Drives and Controls Magazine
UK joins pledge to double motor system efficiencies by 2030

Ten countries, including the UK, have pledged to double the efficiency of their electric motor systems and those of three other technologies – air-conditioners, refrigerators and lighting – by 2030. The countries are members of an initiative called Sead (Super-efficient Equipment and Appliance Deployment) that promotes the production, purchasing and use of energy-efficient equipment worldwide. Of Sead’s 21 participating governments, fewer than half have so far committed themselves to doubling equipment efficiencies by 2030 – a target which Sead admits is “ambitious”.

VW installs 5G network, paving way to smarter plants

Volkswagen has commissioned a standalone 5G wireless network at its main plant in Wolfsburg, Germany, to test whether 5G meets the demands of vehicle production, before adopting the technology more widely in the future. One scenario being tested during the pilot phase will be to upload data wirelessly to manufactured vehicles. With increasing levels of digitisation in vehicles, large amounts of data need to be transmitted to cars during production. 5G will make it possible to perform this much faster, and at any time during production.

Acoustic imager detects changes in sounds from plants

Fluke Process Instruments has announced its first acoustic imager – a device that can detect, locate and visualise air and gas leaks, or spot changes in sound signatures in processes and equipment in real-time, before they become costly problems. Using an array of sensors, the SV600 imager translates sounds into a visual representation, allowing users to locate and quantify problem areas quickly.

Is Siemens planning to sell off its large drives business?

Siemens is spinning off its large drives applications (LDA) business as a separate legal entity, before possibly selling the operation or forming a partnership with another company. According to the German newspaper Handelsblatt, the creation of LDA as a separate entity could be the first step towards divestiture. The operation is one of several businesses that Siemens has said it wants to improve or sell off.

Low-cost kit allows anyone to monitor machine OEE levels

Turck Banner is offering a starter kit that will help factory managers to improve OEE (overall equipment effectiveness) levels at a price and simplicity that, it says, will allow anyone to reap the benefits. The Production Performance Monitoring (PPM) kit consists of a battery-powered wireless sensor, a controller and a three-month cloud connection. It is aimed at first-time users and includes everything needed to monitor a machine and receive warnings if its throughput falls.

3D collision-avoiding sensor works like bat echolocation

A German start-up has developed a 3D collision-avoidance sensor that mimics a bat’s echolocation techniques. Munich-based Toposens, founded in 2015, says that existing sensor technologies based on radar, ultrasound or cameras, can be negatively impacted by lighting conditions or moisture. By comparison, its Echo One DK generates robust, real-time 3D echo location data to guide autonomous systems in a variety of applications. The IP67-protected sensor is said to be particularly robust, tolerating dirt and not being affected by dust, smoke or mist.

Multi-carrier digital twins will speed machinery set-ups

Schneider Electric has announced a multi-carrier system for transporting, grouping and positioning products in industrial operations. It claims that the Lexium MC12 system will boost the performance and flexibility of automated machinery by up to 50%, cut installation and commissioning times by up to half, and reduce design times and time-to-market by up to 30%.

Advanced Engineering show returns to NEC after two years

The Advanced Engineering UK show will return to the NEC, Birmingham on 3 and 4 November, 2021 for the first time in almost two years.

Schneider’s first UK smart factory pays for itself in under a year

Schneider Electric has invested £300,000 in its plant in Flint, North Wales, upgrading it to become its first smart factory in the UK. The project has transformed the site from being one of the company’s least efficient UK premises, to becoming its most productive in Europe. The investment paid for itself in less than a year.

30-tonne rack-and-pinion is ‘world’s most powerful’

A Swedish manufacturer has developed what it claims will be the world’s most powerful rack-and-pinion drive, capable of handling loads of more than 30 tonnes. Stockholm-based Cascade Drives believes that its “pioneering” electromechanical actuator technology has many advantages over hydraulic-based systems, including better pressure stabilisation in pumping applications, reduced need for maintenance, a lower risk of contamination by hydraulic fluid leaks, and energy savings of up to 60%.

Speckle-free laser doubles 3D image processing speeds

Cognex claims to have eliminated the speckle effect from laser lines, thus improving triangulation-based 3D imaging. It has incorporated its patented speckle-free technology into an embedded vision system which, it says, can achieve inspection speeds twice as fast as rival products.

Industrial edge 'first' will accelerate journey to I 4.0

Nokia has launched what it describes as industry’s first off-the-shelf, mission-critical industrial edge, designed to accelerate the journey to Industry 4.0 for asset-intensive sectors such as manufacturing, energy and transportation, helping them to digitalise their operations with high performance, reliability and security. The scalable Nokia MX Industrial Edge (MXIE) addresses a new category of I4.0 applications that require increased capabilities and performance at the network edge, and tight integration with industrial and networking systems.

UK coil-winding tech ‘could transform motor production’

UPDATED:  A UK company has developed a coil-winding machine that allows rectangular wire to be formed on its edge, and used instead of multi-turn round-wire windings. Electrified Automation, based in Bridgwater, Somerset, believes that this development will transform the way that electric motors are manufactured at scale.

Belfast digital testbed will boost smart manufacturing

A £500,000 digital testbed, aimed at creating a step change in smart manufacturing, is being built at Queen’s University Belfast to help develop new technologies and opportunities for local businesses. The project – a collaboration between Queen’s, BT and Cisco – is part of a co-investment to create a 5G-enabled digital factory.

I/O module is first based on Raspberry Pi RP2040 chip

The Italian automation developer Sfera Labs has announced the first industrial product based on the Raspberry Pi RP2040 microcontroller chip, which was released earlier this year. The Iono RP is a compact programmable I/O module said to combine the ease of use of the Raspberry Pi, with a choice of digital and analogue input and output interfaces. The result is a rugged, safe, reliable and easy-to-connect module in a compact DIN-rail case that can be installed in cabinets or integrated into automation systems.

Long-life plastic bearings avoid risks of explosions

Igus has developed a maintenance-free plastic material for food industry plain bearing applications, that is designed to withstand friction and high temperatures, and to dissipate electrostatic charges, thus reducing the risk of explosions and shocks to operators. In laboratory tests, bearings made from the new iglidur AX500 tribopolymer material, rotating on stainless-steel shafts, exhibited up to three times less wear and tear than bearings based on the earlier A500 material.

Novanta buys Schneider Electric Motion for $115m

Novanta, the US-based industrial conglomerate whose businesses include Celera Motion and ATI Industrial Automation, has bought US-based Schneider Electric Motion for $115m in cash and renamed it Novanta IMS. It specialises in brushless motors, integrated motor drives and electronic controls.

UK could create 1.2m green manufacturing and construction jobs

Around 1.2 million green jobs could be created in the UK’s manufacturing and construction sectors by 2050 – but only if the Government provides the right help, such as introducing a green skills tax credit to encourage manufacturers to upskill more of their staff – according to a new report from the manufacturers’ body, Make UK, and the business management specialist, Sage.

Lease a cobot from £450 per month with no upfront payment

Universal Robots (UR) has launched a leasing scheme that will allow SME manufacturers in the UK and Ireland to lease a cobot (collaborative robot) from £450 per month, with nothing to pay until 2022. The aim is to cut the costs of introducing automation for SME manufacturers by avoiding the need for an upfront capital investment.

Yasa spins off axial motor company to target aerospace uses

It has emerged that before Yasa, the British developer of axial-flux electric motors, was acquired by Mercedes-Benz earlier this year, it spun off a new company dedicated to developing and manufacturing electric motors and power electronics specifically for aerospace applications.

Automation firm founder becomes Japan’s richest man

Takemitsu Takizaki, who founded the sensor and controls manufacturer Keyence in in 1974, has become Japan’s richest man with an estimated fortune worth $38.2bn – putting him ahead of the previous frontrunner Tadashi Yanai, who founded the clothing giant Uniqlo and has lost $9.7bn in the past year, leaving him with a mere $35.5bn.

$1.6bn start-up’s software will ‘liberate’ manufacturers

Bright Machines, the US automation start-up that was valued at $1.6bn when it announced its intention to go public earlier this year, has released a software package “that liberates manufacturers from the constraints of traditional factory automation and introduces a new self-service capability that enables flexible automation at greater speed and lower cost”.

Industrial growth hits record highs, but NI hike could hit plans

UK manufacturers hit record levels of output and orders in the third quarter of 2021 and are set to recover almost all of the 10% decline in output they suffered during 2020, according to the latest Manufacturing Outlook survey published by the manufacturers’ association Make UK and the business advisory firm BDO, who are now predicting that the manufacturing sector will expand by 7.1% during 2021 – slightly down on their earlier forecast of 7.8%. The output volumes are the highest in the survey’s history.

Aerotech sets up precision metrology offshoot

Aerotech, the US-headquartered manufacturer of precision motion control and positioning systems, has set up a subsidiary dedicated to designing and building equipment for accurate surface measurement applications. Called Peak Metrology, and based at Aerotech's Pittsburgh headquarters, it will draw on the company’s expertise in positioning systems, but will focus on surface measurement applications, offering product development, engineering, installation and training services.

Demo shows SPE operating over 400m of twisted-pair cable

A US developer of network infrastructure technologies has demonstrated 10Base-T1L Single-Pair Ethernet (SPE) operating over 400m of balanced twisted-pair copper cabling. Connecticut-based Siemon says that the demonstration, at a conference in Las Vegas, is “a milestone step” in confirming SPE’s ability to bring Ethernet network connections – including operation over a standardised, non-proprietary cabling infrastructure – to a wide range of devices operating at 10Mb/s or less, such as sensors, actuators and relays.

John Lewis pilots flexible robotic storage system

ABB has announced a robotic storage system that can sequence, buffer, store and consolidate a wide variety of items for organisations of all sizes. It says that the FlexBuffer cell will bring new levels of flexibility to sectors including logistics, food and beverage, consumer packaged goods and retailing.

Rolls-Royce’s world record bid electric plane takes off

Rolls-Royce has flown its all-electric Spirit of Innovation aircraft for the first time. The craft – with which the company hopes to set a new world speed record for electrically powered planes – took off from the UK Ministry of Defence’s Boscombe Down site on 15 September and flew for about 15 minutes.

Siemens and UK university plan ‘smartest campus’

Siemens has joined forces with the UK’s University of Birmingham to make its Edgbaston and Dubai campuses the world’s smartest, using a combination of digital sensor and analytics technologies, AI (artificial intelligence), decentralised energy generation and storage, renewable energy and other technologies. They say they are creating a “living laboratory” where research, teaching and learning will benefit from access to data and connectivity.

Coupling tackles misalignments and dampens vibrations

KTR has launched a shaft coupling which, in addition to transmitting power, compensates for misalignments and dampens torsional vibrations. The torsionally flexible Rolflex coupling is available in two designs (N and SH Split) and seven sizes with torque ratings from 65–790Nm. Another five sizes will be added by the middle of 2022, extending the range up to 5kNm.

Tests start on 2MW aircraft motor that is ‘twice as powerful’

Wright Electric, a US company developing zero-emission commercial aircraft, has started to test a 2MW electric motor that it plans to use in the 186-passenger Wright 1 all-electric aircraft that it hopes will enter service in 2030 with a range of 800 miles (1,287km). The 2MW motor is twice as powerful as any other aircraft motor to date, and has a specific power of 10kW/kg – said to be twice as high as previous motors.

BAe’s factory of the future could halve aircraft project costs

BAe Systems is creating a “factory of the future” in the UK where it is bringing together advanced manufacturing technologies with the aim of cutting the cost and timescales of aircraft development – possibly by half. The technologies are initially being applied to the development and production of Tempest, the UK’s next-generation combat aircraft.

UK 5G sensors are first to connect to factory devices

Engineers at the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) North West have designed and built a native 5G sensor designed to unlock the low latency and productivity potential of 5G in manufacturing.

Hackers ‘can access networks at 91% of industrial companies’

A Russian cyber-research firm, Positive Technologies has reported that industrial companies were the second-most targeted sector by cybercriminals during 2020, and found that external attackers can penetrate corporate networks at 91% of industrial organisations. “Penetration testers” working for the company were able to access to the ICS (industrial control system) networks at 75% of these companies.

UK government delays UKCA marking by a year

The UK Government has announced that businesses will have an extra year before they have to start using the UKCA (UK Conformity Assessed) marking on their products rather than the familiar CE mark. Originally, UK businesses were told that they would have to start using the UKCA mark at the end of 2021 but this has now been delayed until 1 January 2023.

Process recovers 98% of rare-earths from assembled motors

The car-maker Nissan has tied up with researchers at a Japanese university to develop a process for recovering rare-earth materials from electric motor magnets. They have started testing the process with the aim of making it a commercial reality by the mid-2020s.

UK project leads world in industrial 5G slicing and splicing

In what they claim is a world first, UK developers have begun testing an industrial 5G networking technology that “slices” and “splices” networks, allowing users to create multiple virtual networks that can be customised according to specific services and traffic levels needed. The networks can therefore be optimised to meet the needs of different processes to improve efficiency, performance and business output.

Covid has been ‘game-changing’ for UK manufacturers

A survey of 250 large and SME manufacturers in the UK has revealed that almost all (90.8%) believe that the Covid-19 pandemic has been “game-changing” for their businesses, and that 81.2% are considering investing in robots because of recent events.