Drives and Controls Magazine
Whale’s tail inspires ‘revolutionary’ propulsion concept

ABB has announced a “revolutionary” electric motor-driven marine propulsion system that, it claims, breaks new ground for efficiency in the marine industry. Inspired by the dynamic movements of a whale’s tail, the system – called Dynafin – is the result of more than a decade of research, development, and testing. The first prototype is expected to be available in 2025.

Digital twins help cobots to build more cobots faster

The Taiwanese cobot (collaborative robot) manufacturer Techman has turned to digital simulation to help it cut inspection times on its cobot assembly line by around 20%.

ABB reveals it has been victim of ransomware attack

ABB, the Swiss-headquartered automation and electrification giant, has released a statement revealing that an unauthorised third-party recently accessed some of its systems, “deployed a type of ransomware that is not self-propagating, and exfiltrated certain data”.

Rockwell and autonox marry controls with robot mechanics

Rockwell Automation has formed a strategic partnership with German-based autonox Robotics, which specialises in manufacturing control-independent robot mechanics. They are combining Rockwell’s Kinetix motors and drives with autonox’s robot mechanics to offer complete systems with a single catalogue number.

Seven-member cobot family cuts cycle times by 25%

Dobot, the Chinese collaborative robot manufacturer which claims to be the country’s biggest exporter of industrial robots, has announced a family of seven cobots with payload capacities from 3-20kg and working radii from 620–1,700mm. The CRA cobots incorporate high-performance harmonic drive reducers and electromagnetic brakes, as well as updated software and a redesigned user interface.

Network portal offers ‘new approach to Ethernet comms’

Parker Hannifin has announced the arrival in Europe of a new approach to Ethernet communications that, it says, reformulates and transforms machine I/O architecture. It claims that the modular PCH Network Portal, which supports Ethernet protocols and IO-Link communications, will cut machine costs, start-up times and downtime

Cobots will capture 20% of industrial robot market by 2032

Collaborative robots (cobots) will account for more than 20% of all industrial robot sales by 2032, according to a new study from Interact Analysis. The cobot market is expected to expand at around 20% a year until then, driven partly by new applications and the growing importance of the logistics market.

Mitsubishi takes stake in motion software developer Movensys

Mitsubishi Electric has formed a partnership with the Korean company, Movensys, which develops motion control software for AC servomotors and sells it mainly in Asia. The partnership, which includes Mitsubishi taking an equity stake in Movensys, will strengthen collaboration between the two companies’ AC servo and motion control businesses.

Precision servodrive targets demanding applications

Siemens has launched a dynamic servodrive system consisting of a precision drive, powerful servomotors and easy-to-use cables. The Sinamics S200 system is aimed at applications that need precise speed and torque control, such as electronic production machinery, and winding and unwinding machines in battery manufacturing and cell assembly.

Google’s robot software arm unveils easy-to-use platform

Intrinsic, the robotics software company launched by Google’s parent Alphabet in 2021, has announced a robotics development platform that it believes will speed up access to industrial robotics for many more developers. Intrinsic has also announced that the Italian robot manufacturer and systems integrator Comau is its first industrial partner.

Multi-PC control expands floating transport system

Beckhoff Automation has issued a software update for its XPlanar levitating product transport system which allows it to be controlled by multiple computers, thus supporting many more movers operating over a much larger area. Beckhoff says that potential expansions are “infinite”.

First cobot-based spot welder is ‘the future of spot welding’

A Californian welding specialist has developed what it claims is the world’s first cobot-based spot welder. Pro Spot International says that its i5s resistance spot welder will deliver up to three times more manufacturing capacity than manual welding.

On-machine I/O blocks with IO-Link will raise productivity

Rockwell Automation has released a family of distributed I/O blocks with built-in IO-Link functions that, it says, will help manufacturers to improve productivity at a low cost. The Allen‑Bradley ArmorBlock 5000 I/O blocks are designed for use on machines, enabling quicker installation, commissioning and troubleshooting, and reducing downtime.

AI system automates previously impossible screwdriving tasks

The German screwdriving technology specialist Deprag has joined forces with the Berlin robotics software developer Micropsi Industries to develop what they claim is the first automated screwdriving system that can handle changes in the environment. They say that such automation has not been possible, or economically feasible, using previous technologies.

Manufacturers call for industrial strategy to boost sector

Britain’s manufacturers are calling for the establishment of a Royal Commission to develop a long-term industrial strategy that would provide companies with a stable environment in which to invest, access talent and expand. This would be backed by an independent council to monitor the strategy, with the Cabinet Office being responsible for co-ordinating policy across Government.

Industrial Ethernet exceeds two thirds of comms market

Profinet and EtherNet/IP have reinforced their position as joint leaders of the industrial communications market, with each accounting for 18% of new factory automation nodes installed in the past year, according to HMS Networks’ annual survey of the industrial communications market. Their market shares have increased slightly from 17% each last year, while EtherCat has also added 1% to its share, taking it to 12% of the global market.

UK project uses robots to embed wiring in components

British researchers have been working on a £1.7m project to accelerate automation in the aerospace industry by using a novel robotic system to embed wiring into complex aircraft components. The venture, called Project LiveWire, has been led by Bristol-based Q5D Technologies, working in collaboration with the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC). The two-year collaborative project, funded by Innovate UK as part of the ATI (Aerospace Technology Institute) programme, also involved other companies including OnePLM, M-Solv and Safran.

Inaugural Talking Industry Live draws crowds to the MTC

The inaugural Talking Industry Live event held last month at the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry attracted an enthusiastic crowd who were treated to more than 16 hours of content in the form of keynotes, panel discussions, workshops and seminars delivered by more than 20 experts.

Aston launches Masters degree in smart manufacturing

Aston University in Birmingham is launching a Masters degree in smart manufacturing which will cover technologies such as digital twins and will teach hands-on skills needed to solve complex manufacturing problems. The post-graduate course will include topics such as production scheduling, predicting equipment failure and improving maintenance.

Largest robotics gathering visits UK for the first time

The IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) – described by its organisers as being the world’s leading robotics event – is visiting the UK for the first time for five days at the end of May. More than 4,000 delegates from around the world are expected to attend the event at the ExCel centre in London’s Docklands.

RARUK buys Drive Lines Technologies to explore new markets

RARUK Holdings has acquired the mechanical power transmission specialist Drive Lines Technologies for an undisclosed sum. Following the acquisition, Drive Lines Technologies has relocated from its Bedford base to RARUK’s headquarters in nearby Shefford, Bedfordshire.

Robotic picker has an efficiency of at least 99.5%

ABB Robotics has launched an AI-based system that detects and picks items in unstructured environments in warehouses and fulfilment centres with an efficiency claimed to be better than 99.5%. The robotic item picker can handle up to 1,400 unsorted items per hour, each weighing up to 3kg.

Idem wins King’s Innovation Award for anti-tamper switch

Wigan-based Idem Safety Switches is one of the winners of the first ever King’s Awards for Enterprise (previously known as The Queen’s Awards). It has won an award in the Innovation category for an anti-tamper switch system with guard locking that prevents access to moving machinery.

Servomotors talk via wireless IO-Link rather than cables

The Italian motor manufacturer Siboni has developed a range of servomotors that use wireless IO-Link links to controllers instead of conventional cable connections. The high-speed, low-latency communications technology is said to offer practical and cost benefits, especially in applications such as packaging machinery and robots where high-speed rotary movements make conventional connections difficult to install and maintain.

AMRs and AGVs will push ULV drives sales to $3.1bn by 2027

Global sales of ultra-low voltage (under 60V) drives are set to soar from $753m in 2021 to $3.1bn by 2027 – a CAGR of 25.9% – according to Interact Analysis. The growth is being driven by the rapid take-up of battery-powered AMRs (autonomous mobile robots) and AGVs (automated guided vehicles).

£100m programme aims to boost take-up of AI and ML in UK

Innovate UK has launched a programme to drive the take-up of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies in the UK. The BridgeAI programme will make £100m of funding available to companies working on AI and ML projects.

Siemens links up with Microsoft and IBM to deliver its vision

At the recent Hannover Messe, Siemens announced partnerships with several key players in the OT/IT world, including IBM and Microsoft, aimed at promoting its vision of the future of manufacturing.

GPT AI tool will enhance maintenance and efficiency

A Californian industrial software developer has announced a generative AI (artificial intelligence) tool designed to help manufacturers to train and test predictive maintenance models at the industrial edge. EoT (Embassy of Things) says that its patent-pending Twin Talk GPT system will help users to improve their operational efficiency and decision-making.

Bespoke machines make the first plastic-free Poppies

Yorkshire-based Sewtec Automation has designed and built three machines to produce the first plastic-free Remembrance Poppies for the Royal British Legion.

Simulation software uses digital twins to optimise drives

Siemens has announced simulation software that can be used to engineer and commission variable-speed drives, based on digital twins. The Sinamics DriveSim Advanced software allows users to simulate, commission and optimise Sinamics drive systems virtually before building them in the real world. Siemens says it will increase the efficiency and productivity of drive systems and machinery.

AI navigation ‘transforms’ the performance of AMRs

ABB Robotics says it has transformed its AMRs (autonomous mobile robots) by adding a technology that allows them to make intelligent navigation decisions in challenging environments. Using AI-enabled 3D vision to perform location and mapping functions, the Visual Slam (simultaneous localisation and mapping) technology will speed up production, making it more flexible and efficient, while cutting commissioning times by up to 20%, reducing the need for calibration and avoiding infrastructure changes.

‘Highest precision’ controllers can cut defects and wastage

Omron has launched a new generation of automation controllers that it claims offer the world’s highest precision data collection and large-capacity transfer capabilities, leading to rapid improvements in processes that cause defective products, as well as cutting wastage. The NX502-1x00 CPUs also boast a control technology for large-scale and high-speed safety that Omron says will cut lead times when making changes on production lines.

Chatbot add-on automates controller programming

The German automation manufacturer Beckhoff has announced at the Hannover Messe that it has developed an AI-supported chatbot add-on for its TwinCat XAE engineering environment that will help users to automate tasks such as creating and optimising PLC function block coding, and generating documentation. It can also complete missing code from function blocks, or restructure code for better readability.

Network tester helps to deploy IIoT and performs TSN testing

Keysight Technologies has announced a compact network tester for engineers deploying IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) and automotive networks. The Novus mini tester combines traffic generation and protocol testing in one device, allowing users to test the performance and conformance of industrial networks. Keysight says that it has the smallest footprint in the industry, an “outstanding” cost per port, and ultra-quiet, fan-less operation.

Drives use film caps to cut harmonic distortion to 35%

The Taiwanese automation manufacturer Delta Electronics has launched a range of open-loop, variable-torque drives for fan, pump and compressor applications at the 2023 Hannover Messe. The VP3000 drives have been designed to make machinery more efficient and to reduce harmonic distortion in a wide range of fluid applications.

Rubix UK buys Gapp Automation to raise its electrical profile

The MRO company Rubix UK has bought Bedford-based Gapp Automation, which distributes motion, control & automation (MCA) systems in the UK and Ireland. The acquisition will extend Rubix’s activities into the electrical MCA sector, alongside its existing mechanical businesses. Details of the transaction have not been revealed.

Rexroth wins Hermes award for giving robots a human touch

The winner of this year’s Hermes technology award at the Hannover Messe is Bosch Rexroth for its Smart Flex effector compensation module that gives industrial robots a sense of touch similar to that of the human hand. The 2023 Hermes award for start-ups has gone to a Dutch company, MantiSpectra, for its ChipSense product – a near-infrared sensor-on-a-chip, claimed to be the smallest on the market, which can spot production-line defects as soon as they occur, allowing savings to be made through immediate quality control.

First ‘virtual PLC’ will allow software-based automation

Siemens is presenting a virtual PLC (programmable logic controller) for the first time at the 2023 Hannover Messe. The Simatic S7-1500V is designed to meet special requirements such as the virtual hosting of PLC computing. In future, Siemens plans to offer virtual PLCs alongside its traditional hardware controllers.

Industrial AI and IT portfolio includes ‘first virtual PLC’

At this month’s Hannover Messe, Siemens is unveiling an open portfolio for automating and operating industrial production. Called Industrial Operations X, the interoperable portfolio brings cutting-edge IT and AI technologies to industrial automation. It is part of Siemens’ Xcelerator digital business platform, which brings together software, hardware, an ecosystem of partners, as well as a marketplace.

Global manufacturing turndown will arrive two years early

Updated research by Interact Analysis indicates that the current economic turbulence will continue to have a dampening effect on the global manufacturing industry. Just three months ago, the analyst had been predicting a global slowdown in manufacturing in 2026, but now thinks that this will occur in 2024, two years sooner than originally expected.

Emerson buys NI for $8.2bn to expand into T&M automation

Emerson is buying and National Instruments in a transaction that values NI at $8.2bn. The aim is to expand its activities to include test and measurement automation and to target high-growth markets.

£2.5m investment helps Sprint to expand into AC drives

Sprint Electric, the Sussex-based manufacturer of DC drives, has secured investments totalling £2.5m to help it enter the AC VSD (variable-speed drives) market with a new range with regenerative capabilities, developed in conjunction with the University of Nottingham.

‘Ground-breaking’ encoders handle extreme conditions

Celera Motion has announced a range of “ground-breaking” absolute inductive encoders that deliver “next-level” accuracy angle measurements in demanding conditions – dusty, dirty and wet environments, or where high shocks and vibrations are present – that would not be suitable for conventional optical encoders. The Field Calibration IncOders are aimed at motion control applications and position feedback in robotics.

Real-time scanner will ‘revolutionise’ 3D measurements

Pepperl+Fuchs has combined two technologies – Lidar and Mems (microelectromechanical systems) – to come up with a system that measures distances in 3D from a few centimetres to several hundred metres, with millimetre accuracy. The R3000 Lidar/Mems sensor, which makes its debut at this month’s Hannover Messe, can capture complex, dynamic scenes in real time, with potential applications ranging from automated guided vehicles to service robots and beyond.

Wago is first to adopt Bosch Rexroth’s open real-time OS

Bosch Rexroth’s ambition for its ctrlX OS operating system to be adopted by other automation suppliers has been given a boost by the German automation and connection technology specialist Wago deciding to use the real-time Linux-based OS for its future mid- and high-performance controllers.

UK automation sector remains ‘attractive for investors’

There were almost 800 acquisitions or mergers involving UK manufacturing businesses in 2022, according to data released by the accountancy and business advisory firm BDO. The 793 deals recorded represent a small increase on the 779 completed in 2021.

AI chip analyses vibration data, cutting costs and energy use

An Israeli semiconductor specialist has developed an AI-based vibration-monitoring chip that processes vibration data on-board, greatly reducing the amount of data that needs to be transmitted to the cloud, thus cutting power consumption and supporting energy-harvesting designs. Polyn Technology says that by reducing the amount of data transmitted by a factor of around 1,000, its VibroSense chip will cut costs and improve ROIs.

Routeco buys Swibox Automation to boost EMEA activities

The UK-headquartered industrial automation and controls distributor, the Routeco Group, has acquired the Swiss business Swibox Automation for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition will strengthen Routeco's presence in the EMEA region and help to meet a rising demand for industrial automation products and services across Europe. The acquisition complements Routeco’s existing European locations in the UK, Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Radwell buys UK repairs specialist, Northern Industrial

Radwell International, the US-headquartered specialist in surplus and remanufactured industrial control systems, has bought the Blackburn-based automation repairs firm, Northern Industrial, for an undisclosed sum.

Government plans higher efficiency standards

The UK Government is planning to raise Meps (minimum energy performance standards) and to strengthen energy labelling requirements for energy-using products, to help cut energy demand. This was revealed in the more than 2,000 pages of documents that accompanied the recent launch of its Powering Up Britain plan for the future of energy security in the UK.

nVent buys US electricals supplier ECM, for $1.1bn

The electrical connection and protection systems supplier nVent Electric is buying ECM Investors – which owns the US-based connectors, tools, test instruments, and cable management specialist ECM Industries – for $1.1bn.

Regal Rexnord buys Altra Industrial Motion for $4.95bn

Regal Rexnord has bought Altra Industrial Motion, closing a deal that was signed in October 2022 and values Altra at $4.95bn. Regal Rexnord says that the merger will transform it into a global automation supplier with more than 70% of its sales in expanding markets, as well as combining the companies’ “complementary” power transmission portfolios. It is aiming for revenues of around $8.3bn by 2025 and expects costs synergies worth $160m within four years.

Extension will more than double Invertek’s VSD output

The Welsh drives-maker Invertek has started work on a 2,771m2 extension to its manufacturing and distribution facility in Welshpool, Powys. The extension to the existing 5,500m2 facility is part of a £10m investment that also includes a new Application and Training Centre.

Drives cut harmonics by 97% without needing chokes

Siemens has announced a high-performance frequency converter equipped with a “clean power technology” that cuts harmonics by up to 97% without needing line harmonic chokes or DC link chokes. The Sinamics G220 converter is also the first Sinamics drive to be part of Siemens’ Xcelerator digital transformation platform. It is making its debut at the 2023 Hannover Fair.

Microsoft and Nvidia deliver industrial metaverse via cloud

Microsoft and Nvidia are collaborating to offer “hundreds of millions” of Microsoft enterprise users access to the industrial metaverse and to AI supercomputing resources via the cloud.

Users access cloud-based HMI platform via Web browsers

Rockwell Automation has announced a new addition to its visualisation portfolio – a cloud-enabled HMI (human-machine interface) platform that allows users to design, test and deploy applications from Web browsers anywhere, at any time. The FactoryTalk Optix platform is said to deliver new levels of collaboration, scalability and interoperability, and will help users to improve their processes, efficiency and deliverables.

Leading figures set to appear at Talking Industry Live

The final seminar programme for the Talking Industry Live event taking place at the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry on April 25, has now been released. The free one-day event organised in partnership with the MTC, will provide an environment for delegates to learn about cutting-edge technologies and best practice through panel discussions, presentations, live demonstrations and workshops.