Drives and Controls Magazine
PCB-stator motor with IE5 efficiency will debut in June

Infinitum Electric, the US company which has patented a new design of motor that uses PCBs (printed circuit boards) instead of copper windings for its stators, has announced that its first commercial product – a 15hp (11.2kW) motor aimed at HVAC plenum fan applications – will start shipping in June. The IoT-enabled IEx series motors are said to be a third of the size and weight of conventional motors, while delivering class-leading efficiency and IoT capabilities.

Eaton sells its hydraulics business to Danfoss for $3.3bn

Eaton is selling its hydraulics business Danfoss for $3.3bn in cash, boosting the size of to the Danish group by about one third. The business, which accounted for 86% of Eaton’s hydraulics revenues in 2019, is a global leader in hydraulics components, systems, and services for industrial and mobile equipment.

AES buys Dutch condition monitoring firm to add to AVT

AES Engineering, based in Rotherham, UK, has acquired the Dutch reliability and vibration monitoring specialist Van Geffen, for an undisclosed sum. Van Geffen, which specialises in preventing and solving of problems with machinery, foundations and structures, will join AES’ condition-monitoring subsidiary, AVT Reliability Group, located in Cheshire, UK.

IP67 protection opens up new uses for ABB’s smallest, fastest robot

ABB has announced an IP67-rated version of its smallest and fastest industrial robot – the IRB 1100 – as well as a matching IP54-protected controller. The IP67 protection will allow the robot to be used in applications that generate dust, water and debris, such as polishing, wet grinding, buffing and deburring.

Rockwell buys Avnet to boost its cyber-security capabilities

Rockwell Automation is buying the Israeli cyber-security provider Avnet Data Security for an undisclosed sum. Avnet, founded in 1995, offers IT/OT (information technology/operational technology) cyber-services including assessments, penetration testing, network and security systems, training, and converged IT/OT managed services. Its Israeli-based team includes "dozens" of cyber experts, trainers, consultants, researchers and systems integration engineers.

‘World’s tiniest’ safety scanner fits in spaces others won’t go

Sick claims that its latest safety laser scanner is the world’s smallest. The 8cm-high nanoScan3 has been designed for easy integration into machines such as AGVs (automated guided vehicles), mobile platforms and service robots. It can also be built into stationary equipment for hazardous point, area and access protection.

Benshaw buys Aucom to create ‘world’s biggest soft-start firm’

The US motor control specialist Benshaw is buying the New Zealand based soft-start pioneer Aucom Electronics to create what it claims will be the world’s largest privately owned soft-starter manufacturer. The details of the transaction have not been released.

Digital factory revenues could exceed $1 trillion by 2030

Technology investments in the industrial and manufacturing sector are set to soar from $59bn in 2019 to $375bn by 2030. If hardware revenues are included, that figure could climb to more than $1 trillion, according a study by the analyst, ABI Research.

Linear-motor delivery system could remove trucks from roads

A British start-up is hoping to revolutionise the way that parcels and other small items are moved around by carrying them in pipes on carts propelled by a proprietary linear synchronous motor technology. London-based Magway reckons that its technology could cut the UK’s CO2 emissions by more than six million tonnes a year by reducing the number of delivery vans on the country's roads.

Just 16% of UK’s SME manufacturers are using robots

Just 16% of the UK’s SME (small and medium enterprise) manufacturers are using robots, with another 13% saying they are planning to start using them, according to the latest national Manufacturing Barometer report. But more than 70% have no plans to introduce robots or are unsure about whether to do so.

All-in-one precision platform is ‘the future of motion control’

At the recent SPS exhibition, Aerotech unveiled a new control platform which, it says, contains all of the components needed for precision machine control. The Automation1 platform is aimed, in particular, at the growing markets for precision machinery in which process controls need to be linked closely to motion controls. It promises faster motion and settling times, improved position stability, and enhanced contour accuracy.

Engineering platform migrates to the cloud, cutting need for PCs

At the recent SPS show in Germany, Beckhoff announced that users of its TwinCat engineering and runtime products will, in future, be able to use them directly in the cloud. The new TwinCat Cloud Engineering service will give them an easy way of engineer TwinCat systems and controllers without having to use a local PC.

‘First private 5G industrial network’ is set up in Germany

Siemens and the communications specialist Qualcomm Technologies have implemented what they say is the first private 5G wireless standalone network in a real industrial environment using the 3.7–3.8GHz band. The network has been installed in Siemens’ automotive showroom and test centre in Nuremberg, Germany, where AGVs (automated guided vehicles) are developed and tested before being put into service at customer sites.

£9m grant will help to convert planes for hybrid-electric flight

A consortium of British business has received a £9m grant from the government to help design, manufacture and integrate a hybrid-electric propulsion system into a nine-seater Britten-Norman (B-N) Islander aircraft, which is typically used on short flights such as island-hopping.

Global sales of industrial robots go into reverse

After several years of seemingly unstoppable growth, the global market for industrial robots went into decline during 2019, with revenues falling by an estimated 4.3%.

‘Singular controller’ handles robots, drives and I/O systems

At the recent SPS exhibition in Germany, Yaskawa announced a machine controller that can handle robots, servodrives, inverter drives and I/O systems. When used with the company’s Sigma-7 servo systems, the MP3300iec RBT “singular controller” can supervise 32 real axes as well as up to eight robots.

Start-up brings real-time AI to machines on the shopfloor

A German start-up that Festo bought last year claims to be implementing AI (artificial intelligence) directly on machines on factory floors and interpreting data there in real time. Resolto Informatik says it already has applications at work in manufacturing environments.

High-efficiency motor pioneer honoured in AEMT awards

Professor David Walters, who pioneered technologies for high-efficiency electric motors when he was technical director at Brook Crompton, has received a lifetime contribution award from the AEMT – the Association of Electric and Mechanical trades – at the organisation’s annual awards ceremony, held recently in Coventry, UK. Walters, now retired, was the driving force behind Brook Crompton’s ground-breaking W series of high-efficiency motors.

New Finnish facility will be able test drive systems up to 15MW

Yaskawa Electric is making a “significant” investment to build a centre for testing large drives at its Yaskawa Environmental Energy / The Switch business in Finland. The centre will be one of the largest of its kind and will be capable of testing entire drivetrains, including motors, generators, frequency converters, transformers and auxiliary equipment. Initially, it will be able to test systems rated up to 15MW, but there are plans for a second phase that will be able to handle even larger drives as well as medium-voltage systems.

Li-Fi and TSN deliver real-time comms via light beams

German researchers have combined data transmission via light waves (Li-Fi) with TSN (Time Sensitive Networking) to allow wireless transmission of real-time and deterministic data.

UK’s strongest robot flexes its muscles at the MTC

What is thought to be the UK’s most powerful industrial robot has been installed at Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in Coventry. The six-axis Fanuc M-2000iA/2300 machine can handle heavy loads, such as automotive chassis and foundry workpieces, weighing up to 2.3 tonnes. It has a reach of 3.7m and vertical lifting stroke of 6.2m.

Beckhoff signs global deal to supply BMW with IPCs

Beckhoff Automation has signed a deal with BMW to supply the car-maker with industrial PC (IPC) technology for use in its production facilities worldwide during the period to 2030. Beckhoff’s IPC technology, including control panels and PCs, will become a global standard for BMW, both in new manufacturing facilities and for retrofits, for applications such as machine connectivity, access control, data acquisition and visualisation.

Edge appliance targets car-makers and their suppliers

Rittal and two of its sister companies in the Friedhelm Loh Group – German Edge Cloud and IoTOS – have joined forces with Bosch Connected Industry to launch an edge computing appliance that will allow manufacturers to extract extra value from their production data. Called Oncite, the appliance is an open IIoT platform combined with an edge cloud datacentre.

Real-time condition monitoring needs no extra sensors

At the recent SPS show in Germany, Lenze demonstrated two different approaches to providing condition monitoring of a two-axis machine without needing any extra sensors. One was model-based, comparing values measured on the machine with those from mathematical descriptions of the machine. If certain tolerances are exceeded, this is interpreted as a fault.

Wireless gateway sends real-time motor data to the cloud

The Brazilian motor-maker WEG has developed a wireless gateway that allows motor users to monitor the condition of any number of machines in real time, and to plan their maintenance accordingly. The gateway is an enhancement of the Motor Scan module that WEG announced last year.

Automation slashes drive cable lead times from weeks to 24h

igus has commissioned an automated assembly line for its readycable drives cables at its UK headquarters in Northampton. The line uses automated machines and lean manufacturing methods to streamline its manufacturing processes, and can produce fully-harnessed drive cables ready for shipping within 24 hours of an order being placed.

Resolver-based stepper motors ‘open up new applications’

Two Japanese companies – the stepper motor manufacturer MinebeaMitsumi and the semiconductor specialist Renesas Electronics – have collaborated to develop a new type of resolver-based stepping motor that, they say, will allow precision motor control even in harsh environments, and will expand the uses for stepper motors. The motors are aimed at applications such as robotics, office and medical equipment, that need compact motors with precision controls, and resistance to environmental influences such as heat, dust and vibration.

Rexroth uses EtherCat for ‘the most open automation platform’

Bosch Rexroth used the recent SPS automation exhibition in Germany to unveil a major new automation platform which, it claims, will be “the most open on the market” and will cut engineering effort by 30–50%, reducing time-to-market “significantly” for new machines.

Pilz is recovering from a ‘major’ ransomware attack

The German machine safety and automation specialist Pilz is recovering from the effects of a “major” ransomware cyber-attack which affected much of its IT infrastructure around the world in the middle of October.

Eight-axis micro-PLC is ‘one quarter the size of others’

At the recent SPS show in Germany, Mitsubishi Electric unveiled its smallest and most powerful compact PLC to date – a multitasking device with a CPU module said to be a quarter the size of a previous models. Despite its diminutive size, the FX5UC Micro PLC can perform positioning and advanced motion control functions for up to eight synchronised axes, eliminating the need for dedicated controllers that would increase hardware and maintenance costs, programming time and equipment footprints.

Indiegogo campaign promises ‘world’s first open controller’

An Italian engineer has launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to help develop what he describes as “the world’s first open hardware and multi-platform controller”, which could also be used for edge computing and as an IIoT gateway. Giacomo Falcone is hoping to raise €120,000 to develop his Yaba (Yet Another Backplane Architecture) technology, which he sees as filling the gap between low-cost, but hard-to-assemble, boards, and costly dedicated industrial controllers.

Danfoss overtakes Siemens to lead EMEA drives market

Danfoss overtook Siemens in 2018 to become the leading supplier of variable-speed drives in the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) region, according to a new study of the global low-voltage AC drives market by Interact Analysis. ABB remains the global leader in a market where average drive prices fell by 2.7% compared with 2017 – a trend that the analyst predicts will continue.

OPC UA over TSN portfolio ‘makes batch-size-one real’

ABB’s Austrian subsidiary B&R Automation is using this month’s SPS show in Germany to launch a slew of products and technologies that support the open, real-time OPC UA over TSN (Time Sensitive Networking) protocol. It says it will be one of the first manufacturers to offer a comprehensive TSN portfolio, including PLCs, bus controllers, Ethernet switches and industrial PCs, and that these components will help to make economical batch-size-one production a reality.

Smart factories could boost global economy by $2.2 trillion

A new study from the Capgemini Research Institute has found that smart factories could add $1.5–2.2 trillion to the global economy by 2023 through productivity gains, improvements in quality and market share, and customer services. However, two-thirds of this value has yet to be realised.

Regen drives are key to 'cheaper than coal' energy storage system

Powerful motors and regenerative drives are at the heart of a novel gravity-based energy storage technology being developed by a Swiss company called Energy Vault. When there is a surplus of energy, the system will use cranes to lift and stack 35-tonne concrete composite blocks to form towers up to 120m high. When energy is costly or in short supply, the system will lower the blocks to the ground to generate electricity through regeneration.

Combined motion controller and drive saves space

Siemens has announced a space-saving device that combines a Simatic S7-1500 controller with motion control and safety functions, with a Sinamics S120 drive system. It says that the resulting Simatic Drive Controller will make it easy to implement powerful, compact and flexible automation systems especially in multi-axis applications such as packaging, printing and textile machines.

Sewtec will double in size as it moves to Wakefield

The British industrial automation specialist Sewtec is relocating to a 75,000ft2 (7,000m2) facility in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, as part of a transformation strategy. The new building is more than twice the size of its current site in Dewsbury, also in West Yorkshire.

B&R integrates ABB robots into its controls portfolio

At this month’s SPS automation show in Germany, B&R Automation is starting to move closer to ABB, which acquired the Austrian business in 2017. At SPS, it is demonstrating ABB robots as an integral aspect of its offering, eliminating the need for dedicated robot controllers, separate control cabinets and programming specialists.

3D TOF technology creates ‘safety bubble’ around machines

The analogue technology company Analog Devices (ADI) is developing an alternative machine safety technology that uses a 3D TOF (time-of-flight) sensing technology, rather than the more common 2D Lidar (light detection and ranging) systems used for safety light curtains. It says that the new approach will result in a wider 120-degree field-of-view and faster detection times, as well as saving space on factory floors.

Servodrive can run without a controller, cutting costs

Rockwell Automation has announced a servodrive, motor and cable that can operate without needing a controller. The Allen-Bradley Kinetix 5100 servodrive has multiple control modes, supporting a wide range of high-speed, low-power motion control applications. It can be used by itself, or with a Micro800 or Logix controller, allowing OEMs to choose how to apply it in their systems.

Sensor-maker expects to become a €1bn business

The German sensor-maker, ifm electronic, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, believes that it had a good chance of becoming a €1bn-turnover business by the end of this year. The family-owned company achieved €943m of sales in 2018 and joint CEO Martin Buck is confident that it can hit the target, despite the downturn in the German economy.

Japanese drive-maker sets its sights on the UK market

The Japanese drives-maker Fuji Electric has announced a pair of multi-purpose variable-speed drives as part of a concerted effort to boost its presence in the UK market. After being represented in the UK by distributors for many years, Fuji set up its own UK office three years ago, headed by industry veteran, Stuart Cardall, who was previously UK sales manager for B&R and earlier in his career worked for IMO.

Aluminium LV motor sales will hit $5.8bn by 2027

The global market for high-efficiency low-voltage aluminium motors is expanding by around 5% per year and will reach $5.8bn by 2027, when 14 million of these machines will be sold, according to a new report from Transparency Market Research. It says that Europe was the largest market for these motors in 2018, and predicts that it will hold this position over the forecast period from 2019-2027.

Wireless vibration monitor predicts machine failures

Emerson has announced a low-cost, easy-to-deploy vibration sensor that analyses data from rotating equipment to identify failure modes and prevent potential problems. The AMS Wireless Vibration Monitor incorporates a triaxial sensor that captures data in three dimensions to generate a picture of the machine’s condition. It can be used to monitor motors, pumps, fans and other critical equipment to reduce downtime and achieve more reliable operations.

VW’s 150kW, 310Nm EV drive ‘will fit in a sportsbag’

Volkswagen has revealed details of the electric motor technology it has developed to drive its new generation of all-electric vehicles, starting with the ID.3 vehicle which has recently entered production. The EVs will be powered by permanent magnet brushless machines, with the drive and gearbox operating in parallel with the axle.

Drives uses on-board PLCs for predictive maintenance

The German drives-maker Nord has developed a condition-monitoring technology that uses PLCs built into its frequency inverters and motor starters to pre-process data which can then be used for predictive maintenance, avoiding the need to perform maintenance at fixed intervals.

Mistry succeeds Montag as Gambica’s automation head

Nikesh Mistry has been appointed to succeed Victoria Montag as head of industrial automation activities at Gambica, the trade organisation that represents the sector in the UK.

Electronic solenoid interlock is ‘the world’s smallest’

The German machine safety specialist Schmersal has developed an RFID-based solenoid interlock which it claims is the world’s smallest. Measuring 119.5 x 40 x 20mm, the AZM40 interlock is ideal for small safety doors and flaps.

High-power, low-cost motor will ‘pack a gallon into a pint’

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is funding a project to develop and “auto-qualify” an electric motor, primarily aimed at next-generation electric vehicles, that will be half the cost and deliver eight times higher power density of currently available motors. The aim is to produce a motor with a peak power rating of 125kW that eliminates the need for rare-earth permanent magnets which can make up a significant portion of PM motor costs.