wye-delta) starters, as well as for controlling soft-starters.

Boomtime for linear motion products leads to backlogs

A boom era of double-digit growth in sales of linear motion products is coming to an end, with the market about to enter a period of stable growth as demand starts to slow, according to a new analysis by IHS Markit. Global revenues for these products reached a record high of $7.9bn in 2017, and are expected to grow by a further 10.2% during 2018, due primarily to substantial backlogs in orders. Growth is then forecast to slow to 4.5% in 2019.

Germany’s Hahn Group buys Rethink's cobot technology

UPDATED: The German-led global automation and robotics specialist, Hahn Group, has acquired all of the patents and trademarks of the US-based collaborative robots (cobots) pioneer, Rethink Robotics, which recently announced that it was closing after operating for ten years. Hahn has also acquired Rethink’s Intera5 software platform which allows which users to program industrial robots “intuitively”. The terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

Deep learning machine vision camera is ‘the first’

Flir has announced “the industry’s first deep-learning, inference-enabled machine vision camera”. Called the Firefly, it uses deep learning for more accurate image analysis decisions, and faster, easier development.

Collaborative robot market ‘will grow by 60% in 2018’

The global market for collaborative robots (cobots) will expand by more than 60% this year, according to an upcoming report from the market researcher, Interact Analysis. The industry was worth less than $400m last year, but will reach almost $600m in 2018, it predicts. Furthermore, growth is likely to accelerate in future due to the wider availability of cobots from mainstream industrial robot vendors, greater awareness of the technology among SMEs, and the wider adoption of cobots by major OEMs. The analyst predicts that revenues will reach $7.5bn by 2027, and will represent about 29% of the industrial robot market by then.

Robotic box-builder can handle eight sizes, without changeovers

A US packaging machinery specialist claims to have developed the first machine that can randomly erect boxes of different shapes and sizes, without needing any changeovers. New Jersey-based Xpak says that its Coboxx case erector can handle up to eight different box sizes, without needing to make any manual adjustments or perform any programming. Users can add new sizes via software that allows them to input lengths, widths and heights.

OEM drive has ‘one of smallest footprints’ in its class

The Welsh drives-maker Invertek has developed a new variable-frequency drive (VFD) which it claims is one of the smallest in its class, allowing OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) to save panel space and cut machine costs. Called the Coolvert, the drive was launched at the recent Chillventa exhibition in Germany, alongside a new CO2 condenser controller from the Danish company, Reftronix.

Automation suppliers adopt new models for digitalisation

Industrial automation vendors are evolving to offer proprietary digital platforms using the Product-as-a-Service (PaaS) business model, according to a new report from Frost & Sullivan. It says that the trend towards digitalisation among end-users is prompting automation vendors to invest in IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) technologies, and they are now looking to integrate these technologies to complement their conventional automation systems and to give users better control.

Joystick device is ‘the easiest way to program a robot’

A Texas company claims to have come up with simplest and possibly the quickest way to program almost any industrial robot. Sisu, which describes itself as an “innovator of electromechanical machines and robotic automation”, says that its patent-pending Vudu programming system does not need robot programming expertise, and can be programmed by machinists, welders and other non-programming professionals.

Low-cost condition monitor is ‘a game-changer’

The UK condition monitoring specialist AVT Reliability has launched a “game-changing” low-cost, high-speed online condition-based monitoring (CBM) system that provides real-time management of rotating equipment.

$10m investment in QA start-up values it at $60m

Inspekto, the German-Israeli start-up which claims to be revolutionising vision-based quality assurance (QA), has attracted more than $10m of backing from German and Swiss financial and industrial investors, valuing the business at around $60m.

Rare-earth magnets from hard drives are re-used in motors

US researchers have succeeded in recovering rare-earth magnets from old computer hard drives and re-using them, without alteration, in motors. A second group of researchers has developed an acid-free technique for recycling rare-earth magnets and recovering more than 99% pure rare-earth elements.

‘UK manufacturers are not planning to cope with change’

UK manufacturers need to prioritise forward-thinking strategies to cope with an unprecedented amount of change in the sector, a new report from NatWest suggests. Based on interviews with senior personnel in 110 UK manufacturing companies with turnovers from £5–80m, Future Fit: Trailblazing in the Fourth Industrial Revolution looks at what makes a successful manufacturer, and reveals the views of the sector’s leaders.

Laser scanner calculates the volume of materials on belts

The German sensor-maker Sick has adapted a laser-scanning technology originally developed to measure the volume and mass of bulk materials travelling on belts in locations such as quarries, to smaller-scale applications such as monitoring foodstuffs and other materials in factories.

Industrial gearbox market heads above $30bn

The global market for industrial gearboxes will expand from $25.9bn in 2018 to $31.9bn by 2023 – a CAGR of 4.25% – according to a new report from the industry analyst, ASDReports. But it adds that a slowdown in industrialisation in Europe due to high labour costs, tough environmental standards and uncertainty over Brexit, could hinder growth in this region.

Tool helps to pinpoint causes of machine failures

Itris Automation, the French software firm that specialises in tools for verifying and troubleshooting PLC codes, has released a real-time diagnostics tool that helps to pinpoint the causes of breakdowns in PLC-controlled machines. Called ICS Monitoring, the tool helps users to find the origin of problems faster, thus reducing downtime.

Global sales of industrial robots double in five years

A record 381,000 industrial robots were shipped globally in 2017 – 30% more than in 2016 – generating revenues of $16.2bn – a 21% increase on 2016. This means that the annual sales volume of industrial robots has soared by 114% over the past five years (2013-2017).

Cobot pioneer Rethink Robotics shuts down

Rethink Robotics, the American pioneer of collaborative robots (cobots), is shutting down, with the loss of 91 jobs, after talks to sell the business collapsed at the last minute. The company is reported to have got into difficulties when a large Chinese order did not materialise after Rethink had customised its Sawyer cobot for the Chinese market.

Motor-drive analysers guide you through troubleshooting

Fluke has announced a pair of variable-speed drive (VSD) analysers designed to simplify the troubleshooting of complex motor-drive systems, and to save time. The portable Fluke MDA-510 and MDA-550 Motor Drive Analyzers incorporate graphical displays that guide users through the set-up procedure, while a report generator provides records of actions taken.

Direct-drive torque motors 'have half the cogging torque’

The CNC (computer numerical control) specialist NUM has launched a range of high-performance brushless torque motors which, it claims, display almost half of the cogging torque of rivals. The frameless, hollow-shaft TMX motors are said to be ideal for applications that need smooth, accurate rotation, especially at low speeds. Typical uses are expected to include direct-drive machine tools, rotary tables and radial positioning systems.

Microsoft releases Robot Operating System for Windows

Microsoft has announced an experimental release of the open-source Robot Operating System (ROS) for Windows. ROS is a set of libraries and tools that help to build complex robots, and is used in many robot projects around the world. Microsoft says that the development will bring the manageability and security of Windows 10 IoT Enterprise to ROS.

New Power-over-Ethernet spec triples power ratings

A new version of the IEEE’s Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) standard has added three new classes of operation and tripled the maximum amount of power that can be transmitted via Ethernet cables from 30W to 90W. According to the Ethernet Alliance, the ratification of IEEE 802.3bt - Amendment 2: Power over Ethernet (PoE) over 4 Pairs, “heralds a new era of robust market opportunity for PoE-enabled technologies”.

Emerson buys GE’s PLC business to broaden its portfolio

Emerson is buying General Electric’s Intelligent Platforms division, saying that GE’s PLC (programmable logic controller) technologies will enable it to offer its customers broader control and management of their operations. The terms of the deal have not been disclosed. It comes at a time when GE has been selling businesses to focus on its jet engine, power plant and renewable energy activities.

Thomas & Betts is reborn as ABB Installation Products

ABB has announced that its North American electrical products manufacturing operation Thomas & Betts will in future be called ABB Installation Products. ABB acquired the business for $3.9bn in 2012 and Thomas & Betts is one of 20 ABB-owned brands being migrated to the ABB name this year as part of its Next Level strategy.

Hydrogen-electric plane could carry 4 passengers 5,000km

A French-Singaporean specialist in hydrogen-based propulsion systems for drones has announced plans to develop world’s first hydrogen-electric passenger aircraft designed to serve regional routes. HES Energy Systems says that its Element One aircraft will be able to carry up to four passengers for distances of 500–5,000km, depending on whether it stores hydrogen in a gaseous or liquid form.

3D robot vision system can be picking ‘within minutes’

A Belgian company has developed a 3D robot vision system that, it claims, can be used to set up complex robotic picking operations in a few minutes, without needing to know a robot programming language. The Pick-It system will operate with robots from most major manufacturers and can identify, pick and place items from bins, trays, conveyor belts, buffer tables, pallets and shelves.

Commission aims to boost UK productivity and create jobs

A group of UK manufacturing business leaders and academics have joined forces with the government to create the Made Smarter Commission, which aims to make UK manufacturing “smarter”. The inaugural meeting of the commission, held on 27 September, was chaired by Siemens CEO Professor Juergen Maier and Business Secretary Greg Clark and follows the publication of the Made Smarter Review almost a year ago.

Barnes buys Italian robot tool specialist Gimatic for €370m

The US-based Barnes Group is expanding into the automation and robotics sector by buying the Italian automation and robotics supplier Gimatic for €370m ($435m) in cash. Barnes, whose existing activities include aerospace systems and services, moulding systems and gas springs, is buying Gimatic from its founder, Giuseppe Bellandi, and the European-Asian private equity firm Agic Capital and Xenon Capital Partners, who paid around €100m for the business in 2016.

‘Most accurate’ power meter can analyse four motors at a time

Yokogawa has developed what it claims is the world’s most accurate power analyser for evaluating the power consumption, loss and efficiency of electrical and electronic devices, including inverters. The WT5000 analyser boasts an accuracy of ±0.03% (±0.01% of reading and ±0.02% of range) at 44–66Hz, and can be extended using plug-in input modules to evaluate up to four electric motors simultaneously – an ability that is expected to appeal to developers of electric vehicles, among others.

Smart TV operating system will be applied to robots

The webOS operating system developed by South Korea's LG Electronics and used in more than 60 million of its smart TVs and digital displays, is going to be applied to other fields, including robotics, under a new partnership that LG has formed with the IT service provider, Luxoft.

Most UK industrial goods suppliers want to keep EU regs

A clear majority (83%) of UK manufacturers of industrial products want to continue regulatory alignment with the European Union after the UK leaves the EU, according to a new survey by Euris, the umbrella group of 13 British trade associations representing suppliers of industrial products.

$140m funding round is ‘biggest ever’ for industrial robotics

GreyOrange, a Singapore-headquartered business which specialises in AI-powered robotics systems for flexible automation in warehouses and fulfilment centres, claims to have attracted the largest round of funding ever raised by an industrial robotics company. The company will use the $140m of funds from Mithril Capital to develop the next generation of flexible supply-chain systems.

‘Tiniest tool-changer’ and first cobot gripper join range

Just two months after the Danish firm OnRobot was formed by merging three robotics accessories businesses, it has acquired another company – Purple Robotics, which has developed the world’s first gripper specifically designed for collaborative robots (cobots), as well as “the world’s lightest and smallest robotics tool-changer”.

AGV transports robot arm from one task to the next

Mitsubishi Electric and the British AGV (automatically guided vehicle) specialist Mirage have released more details of the mobile robot system that they demonstrated at the Smart Industry Expo in Birmingham, UK, earlier this year.

ABB launches UK cyber-security task force for automation

ABB UK has launched a dedicated team to tackle the growing cyber-security demands of sites that rely on industrial automation. The company is expanding its existing industrial cyber-security activities and adding multi-sector expertise to support operators both onsite and remotely.

Digital factory market ‘will be worth $111bn by 2026’

The digital factory market is expanding at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 35% and will be worth $111bn by 2026, according to a new report from ABI Research. Technologies included in its definition of “the digital factory” include PLCs, robots, motors and pumps.

Twin-spring flexible coupling needs no maintenance

A US couplings manufacturer has announced a new type of flexible coupling which, it claims, needs no maintenance. Twin Spring Coupling’s TSC500 coupling is made from two counter-wound torsion springs and has no internal components or bearings, resulting in a maintenance-free design that can work at larger angles than traditional universal, Cardan, beam, bellows or other flexible couplings, at both low and high speeds.

QA vision system can be set up in 'minutes’ without needing SIs

An Israeli-German company has developed a machine-vision-based QA (quality assurance) technology which, it claims, can be installed within minutes without needing systems integrators or the lengthy processes usually associated with setting up QA systems.

£5,500 delta robot can pay for itself within six months

The German engineering plastics specialist igus has combined several of its standard components – including maintenance-free belt drives, encoders, Nema stepper motors and lubrication-free link rods – to create a delta robot that costs less than half as much as some rival systems (which can exceed £20,000 or $26,000) and can pay for itself in around six months.

IIoT gateways provide optional smart functions

Beijer Electronics has announced a series of IIoT gateways, protocol converters and edge controllers that allow users to add optional smart functions. The BoX2 devices are said to solve the challenge of finding smart ways to access data and to bridge the gap between the worlds of automation and IT.

Megadyne and Ammeraal Beltech appoint a joint CEO

The belt-makers Megadyne and Ammeraal Beltech have appointed a Stijn Vriends as their combined CEO. His appointment follows the recent agreement by Partners Group, the global private markets investment manager, to acquire and merge both companies to create a full-service provider of industrial transmission and lightweight conveyor belts.

Researchers say they can cut rare-earth use in motors by 80%

German researchers say that they have found ways of reducing the amount of critical rare-earth materials needed to build electric motors by up to 80%. In a five-year project that has just ended, the researchers from eight Fraunhofer Institutes pooled their expertise to find ways of reducing the need for rare-earth materials by a combination of optimising manufacturing processes, developing new approaches to recycling, and looking for new materials that could replace rare-earths.

Nidec kicks off German 'shopping spree' with Graessner

The acquisitive Japanese motor-maker Nidec has bought the privately-owned German precision gear-maker MS-Graessner for an undisclosed sum. According to the Japanese news agency Nikkei, this the first of five acquisitions of German automation and robotics companies that Nidec is planning to make before March 2019, with a combined value of around 50 billion yen ($450m).

Danfoss buys Axco, Finnish maker of PM motor and generators

Danfoss is buying Axco-Motors, a Finnish manufacturer of large electric motors and generators – in ratings from 250kW up to 6MW – for applications such as renewable energy, marine vessels and off-highway vehicles. The financial terms of the deal have not been revealed.

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