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Consortium aims to speed progress on smart field devices

A group of automation, semiconductor and Web companies – including Schneider Electric, B&R Industrial Automation, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Analog Devices, Arm, Texas Instruments and Lattice Semiconductor – have come together to develop an open-source OPC UA over TSN (Time Sensitive Networking) stack that runs on the FreeRTOS open-source, real-time operating system for microcontrollers and microprocessors. They want to simplify and accelerate the development of efficient, smart and secure industrial field devices that comply with OPC UA FX (Field eXchange) and implement them across the manufacturing sector.

Software gives independence from fieldbus suppliers

A Swedish communications software specialist has developed a software-based way of implementing Profinet and EtherCat protocols on industrial equipment that, it says, will cut time and costs for device developers as well as freeing them from dependence from specific suppliers.

IE5 reluctance motors add liquid-cooled and hazardous area types

ABB has expanded its SynRM family of synchronous reluctance motors with two new models – one with liquid cooling, the other for hazardous areas – both boasting IE5 efficiency levels. ABB says the motors have up to 40% lower energy losses than IE3 motors and 20% lower losses than IE4 motors.

Servodrives give machine-builders more flexibility

At the recent SPS show, Trio Motion Technology launched a high-performance single-axis servodrive offering machine-builders increased design flexibility in a “cost-optimal” package. The DX3 drive is available in EtherCat and conventional control versions, with power ratings to 7.5kW, and in 200V and 400V versions.

IO-Link Safety gets first live multi-vendor demo at SPS

More than ten automation companies took part in the first live multi-vendor demonstration of IO-Link Safety at the recent SPS trade fair in Nuremberg. The demonstration covered all communication levels, from failsafe PLCs to IO-Link Safety masters and IO-Link Safety devices. According to the organisers, it was the first time that IO-Link Safety had been shown working with IO-Link Standard at a public event.

Software guides technicians through cabinet assembly

Eplan has announced an app that guides technicians step-by-step through the installation of components into cabinets, showing them where each component should be installed. Supported by 3D visualisation, the Eplan Smart Mounting software can even show inexperienced technicians where to place components.

Drives & Controls Show joins ‘industrial Glastonbury’ line-up

The Nineteen Group, the exhibition organiser which recently acquired the Drives & Controls Show and its sister events AirTech and Fluid Power & Systems from DFA Media, has announced that they will appear as “zones” at the Manufacturing & Engineering Week event at the NEC in June 2023, before returning as stand-alone exhibitions in 2024.

First 3D ToF camera opens up a new dimension in safety

The German sensor-maker Sick has launched what it describes as the world’s first 3D Time-of-Flight (ToF) camera that has PL c safety certification in accordance with EN13849. It says that by opening up a third dimension for safety applications, the safeVisionary2 camera will offer a wide range of new options for mobile and stationary applications, including the automation of mobile robots and human-robot collaboration.

Vision hardware complements software in single platform

At the recent SPS exhibition in Germany, Beckhoff unveiled a portfolio of machine vision hardware to complement the company’s TwinCat Vision software which has been available since 2017.

UK-developed soft-starters can be set up in under 60 seconds

At the SPS show in Germany, the Devon-based soft-starter developer Motortronics UK unveiled a low-voltage digital soft-starter with a duty range of up to 600V, 1,250A. The VMX-Synergy Plus starter includes 45 preconfigured parameters settings to suit a variety of applications, and can be set up and commissioned in less than 60 seconds. The device “tunes itself” to the load.

Chinese automation giant pushes into Europe

The Chinese automation and drives manufacturer Inovance is making a big push into the European market, spearheaded by its first public outing at the recent SPS show in Germany. Although its name may not be well-known outside China, the company already claims to be the world’s fifth-largest servodrive manufacturer and its eighth-largest LV AC drives supplier.

AI-based app optimises energy use of drive systems

At the recent SPS show in Germany, Siemens unveiled an enhanced version of its Analyze MyDrives Edge app with an AI-based function that calculates the energy consumption of an entire drive system without needing extra sensors or measuring devices. The app shows how efficiently a drive is running, what its energy consumption and operating costs are, as well as its carbon footprint. It can be used to optimise drive settings.

Open-source Arduino platform releases its first micro-PLC at SPS

Arduino, the open-source hardware and software microcontroller developer, announced its first industrial micro-PLC with industrial IoT capabilities at the recent SPS exhibition in Germany. The Opta controller has been developed in collaboration with the industrial component manufacturer Finder and is aimed at PLC engineers, offering them a scalable architecture based on a secure, high-performance, open-source platform that does not lock them into particular vendors. The PLC supports the standard LD (ladder) and FBD (function block) programming languages.

Vision sensors identify objects without experts

The German sensor-maker SensoPart has developed an image-processing system which, it says, can detect and differentiate items reliably without users needing to be machine vision experts. The Visor Object AI system implements an AI algorithm in the vision sensor, thus avoiding the need for network or cloud connections.

Siemens plans €3bn spin-off of large motors and drives

Siemens is planning to combine several businesses in its motors and drives portfolio to create an integrated motors and large drives supplier with joint revenues of around €3bn and around 14,000 employees. The business will target a global electrification and power conversion market that Siemens estimates is worth more than €20bn.

Government delays UKCA enforcement by two more years

The Government is delaying the compulsory use of the UK Conformity Assessed (UKCA) safety mark by a further two years, giving businesses until 31 December 2024 to prepare for the scheme. Announcing the delay, Business Secretary Grant Shapps said it will give “thousands of businesses the freedom to focus on growth”.

Amazon robot can identify ‘tens of millions’ of products

Amazon has announced a robotic system that can identify, select and handle around 65% of the more than 100 million items in its inventory. The robot, called Sparrow, uses a combination of computer vision and AI (artificial intelligence) to identify tens of millions of products of differing shapes and sizes, although it still has problems with items that have loose or complex packaging.

Emerson exits climate tech in $14bn deal to focus on automation

Emerson is selling a majority stake in its Climate Technologies business to the private equity firm Blackstone in a transaction that values the business at $14bn. Emerson plans to become a “pure play” global automation company serving a variety of markets. It claims that, together with AspenTech – the industrial software developer in which it took a 55% stake for $6bn earlier this year – it has the industry’s most comprehensive portfolio of advanced automation technologies and software.

Taiwan’s Yageo buys Telemecanique Sensors for €723m

The Taiwanese electronic component and service provider Yageo Corporation is buying Schneider Electric’s Telemecanique Sensors business in an all-cash deal that values the business at €723m ($729m). Schneider will grant Yageo a license to use the Telemecanique Sensors name, and Yageo will acquire the relevant patents.

UK manufacturers say digital spending is raising productivity

Almost 80% of UK manufacturers have increased their spending on digital technologies in the past two years, with a similar number planning to do so in the coming two, according to a new survey by the manufacturers’ association Make UK and the enterprise software specialist Infor.

Siemens’ Malaysian acquisition spawns electrical design SaaS

Following its recent acquisition of a Malaysian software developer, Siemens has launched a cloud-based electrical design package that, it says, will allow designers and engineers to create electrical schematics easier and faster, using any device, for a low monthly cost. The Capital Electra X product is being offered on a SaaS (software-as-a-service) basis and is aimed at SMEs (small to medium sized businesses).

Software automates controller backups and detects changes

The US software developer Copia Automation has released a cloud-based product that automates backup and change detection for industrial devices such as PLCs and robots. Called DeviceLink, it extends Copia’s existing source control platform which allows controls engineers to take advantage of DevOps workflows to boost team efficiencies, code quality and uptime. The platform is based on Git – a free, open-source version control system.

£21m investment slashes Eriks’ delivery times to a day or two

The industrial products supplier Eriks has invested £21m in its UK business, principally on a fulfilment centre in Oldbury that expands its product range as well as slashing its delivery times from an average of four days, to a day or two.

Applied Automation signs up to sell cobot screwdriving tools

Plymouth, UK based Applied Automation has signed a sole UK distribution agreement with the Danish collaborative robotics specialist, Spin Robotics, to sell its easy-to-use end-of-arm screwdriving tools for cobot-based assembly applications. Spin’s products will be added to Applied Automation’s industrial automation products supported and sold through its technical distribution division in Cardiff.

Tiny servodrive is the world’s ‘smallest and fastest’

The Spanish servodrive developer, Ingenia, claims to have produced the world’s smallest and fastest servodrive. Its 3kW Everest S drive has a starting weight of just 18 grams and is about 30% smaller than its predecessor. It is aimed at applications such cobots (collaborative robots), AMRs (autonomous mobile robots), exoskeletons, pan/tilt gimbals and surgical robots.

Automation platform will generate new business for OEMs

Lenze has announced an open automation platform that, it says, will help machine-builders to develop new business models and offer new digital services, without needing to be IT experts. The German automation supplier says that the platform, called Nupano, will let machine-builders take advantage of the opportunities arising from the convergence of operational technology (OT) at the machine control level with IT, to tap into new sources of revenue.

UK manufacturers plan to invest in skills, machinery and r&d

Six out of ten UK manufacturers are planning to invest more over the coming two years, with 69% planning to boost their investment in skills, 55% planning capital expenditure on plant and machinery, an 40% planning to spend money on R&D, according to a survey by the manufacturers' association, Make UK and the accountancy firm, RSM UK.

Software suite boosts collaboration and speeds time to market

Rockwell Automation has launched a suite of five cloud-based software applications aimed at improving collaboration and productivity in automation design teams. The FactoryTalk Design Hub suite allows organisations to transform their design capabilities using simpler, more productive ways of working. Teams of all sizes, skill sets and locations, can enhance collaboration, improve lifecycle management, and obtain on-demand access to the cloud-based software. The benefits are said to include more productive designs, faster times to market, and systems that cost less to build and maintain.

ABB’s smallest robot offers ‘class-leading’ payload and accuracy

ABB has unveiled its smallest-ever industrial robot, designed to fit into the tight spaces and special-purpose machines typical of electronics production. With a reach of 370mm and a footprint of 135 x 250mm, the new IRB 1010 is 30% smaller than ABB’s previous smallest robot, the IRB 120. It will increase the number of cells that can be fitted into production spaces, allowing manufacturers to boost output through higher density factory layouts.

Safety monitoring system allows rapid restarts

Banner Engineering has developed a system that makes it easier to obtain diagnostic data from machine safety devices. The In-Series Diagnostics (ISD) system allows users to troubleshoot safety systems, prevent faults and cut downtime by returning their installations to normal operation rapidly after a trip. The system can be used with standard safety devices or dedicated ISD devices.

‘Breakthrough’ motor will use low-loss magnetic material

An Australian start-up company is developing a new generation of smaller, lighter and more efficient electric motors based on a new magnetic material called Aeroperm which has energy losses one-tenth those of existing magnetic materials used in today’s electrical devices.

UK university launches motors and drives consultancy

The University of Nottingham has become the first UK institution to create an independent business for industrialising electrical motors and drive systems. The new Nottingham Drive Specialist Services (NDSS) will develop, manufacture and test motors and drives for companies around the world.

Industrial robot sales hit new high in 2021 – but UK sales fall

The number of industrial robots installed around the world hit last year an all-time high of 517,385, representing a 31% year-on-year expansion. The number was 22% higher than the pre-pandemic record of 422,000 reached in 2018, and took the total number of operational robots around the globe to a new record of around 3.5 million.

Matchbox-sized ToF sensor can detect tiniest items at 1.5m

The German sensor-maker SensoPart has developed a matchbox-sized time-of-flight sensor that, it claims, can detect the smallest objects at distances of up to 1.5 metres. The FT 25-RLHP sensor uses a red laser-generated light spot which, although tiny, is clearly visible, simplifying alignment.

Buying software by subscription ‘can cut upfront costs by 65%’

The UK industrial software developer Aveva is offering its products on a subscription model, allowing customers to buy “credits” which they can exchange for any items in Aveva’s portfolio. The subscriptions are available for periods of one to five years, and the credits are consumed on a monthly basis. Traditional sales yardsticks such as I/O and tag counts are no longer used.

60MW wind turbine test rig will be world’s most powerful

A team of 35 Danish engineers has started work on what will be the world’s most powerful test bench for wind power components when it is completed in 2024. The 60m-long test bench, incorporating two 30MW motors, and weighing 5,700 tonnes, will also be the world’s largest.

DFA Media sells the Drives Show but keeps the magazine

DFA Media Group has sold the Drives & Controls Show, and its co-located events – Plant & Asset Management, Fluid Power & Systems, Airtech and Smart Industry Expo – to Nineteen Group, which organises the annual Manufacturing + Engineering Week (M+E Week) event at the Birmingham NEC. The terms of the transaction have not been revealed.

Mars makes plans for cloud-based ‘factories of the future’

Mars, the global manufacturer of confectionery, food, and pet care products, which employs more than 140,000 people in more than 80 countries, has announced plans for a new cloud-based platform for its manufacturing, data-handling and artificial intelligence (AI) operations that will lay the foundation for its vision of the “factory of the future”.

Leadec buys Elmleigh to boost its parcels and F&B activities

Leadec, the German-headquartered service specialist for factories, has bought the UK process automation specialist and systems integrator, Elmleigh Electrical Systems, for an undisclosed sum. Elmleigh’s customers include some of the biggest names in the food and beverage and parcel distribution sectors in the UK and Europe.

Rockwell buys Danish modular switchboard specialist, Cubic

Rockwell Automation is buying Cubic, a Danish company that produces modular systems for constructing electrical panels. Rockwell says that combining Cubic’s flexible systems with its own intelligent devices and expertise will achieve faster times to market for intelligent motor controls, and help to generate smart data for users. The terms of the transaction have not been revealed.

Scalable motion controls support safety functions

Parker Hannifin has announced a pair of multi-axis motion controllers that combine machine logic, real-time motion control, safety functions and visualisation in a scalable format. The PAC120 and PAC340 controllers offer differing memory capacities, CPU performance, communication options and CNC functions to suit automation projects involving motion, synchronisation or positioning tasks.

UK’s £22m National Robotarium launches with Tata tie-up

The UK’s largest and most advanced r&d facility for robotics and artificial intelligence, the £22.4m National Robotarium, has opened its doors at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland. The centre has also announced an applied engineering and research collaboration with the multi-billion dollar company Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), covering joint research across disciplines including soft robotics, field robotics, cobots and tele-operations.

UK manufacturers battle with the City to attract digital skills

UK manufacturers are having to compete with the financial sector and other high-paying parts of the economy to recruit the data specialists that they need to drive the move to digitalisation. A new survey by the British manufacturers’ group Make UK and the accountancy firm Sage reveals that more than a quarter (27%) of UK manufacturers say that they now need data analysts to help them make the transition to the digital era.

ABB takes stake in Dutch machine monitoring specialist

ABB is taking a 10% stake in Samotics, a Dutch specialist in analysing the health of rotating machines, and has entered a long-term strategic partnership with the company to provide enhanced condition-monitoring services. They aim to reach the next level of condition-monitoring by co-developing advanced digital services focused on energy efficiency and operational resilience. As a first step, ABB will integrate Samotics’ plug-and-play monitoring technologies into its portfolio by the end of 2022 as part of its services for rotating equipment.

ABB rebrands AMR line-up following its purchase of Asti

Following its acquisition last year of the Spanish autonomous mobile robot (AMR) manufacturer Asti Mobile Robotics, ABB Robotics is rebranding its AMR portfolio under the Flexley name. The first models to be released, Flexley Tug and Flexley Mover, cover applications such as towing, trolley transportation for loads of up to 2,000kg, as well as lifting and transporting racks, containers, and pallets up to 1,500kg.

AI helps to slash motor design times from days to hours

Two Japanese companies – Mitsubishi Electric and Toshiba Mitsubishi-Electric Industrial Systems Corporation (TMEIC) – have developed an AI-based electric motor design support technology that, they claim, can cut typical motor design times from as long as three days to just three hours. They say that the technique will reduce lead times for future motor developments.

Cross-cutting function run on servodrives reacts faster

The German drives-maker Baumüller has integrated a cross-cutting function into one of its servodrives, thus achieving faster response times and greater precision.

Single-sensor safety positioning system is ‘the world’s first’

Leuze has announced a safety positioning system for applications such as stacker cranes that uses a single sensor to detect positions instead of the two needed previously.

SPS expects 1,100 exhibitors after three-year absence

The SPS (Smart Production Solutions) automation megashow will return to its Nuremberg venue in Germany in November for its first physical show since 2019, with the organisers hoping to attract around 1,100 exhibitors, compared to the 1,585 in 2019. Last year, the exhibition had to be cancelled at the last minute because of soaring Covid rates in Bavaria.

Robots will automate motor assembly at new winding centre

A technology centre due to open next year will help UK companies to deliver the next generation of electric motors. The Winding Centre of Excellence (WCE) is being set up by the Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG), part of the University of Warwick, and is being partly funded by £4m from UKRI’s (UK Research and Innovation) Driving the Electric Revolution Challenge programme. The WMG High Value Manufacturing Catapult (HVMC) is contributing a further £300,000.

BGEN buys Radway to boost its industrial automation activities

BGEN, the multi-discipline engineering business previously known as Boulting, has acquired Radway Control Systems to strengthen its industrial automation offering. The purchase will support BGEN’s ambition to expand in sectors including renewables and steel, and boost its presence in the automation aftermarket and service sector.

Aussie motor ‘doubles speed record’ and cuts rare-earths

Australian researchers have built a high-speed electric motor that, they claim, is much more robust that other IPMSMs (interior permanent magnet synchronous motors), while using far fewer rare-earth materials and being cheaper. The prototype motor has achieved speeds of 100,000 rpm, more than doubling the previous speed record for laminated IPMSMs, according to the developers.

Smart linear conveyor system sales will hit $1bn by 2026

The global market for “smart” production line conveyor systems – both linear and planar – is outpacing the general manufacturing and machinery market and will expand from $300m in 2021 to almost $1bn by 2026, according to new research by Interact Analysis. Sales grew by 27% in 2021 and are likely to expand by a further 36% this year, it reports. Over the period 2021-206, it expects the linear market to achieve a CAGR of 26.5%.

Firms plan to invest in automation, but training is lagging

An ABB survey of business leaders in Europe and the US has revealed that most are planning to invest in automation and to re-shore their manufacturing operations in the next few years. But another survey, also conducted by ABB, has discovered a lack of investment in the education and training needed to develop the skills needed for the increasingly automated and connected workplaces of the future.

Next-gen CNC system is ten times faster, and offers new drives

The CNC specialist NUM has launched a “radically new” CNC platform that combines CNC and PLC functions in one device, and is it claimed to set new performance benchmarks for machine control. Compared to the company’s previous Flexium+ CNC system, the new FlexiumPro platform is more than 10 times faster – from boot time and block-per-second execution, to axis control, PLC/CNC data exchange, robot and peripheral I/O interfaces. It is also said to offer significant advances in connectivity and reliability.

Royal Mint plant will be ‘first’ to turn waste PCBs into gold

The Royal Mint is building the world’s first plant designed to recover precious metals, including gold, from discarded electronic devices such as mobile phones. When fully operational in 2023, the plant, at the Mint’s secure site in South Wales, is expected to process up to 90 tonnes of UK-sourced circuit boards every week – producing hundreds of kilograms of gold per year which the Mint can use to produce coins. The venture will support around 40 jobs, helping existing employees to reskill, as well as recruiting new chemists and engineers.

Automatic robot configuration system cuts times by 80%

The Danish robotics developer OnRobot has demonstrated what it describes as the first software platform for configuring robotic applications automatically. It claims that the system, called D:Ploy, can cut the time it takes to deploy robots by up to 80%.

Timken buys GGB Bearings from EnPro for $305m

The Timken Company is buying the metal-polymer plain bearings producer GGB Bearing Technology from EnPro Industries for $305m in cash. Timken says that GGB’s expertise in plain bearing coatings complements its own strong positions in roller and ball bearings. GGB's products are used mainly in industrial applications, including pumps and compressors, HVAC, off-highway, energy, material handling and aerospace.

Routeco takes control of simulation specialist, AutoLogic

The Routeco Group has acquired a majority stake in AutoLogic Systems, the Tetsworth, Oxfordshire-based supplier of simulation products, consulting and related services. AutoLogic’s management team and employees will continue serve its customers and to develop the business further. Details of the deal have not been disclosed.

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