Drives and Controls Magazine
Home
Menu
UK robot sales fell by 3% in 2018 – while the EU grew by 12%

The number of industrial robots installed in the UK fell by 3% during 2018 to 2,306, according to the latest figures issued by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). This compares to a 31% spurt in growth recorded during 2017.

Scots contractor RSE takes a majority stake in Saftronics

The Scottish engineering and manufacturing contractor RSE (known until April this year as Ross-shire Engineering) has acquired a majority shareholding in the Leeds-based controls and switchboard manufacturer, Saftronics. The acquisition marks a further expansion for RSE as it develops its offering as a mechanical, electrical, instrumentation, controls and automation contractor serving municipal and utilitiy customers across the UK. The financial terms of the deal have not been revealed.

Mitsubishi buys Iconics and invests in Realtime Robotics

Mitsubishi Electric is acquiring the remaining shares in Iconics Inc, the US industrial software developer that focuses on Scada, IoT, mobile, analytics and cloud software products for the manufacturing, industrial and building-automation markets. Mitsubishi has held a 19.9% stake in Iconics since 2011, and the new deal will make the US business a 100% subsidiary. The financial details of the acquisition have not been revealed.

Automated print inspection system avoids nuisance stops

A UK coding and print inspection specialist AutoCoding Systems has collaborated with the sensor-maker Sick to develop what they claim is the first fully-automatic smart vision inspection system for printed coding and markings on food, pharmaceutical and other consumer goods packaging.

Collab combines vibration analysis and torque monitoring

Schaeffler and Bonfiglioli are collaborating on a technology that combines vibration analysis and torque monitoring. At the recent Hannover Fair, they demonstrated the TorqueTracking technology being applied to geared motors used as yaw drives for wind turbines. They are developing a pilot project that will use the combined technology to monitor overloading of these yaw drives, thus increasing maintenance intervals and allowing a change from fixed-interval to load-based maintenance.

Software integrates machine learning and drive programming

Beckhoff has integrated a real-time machine learning (ML) capability into its TwinCat 3 automation software. It says that the ML technology is powerful enough to handle advanced tasks such as motion control, and predicts that it will open up new possibilities and optimisation potential in areas such as predictive maintenance, anomaly detection, collaborative robotics, automated quality control, and machine optimisation.

€7.4m software r&d centre doubles Pilz’s presence in Ireland

The industrial safety and automation specialist Pilz has opened a €7.4m software development centre in Cork, Ireland, where it will develop engineering tools used to plan, design, program and visualise automation systems. The centre, which will house 120 employees in Pilz’s software product research and development division, doubles the size of the company’s campus on the Cork Business and Technology Park.

Scottish firm wins €5,000 prize for pipe inspection system

A Scottish company has beaten off competition from 445 entries from 32 countries to win this year’s €5,000 manus award for innovative uses for high-performance plastic bearings. Aberdeen-based ToolTec received the award from igus at the recent Hannover Fair.

Project will develop electric propulsion for UK airship

The UK is leading a £1m project to develop electric propulsion technologies for aircraft, using a helium airship as the initial platform. The E-HAV1 project aims to develop a 500kW electric propulsor for the Airlander 10 airship which is being developed by Bedford-based Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV). The intention is to replace the craft’s existing fuel-burning forward engines as the first step towards an all-electric version of the craft.

Fieldbus sales go into reverse as Ethernet continues to boom

Sales of industrial fieldbus nodes fell for the first time last year, as industrial Ethernet continued to establish its dominance of industrial networking, according to the latest annual survey of the market by the Swedish industrial networking supplier, HMS Networks.

Bookshelf inverters can be extended using plug-in modules

The German drives manufacturer Nord has announced a range of cabinet-mounting inverters whose functions can be extended using plug-in control, safety and option modules. The bookshelf-format Nordac Pro SK 500p inverters span ratings from 0.25–5.5kW and can be mounted side-by-side inside cabinets.

Laser distance sensor ‘represents a new generation’

The German sensor-maker SensoPart claims that a new laser-based triangulation sensor represents a new generation of distance sensors. The FT 55-RLAM sensor, available with operating ranges up to 1m, can detect surfaces from black to shiny. It is equipped with an analogue output, two switching outputs, an IO-Link interface and an optional RS-485 port.

IIoT technology 'closes the factory-cloud gap'

HMS Networks has announced a technology that, it says, will close the gap between the factory floor and the cloud, allowing manufacturers to implement the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) in an easy and secure way. The new “end-to-end” concept, combines Anybus Edge gateways that connect to industrial hardware, with HMS’ Hub, which provides secure data connections and integration wth IoT software, as well as a customisable Hub portal with data management and visualisation functions.

Smart sensor checks the condition of pillow block bearings

ABB has adapted its smart sensor technology, previously used to monitor the condition of electric motors, to help users of pillow block bearings to minimise downtime.

Schaeffler sale saves UK bearings-maker Barden from closure

The Schaeffler Group has agreed to sell The Barden Corporation (UK), located in Plymouth, UK, to another German bearings manufacturer, HQW, for an undisclosed sum. The Plymouth plant will continue to operate without significant changes for employees or customers, and Barden will remain a supplier to Schaeffler as well as to third-party customers.

Schaeffler and Mitsubishi join forces on digitalisation

Mitsubishi Electric and Schaeffler Technologies have formed a global strategic partnership that will build on existing collaborations between the two companies under Mitsubishi’s e-F@ctory Alliance, which they have both been members of since 2010.

Inverters offer a choice of three duty ratings

Omron has announced a new series of high-performance frequency inverters for induction and permanent magnet motors, that include an auto-tuning function said to maximise PM motor performance, leading to energy savings. In addition to the normal-duty (ND: 150% overload for 1 minute, or 200% for 3 seconds) and low-duty (LD: 120% for 1 minute, 150% for 3s) capabilities of the previous RX series, the new RX2 inverters add a very-low duty (VLD: 110% for 1 minute, 120% for 3s) rating, widening their range of applications.

Hadfield succeeds Bottomley as Rockwell UK leader

Phil Hadfield has been appointed sales director of Rockwell Automation in the UK, succeeding Mark Bottomley, who has been promoted to the role of regional sales director, North, for Rockwell’s EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) region. Hadfield, who was previously Rockwell’s UK utilities and transport sales manager, has been with the company since 2005 and brings 20 years of automation sales experience to the job.

AI module plugs into controls to spot production problems

Rockwell Automation has announced an add-on module for its ControlLogix controllers that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to detect production anomalies and alert workers so they can investigate or intervene. The FactoryTalk Analytics LogixAI module fits into a controller chassis and streams control data over the backplane to build predictive models. It can monitor production operations continuously, detecting any anomalies.

AC microdrives promise up to 6% more energy saving

Yaskawa has introduced a series of AC microdrives which, it claims, can achieve energy savings that are up to 6% higher than other drives. The GA500 drives span ratings from 0.2–30kW, and can be used to control permanent magnet and synchronous reluctance motors, as well as induction machines, without needing comprehensive tuning.

Hitachi buys US robotics SI, JR, for $1.4bn

Hitachi is buying the leading US-based robotic systems integrator (SI), JR Automation Technologies, for $1.425m (around ¥158.2bn) to strengthen its factory automation activities in North America and elsewhere. JR, founded in 1980, builds production lines and logistics systems that use industrial robots. It employs more than 2,000 people at 23 locations worldwide and has expanded its revenues by more than 20% a year for the past three years to reach $603m in 2018.

Novanta adds Ingenia servodrives to Celera motion business

US-based Celera Motion, part of the Novanta Corporation, has acquired Ingenia Motion Control, the Spanish developer of servodrives and control software. Ingenia will be integrated into Novanta’s Precision Motion group and become part of its Celera Motion business, which also includes Applimotion direct-drive motors and actuators, MicroE optical encoders, Westwind air bearings and spindles, and UK-based Zettlex inductive encoders, which Novanta acquired in 2018.

Control and load management combo slashes OEM costs

At the recent Hannover Fair, Schneider Electric announced a cloud-linked controller and digital load management combination which, it claims, will give OEM machine-builders an “unprecedented” ability to integrate IIoT (the Industrial Internet of Things) rapidly into new and existing machines. When used together, the Modicon M262 logic and motion controller and the TeSys multifunctional load management system are said to slash commissioning and servicing times by about half.

Event will look at digitalisation in the food & bev sector

Leading experts on the food and beverage industry have been lined up for a one-day conference next month that will examine the issues involved in bringing digitalisation to the sector. Called Demystifying the jargon: How to make the digitalisation transition, the conference will take place on 22 May at the National Conference Centre, Birmingham.

Manufacturers on Windows XP are risking their systems

Many manufacturers are facing an increased risk of cyber-attacks due to their continuing use of old versions of Windows – especially Windows XP – which are no longer receiving security updates, according to the cyber-security analyst, Trend Micro. In a new report, Trend also warns that the closer links between IT (information technology) and shopfloor networks that are essential to Industry 4.0 are posing increased risks to production processes and intellectual property.

Wilson moves from ABB to become MD of KUKA UK

Mike Wilson, one of the highest profile advocates of industrial robots in the UK, has been appointed managing director of KUKA UK. Wison was previously ABB Robotics’ business development manager for the UK and Ireland, and has been chairman of the British Automation and Robot Association (Bara) since 1994.

Microsoft and BMW want to open up manufacturing tech

Microsoft and the BMW Group have launched an initiative aimed at speeding up innovation in the manufacturing sector and making it more cost-effective. The Open Manufacturing Platform (OMP) is designed to break down barriers caused by proprietary systems, and to create an open technology framework backed by a cross-industry community.

Industry group wants 80% of machines to speak same language

A group of European suppliers of equipment and software for smart factories have formed an alliance that wants to ensure that 80% of the machines in smart factories will speak the same language. The Open Industry 4.0 Alliance, whose founders include Beckhoff, Endress+Hauser, Hischer, ifm, Kuka and SAP, is committed to offering an open “ecosystem” and framework to achieve interoperability between equipment.

Timken buys Diamond Chain to expand portfolio

The bearings and power transmission manufacturer Timken has acquired The Diamond Chain Company from Amsted Industries for an undisclosed amount. US-headquartered Diamond Chain supplies high-performance roller chains for industrial markets. In the 12 months ended 31 March, 2019, Diamond Chain posted sales of more than $60m.

AMTC-Lloyds deal supports SME apprenticeships

The Coventry-based Advanced Manufacturing Training Centre has partnered with Lloyds Bank to offer financial support to recruit and train manufacturing apprentices.

3D laser sensor handles reflective and diffuse surfaces

The Canadian 3D scanning specialist LMI Technologies has developed a laser line profile sensor which, it claims, is unique in its ability to scan both reflective (specular) and diffuse surfaces simultaneously. For example, the Gocator 2512 sensor can generate a precise 3D scan of a mobile phone’s cover glass in a surrounding metal or plastic frame, inspecting critical parameters such as flushness, gap and offset.

Drives & Controls stays ahead of its rivals

Drives & Controls once again has the largest circulation of any UK magazine in its sector, according to the latest analysis by the independent circulation auditing organisation, ABC. And, for the first time, every one of Drives & Controls’ 18,019 copies are going to readers who have asked individually to receive them.

Industrial Ethernet network and cable tester is ‘the first’

Ideal Networks has launched what it claims is the first purpose-built, handheld network tester for commissioning, maintaining and troubleshooting Profinet and standard Ethernet IP networks, using either copper of fibre optics. The rugged NaviTek IE troubleshooter simplifies testing of both cabling and networks that use the Profinet protocol. Ideal says that, previously, a laptop with specialist software has been needed to identify and test network nodes and for configuration.

Cyber-flaw could allow hackers to halt Rockwell drives

US cyber-researchers have found a software flaw in some Rockwell Automation variable-speed drives that could be exploited to manipulate the drive’s operation or to stop it remotely. The “denial of service” bug in PowerFlex 525 drives with embedded Ethernet I/P could allow a cyber-attacker to crash the Common Industrial Protocol (CIP) so that it will not accept any new connections. The current connections would, however, remain active, allowing potential attackers to take control of the drive.

Small enclosures will be built in €250m Industry 4.0 factory

At the 2019 Hannover Fair, Rittal has unveiled a new generation of the world’s best-selling range of small and compact enclosures, designed to meet the needs of the digital era. The new AX (compact) and KX (small) enclosures are being built in a brand-new €250m factory – the biggest investment in Rittal’s history – that will operate on Industry 4.0 principles, allowing the company to deliver custom-built enclosures to German customers within 24 hours of them placing an order. Elsewhere in Europe, it will take 48 hours.

UK start-up attracts $7.4m to back £4,990 industrial robot

A British robot developer has attracted $7.4m in funding to back the launch of what it describes as the first desktop robot for industrial use. London-based Automata has been working on its six-axis Eva robot since it was founded in 2015, and is now offering the lightweight, user-friendly robotic arms for £4,990 ($6,535) ­– about a quarter of what some mainstream robot manufacturers charge for a similar machine.

$4.5m funding will help to market ‘revolutionary’ motor

A US start-up has raised $4.5m to help market a “revolutionary” electric motor that uses multiple rotors in “ways never before devised” and can adapt to conditions while in motion. Compared to the best permanent magnet motors, Linear Labs claims that its Hunstable Electric Turbine (HET) motor delivers twice the torque density, three times the power density, and twice the output for a given motor size.

Non-contact vibration sensors will open up new uses

An Israeli company has developed a non-contact, laser-based sensing technology that measures the vibrations emitted by industrial machinery to predict and prevent mechanical failures before they occur. VocalZoom says that because its sensors can monitor machine health without touching the equipment, they will have a much wider range of applications than traditional predictive maintenance systems, as well as avoiding the deployment and downtime costs associated with fixed sensors.

Tiny plug-in servodrive is ‘the world’s smallest’

The Spanish motion control specialist Ingenia claims to have produced the world’s smallest plug-in servodrive module. Its Earth drive has a footprint of 29 x 19mm and is aimed at applications such as robotics end-effectors, cutting tools, drills and medical devices.

Soft robotic gripper can lift items 100 times its weight

Researchers in the US have developed a robotic gripper that’s soft and strong. The cone-shaped structure, called Magic Ball, collapses in on objects and can pick up items that are 100 times its weight. The gripper can grasp objects ranging from soup cans and wine glasses, to single florets of broccoli.

HMS takes control at German IIoT firm, WEBfactory

Swedish-based HMS Industrial Networks AB, a subsidiary of HMS Networks AB, has acquired 74.9% of the shares in the German company WEBfactory, which provides Web-based software for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

UK and Ireland VSD hire fleet has ‘the widest coverage’

ABB has launched a fleet of low-voltage variable-speed drives (VSDs) that are available for hire from locations across the UK and Ireland. It claims that it is offering the widest geographical coverage of any VSD leasing scheme in the UK.

Liquid-cooled, 690V and crane drives debut at Hannover

At the Hannover Fair in April, Mitsubishi Electric will be showing extensions to its portfolio of frequency converters, including 690V models in ratings up to 630kW, a liquid-cooled series for use in harsh operating conditions, and high-performance drives dedicated to crane and winding applications.

Automated loading of parcels into trucks tackles ‘the last mile’

Trials have begun of a system that can load parcels automatically into delivery trucks, thus reducing the amount of manual work needed, and saving time. The system, called PackMyRide, has been developed by the supply chain specialist, Dematic, and is being tested in a pilot project at distribution centre operated by the delivery company DPD in Nagold, Germany.

Mitsubishi reveals ‘first’ 102 products to support CC-Link TSN

Mitsubishi Electric has announced the release of 102 factory automation products that will be the first to support the next-generation CC-Link IE TSN industrial network that was announced at the end of 2018. The products – which include PLCs, servo amplifiers, robots, HMIs, inverters and CNCs – will start to reach the market in May 2019. They will include 65 new-generation servodrives and seven motion controllers.

ABB ties up with Dassault and unveils new structure

ABB has formed a global software partnership with Dassault Systèmes and revealed details of its global reorganisation following its recent decision to sell its Power Grids business to Hitachi. The company’s focus will now be predominantly on the industrial sector with more than half of its almost 2018 revenues of $30bn coming from its automation, motion, robotics and discrete automation activities, which make up three of the four businesses in its new structure – the fourth being electrification.

Pneumatic ‘hand’ and ‘arm’ can collaborate safely with humans

Festo has unveiled its latest nature-inspired technologies: a pneumatically-operated “hand” and “arm” which can interact safely with people. Both will make their public debut at next month’s Hannover Fair.

Module links existing motors to the cloud for analysis

Siemens has announced plans for a technology that will transmit data from existing electric motors directly to the cloud for analysis, without needing any structural modifications. At next month’s Hannover Fair, the company will demonstrate a module that will allow plant operators to view the operational status of their drive systems and to plan servicing schedules, improve efficiency, as well as extending service lives. Typical applications will include pumps, fans and compressors.