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Allied Motion buys US linear motor manufacturer Airex

Allied Motion Technologies has acquired the US linear and rotary motor manufacturer Airex for an undisclosed sum. Airex, based in New Hampshire, has more than 70 years of history supplying precision wound components and systems for industrial, semiconductor, life science and aerospace/defence applications.

Siemens appoints Black-Smith to run Motion Controls

Siemens has appointed Sarah Black-Smith as general manager of its Motion Control business in the UK. She was previously as head of factory operations at Siemens’ drives factory in Congleton, Cheshire, where she was responsible for producing more than one million drives and controls per year.

Global robot sales bounce back to hit record highs

Global sales of industrial robots bounced back during 2021 to hit an all-time high of 486,800 shipped machines – a 27% increase on the figure for 2020 – according to preliminary data released by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR).

ABB unveils new generation of ready-to-run robot cells

ABB Robotics has launched a new generation of ready-to-deploy application cells at the Automatica exhibition in Germany. The cells, to be marketed under the OmniVance brand, are designed to be easy to program and set up. At Automatica, ABB demonstrated a machining cell that can handle eight different applications, as well as a space-saving welding cell.

UR launches new cobot generation with its most powerful arm

The Danish collaborative robot (cobot) pioneer Universal Robots has announced its most powerful cobot to date – a 20kg-capacity arm with a new joint design that will cut cycle times by up to 65% as well as being able to handle heavier loads. The cobot, unveiled at the Automatica show in Germany, has a 1,750mm reach, allowing it to work to the full height of a standard Euro-pallet, while its small footprint will allow users to achieve more in an existing production space. UR’s previously most powerful cobot had a 16kg capacity.

Government reveals plans to simplify move to UKCA mark

The UK Government has announced a series of changes intended to make it easier for British businesses to apply the new UKCA (UK Conformity Assessed) mark for products placed on the market in England, Scotland and Wales.

Motor modules create multi-axis robots of almost any shape

At the Automatica exhibition in Germany, the automation specialist Beckhoff has unveiled a new concept for creating robots of almost any type – from simple single-axis rotary indexing tables to multi-axis articulated arms – simply by connecting a series of motor modules that serve as active joints.

Course will top up HNCs/HNDs to a manufacturing degree

Siemens has teamed up with Liverpool’s John Moores University to launch a top-up degree in Manufacturing Systems Engineering, aimed at engineering professionals who want to upgrade their existing HNC/HND certificates or diplomas to gain new skills and experience, and to study to a degree level.

Frequency inverter acts as a sensor and generates IIoT data

At the recent Hannover Messe, Lenze launched a decentralised frequency inverter which performs several tasks simultaneously, including acting as an sensor that collects data and forwards it on to IIoT platforms and edge systems. The i-series motec inverter allows direct access to drive data via several communication interfaces, including an IO-Link master, providing machine operators with high-quality information. The sensor data can be analysed in real time, paving the way for condition monitoring and predictive maintenance functions.

Effector that gives robots a human touch is ‘a paradigm shift’

At the recent Hannover Messe, Bosch Rexroth unveiled a sensor-based compensation module that gives robots and Cartesian linear systems a “human-like sensitivity” and, according to the company, marks “a paradigm shift in factory automation”. The Smart Flex Effector allows complex assembly processes that previously could only be automated at great expense or not at all, to be automated at a “reasonable” cost.

Tech combines the best of optical and magnetic encoders

Nidec has developed a technology for detecting the position of motor rotors that, it claims, combines the high accuracy of optical encoders with the low costs and component counts of magnetic encoders.

Siemens buys UK maintenance specialist Senseye

Siemens has bought the UK-based predictive maintenance and industrial analytics specialist Senseye for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition will expand Siemens’ predictive maintenance and asset intelligence portfolio.

Schneider sells Eurotherm controls business to Watlow

Schneider Electric is selling its UK-headquartered Eurotherm business to Watlow, the US designer and manufacturer of industrial thermal systems, for an undisclosed sum.

Modular drive wins Hermes innovation award at Hannover

Sumitomo Cyclo Drive Germany has won the 2022 Hermes technology award for its Tuaka integrated drive system which combines a 48V motor, gearbox and a drive with safety functions and is aimed, in particular, at robotic applications. The award is made annually by the organisers of the Hannover Fair for a technology at the show that displays a particularly high degree of innovation.

Device converts any analogue sensor signal to IO-Link

The German sensor developer Ege-Elektronik Spezial-Sensoren has announced a device that converts signals from traditional analogue sensors to noise-free digital IO-Link signals. Depending on its configuration, the IOL-KONV-UIS-01 converter takes one or two analogue values (0-10V or 4-20mA) or switching signals from a sensor and converts them into digital signals, which it transmits to an IO-Link primary device.

$56m plant will target expanding Indian automation market

Mitsubishi Electric is investing aound 2.2 billion Indian rupees ($56.6m) to build a new plant in India that will manufacture inverters and other factory automation (FA) products. The factory, due to start operating in December 2023, will meet growing demand in India where the FA market is expanding at an annual rate of about 8% – mainly in industries such as automobiles, food & beverage, pharmaceuticals and textiles. Further growth is expected in the future.

Software compensates for cogging effects in linear motors

The German automation specialist Beckhoff has developed a software tool that makes it possible to use linear motors for precision applications such as milling or laser-cutting machines. The software uses machine learning to compensate for the uneven cogging forces that have previously limited the use of linear motors in applications of this type.

‘Virtual PLCs’ will turn factories into software systems

A German company has developed a “virtual PLC” technology that decouples real-time control from proprietary hardware, allowing automation engineers to manage PLCs from suppliers such as Siemens, Bosch Rexroth and Beckhoff like cloud-based software systems. Software Defined Automation (SDA) says that its industrial-control-as-a-service model will break up proprietary silos in control technologies and turn factories into software systems.

Remote service will cut VSD failure rates by ‘up to 65%’

Schneider Electric has announced a service plan for variable-speed drives that, it claims, will cut the risk of VSD failures by up to 65%, as well as reducing maintenance and planned downtime by up to 20%. The EcoStruxure Service Plan combines round-the-clock remote monitoring with preventive condition-based maintenance.

IMI buys Bahr to add electric linear systems to its pneumatic axes

The British engineering group IMI is buying the German electric linear motion specialist Bahr Modultechnik Holding for €98m (£83m). Bahr will become part of the IMI Precision Engineering’s industrial automation business.

Wireless technology ‘re-invents’ predictive maintenance

SKF has joined forces with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to develop a wireless technology which, they say, reinvents the fields of industrial machine reliability and predictive maintenance. The automated condition-monitoring system, called Axios, promises manufacturers a simple, affordable wireless technology for monitoring more of their rotating equipment.

Dyson seeks 700 robotics engineers for £2.75bn expansion

Dyson, the domestic appliances giant, says it wants to recruit 700 robotics engineers over the next five years as it expands its newly-revealed robotics division, which already includes 250 robotics experts working across disciplines such as computer vision, machine learning, sensors and mechatronics. Following ten years of secretive work on robots, Dyson is now revealing and accelerating its development of autonomous devices capable of household chores and other tasks.

Old kit is more of a hindrance than Brexit, say UK firms

More UK manufacturers believe that their continuing reliance on ageing technologies is having a bigger negative effect of their businesses than Brexit, according to a survey of more than 400 manufacturing executives in the UK and US. The survey was conducted by iBASEt, a Californian company that simplifies how complex products are built and maintained, in conjunction with the UK’s Manufacturing Technology Centre. The 403 respondents were split almost evenly between the US and UK.

D&C Show brings face-to-face meetings back to the NEC

The Drives & Controls Show and its co-located manufacturing industry events – Smart Industry Expo, Plant and Asset Management, Fluid Power & Systems and Air-Tech – returned to the Birmingham National Exhibition Centre last month after a four-year Covid-enforced absence. 

Decentralised drives handle synchronous reluctance motors

The Italian gears, motors and drives manufacturer Bonfiglioli has announced a series of decentralised inverters for controlling asynchronous and synchronous reluctance motors. The DGM Modular inverters have embedded EMC filters and on onboard PLC that can be used to customise the inverter functions.

Cyberattack victim Pilz creates industrial security service

In October 2019, the Germany machinery safety specialist Pilz was hit by devastating ransomware cyberattack which knocked out its production, IT and Web systems for months in some cases. The company, which refused to pay the ransom, had to revert to using phones and whiteboards. “It almost killed us,” admits joint managing partner, Thomas Pilz. But “we fought back,” he adds. “It was wake-up call.”

Panasonic enters motion controls with fast 32-axis device

Panasonic Industry has entered the motion controls market with a compact controller that combines motion functions with typical PLC functions such as positioning, networking, modular I/Os and a high-frequency counter. The company says that the GM1 controller will save cabinet space and can handle demanding applications with up to 32 axes and response times as low as 0.5ms.

AI-based platform will predict rotating machine failures

The industrial sensing and protection company Sensata Technologies has teamed up with the Canadian-Indian machine health monitoring specialist Nanoprecise to offer a monitoring and predictive maintenance system for rotating machines that allows plant managers to detect early-stage faults and extend the working lives of their machines.

Schneider ‘in talks to sell’ Telemecanique arm for around $1bn

Schneider Electric is talking to several potential buyers of its Telemecanique automation and control activities, according to the Bloomberg news service. It says that the business, which could be sold for around $1bn, has attracted interested from several private equity firms as well as the connectors and sensors manufacturer, Amphenol.

£50m innovation hub will help UK SMEs to go digital

The UK government is providing £20m to help set up a “data innovation hub” at Ulster University that will assist UK manufacturers to accelerate the development of digital technologies. The £50m Smart Manufacturing Data Hub (SMDH) will help small- and medium-size manufacturers to capture their data and use it better, thus boosting their productivity, growth and sustainability.

Motor monitoring tech eliminates on-machine sensors

Schneider Electric has launched a condition-monitoring technology for rotating machines that analyses motor currents rather than relying on traditional vibration-monitoring techniques. It claims that this approach offers several advantages, including accurate prediction of imminent machine failures, the ability to operate in harsh environments, and the ability to provide data that can be used to cut energy consumption and optimise the performance of machinery.

Pipe-crawling robot could revolutionise utility inspections

Robotics experts at the UK’s Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) have developed an autonomous robot vehicle designed to move along underground pipes to carry out inspections. The invention has the potential cut costs cost and improve efficiency for utilities, as well as preventing pipework leaks and reducing human exposure to hazardous environments.

UK manufacturers call for task force to tackle supply chains

Britain’s manufacturers are calling for a cross-industry and Government taskforce to assess the UK’s current and future supply chain resilience and capabilities, and to establish an action plan to protect the economy from future disruptive events.

Automated Coventry EV plant will be basis for global network

An international developer of electric vehicle drive technologies is commissioning a cloud-based robotic assembly plant in Coventry, UK, which it plans to replicate in a network of digitalised manufacturing plants around the world. Israeli-headquartered REE Automotive, expects to produce 40,000 of its REEcorner modules – which combine a powertrain with steering, braking and suspension – at its Coventry Integration Centre this year. One module is needed for each wheel, so this capacity will be enough to power 10,000 commercial vehicles such as delivery vans, buses and recreational vehicles.

First pneumatic cobot will cost less than electric rivals

Festo has previewed what it claims will be the world’s first pneumatic cobot. It says that the device – due to go on sale in 2023 – will be cheaper than electric cobots in the same class, as well as offering other attractions such as a high sensitivity to collisions and a low weight.

Plug-and-play cobot costs €4,970 and carries 2kg

igus has announced a smart cobot (collaborative robot) which costs just €4,970 (£4,230) and can be up and running within days. The plug-and-play cobot – part of the company’s Rebel family of robotic technologies – weighs just 8.2kg. It is claimed to be the lightest of its type, due largely to the fact that around 90% of its mechanical components are made from engineering polymers, including “the world's first industrial-grade cobot gearbox made of plastic”.

Patented regen function simplifies servodrive apps

The American motors and controls manufacturer Teknic has been awarded a US patent for a method for dissipating energy recovered from mechanical loads connected to servomotors during braking. It says that this function – which it calls VRS (vector regen shunt) – will simplify servodrives by eliminating the need for external regenerative circuits and shunts, thus cutting costs, space requirements, wiring and system complexity.

Service identifies motors that could save most energy

ABB has launched a digital service that will help industrial operators to maximise their energy efficiency and boost their sustainability by identifying motor-driven equipment in their facilities with the biggest energy-saving potential. The ABB Ability Digital Powertrain Energy Appraisal service will draw data from fleets of digitally-connected electric motors and VSDs (variable-speed drives) to show where – and how much – energy can be saved by upgrading to the latest high-efficiency technologies. The users can then make data-driven decisions to prioritise their investments.

AI-based edge app could raise drives availabilities by 30%

At the 2022 Hannover Fair, Siemens will unveil an AI-based edge app that detects problems in drive systems before they can affect production. The app will allow users to avoid unplanned downtime and to schedule maintenance times in good time, raising plant availability by up to 30%. Siemens says that by scheduling maintenance and servicing activities based on actual demand, companies will be able to boost their productivity by up to 10%.

‘Breakthrough’ robot software delivers a 70% speed boost

ABB Robotics has launched a software package which, it claims, will boost the speed of six-axis robots by 70% and their accuracy by 50%, significantly reducing time-to-market, while improving accuracy levels.

Slotless motor maker ThinGap merges with Allied Motion

ThinGap, the Californian manufacturer of zero-cogging slotless motors, is merging with Allied Motion Technologies, the US group that designs and produces precision motion products for the global market. The terms of the merger have not been revealed.

Plug-and-play conveyor improves productivity

Interroll has launched a platform-based material-flow system that, it says, will boost the productivity of manufacturing processes “significantly”. The modular, plug-and-play LCP (light conveyor platform) system allows integrators to implement scalable belt conveyor sections quickly to satisfy the automated material-flow requirements of individual customers.

PI invests $60m to boost production and ease supply chains

The precision motion control specialist PI (Physik Instrumente) is investing almost $60m in locations around the world to boost productivity, expand production capacity and optimise its supply chains. The German-headquartered company is focussing on growth markets such as industrial automation, semiconductors, photonics and life sciences.

Micro-PLCs optimise smart machine design and programming

Rockwell Automation has announced a pair of micro-PLCs that, it claims, will allow machine-builders to design and program machines more efficiently. As well as releasing the Allen-Bradley Micro850 and Micro870 2080-Lx0E controllers, Rockwell has also updated its Connected Components Workbench software which, it says, will simplify the development of machines using the microcontrollers and cut development times by boosting upload data transfer rates by 23%, and download rates by 40%

Global survey reveals industry plans to invest in efficiency

Almost two thirds (65%) of industrial companies around the world are planning to upgrade the efficiency of their equipment to best-in-class technologies such as high-efficiency motors and variable-speed drives as they attempt to move towards net-zero emissions, according to a new survey carried out in 13 countries for ABB.

Open-source OS is a low-cost alternative to Windows for IPCs

Beckhoff is offering a new operating system for some of its industrial PCs as a lower-cost alternative to full Microsoft Windows packages.

Manchester centre will design AI-enhanced robots

The University of Manchester has launched a centre of excellence which will design next-generation robots, supported by AI (artificial intelligence) technologies. The Manchester Centre for Robotics and AI will pull together experts and projects from different disciplines to work on robotic technologies.

On-line market links buyers and sellers of industrial spares

A British start-up is helping companies to sell items from their stock of surplus spares to others who are looking for particular components. The Web-based business, called Machine Compare Marketplace, is operating globally to link sellers and buyers of surplus stock including industrial controls, sensors, relays, connectors, switches and mechanical components such as bearings, brakes, gears and couplings.

Timken buys Spinea to boost robotics and automation portfolio

The US bearings and power transmission manufacturer The Timken Company is buying the Slovakian company Spinea, which manufactures cycloidal reduction gears and actuators aimed at precision automation and robotics applications. Details of the transaction have not been released.

SKF and Amazon join forces to ‘re-invent’ machine reliability

SKF and Amazon Web Services (AWS) have announced a collaboration to “re-invent” the field of industrial machine reliability and predictive maintenance. They plan to deliver an easy-to-use and easy-to-scale condition-monitoring and analysis package that will make the ability to collect and analyse data using ML (machine learning) technologies available to more applications and users.

Amazon makes creating digital twins ‘faster and easier’

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has announced a service that, it says, will make it faster and easier for anyone to create digital twins of real-world systems such as factories, industrial equipment and production lines. Digital twins are virtual representations of physical systems that use real-world data to mimic the structure, state and behaviour of the objects they represent, and can be updated with new data as conditions change.

Multi-axis servodrive is ‘most competitive’ up to 750W

Trio Motion Technology used the recent Drives & Controls Show to launch a multi-axis servodrive designed to provide precision motion coordination for space-critical applications up to 750W. The DX5 servodrive is aimed at machine-builders who need multi-axis EtherCat control in a compact format with no gaps between the drives.

First bearings with bioplastic cages cut emissions by 91%

NSK has announced what it claims are the world’s first rolling bearings to have cages made of a bioplastic material derived from renewable biomass sources – mainly plants. It says that the cages will cut lifecycle CO2 emissions by 91% compared to conventional plastics made from fossil fuels. Unlike other bioplastic materials that have problems in high temperatures, tests have shown that the new cage material can withstand temperatures of up 120°C.

Synthetic images ‘revolutionise’ vision system training

Siemens has launched a service that uses AI (artificial intelligence) to generate synthetic images of objects from CAD files. These images can then be used to simplify the training of machine vision systems to identify the objects.

Nidec invests $80m to take lead in strainwave gears

The Japanese motion engineering giant Nidec is investing 10 billion yen (around $80m) to double the size of a manufacturing facility in the Philippines where it produces gear reducers – especially, strainwave gears. It is aiming to double its sales of these products to 100 billion yen ($800m) by 2025, thus overtaking the current global market-leader in these technologies, Harmonic Drive Systems, which is also based in Japan.

Cobot sales set to surge as ROIs come down to 2-3 years

Sales of collaborative robots (cobots) will grow by 20–30% a year in the period to 2025/2026 – faster than previously predicted – according to new projections by Interact Analysis. It also reports that the average ROI (return on investment) on cobots has come down from five years to just two to three.

McComb succeeds Squirrell after 29 years as chairman of PIUK

Chris McComb, managing director of the Manchester-based systems integrator iTech, has succeeded Bob Squirrell as chairman of PIUK, the UK operation of the Profibus Group. Squirrel has retired after almost 30 years in the post.

Selfridges robot 3D-prints items using recycled plastics

Visitors to Selfridges department store in London this month will be able to see an industrial robot 3D printing a variety of objects using recycled plastic recovered from the sea. A Nagami plastic extruder attached to an ABB IRB 6700 robot is creating printed furniture, homeware and other objects chosen by customers via a screen.

On-machine drives cut time and costs, and simplify set-ups

Rockwell Automation has released a series of machine-mounting AC variable-frequency drives designed for quick installation, simple commissioning and predictive maintenance. The Allen-Bradley Armor PowerFlex drives, available in standard or safety versions, replace multiple components for easier integration into automation systems.

First NFC microdrive can be programmed inside its box

At the recent Drives & Controls Show in Birmingham, UK, Nidec Control Techniques unveiled a microdrive that it believes is the first in the world to provide programming, commissioning, diagnostics and other functions using a built-in NFC (near-field communications) capability.

UK motor developer brings production back from China

The British electric motor developer Saietta is bringing production of its axial-flux motors back from China to the UK. The company has originally planned to establish a UK pilot production line by 2024, but is now taking over a motor manufacturing facility in Sunderland previously operated by ZF Automotive UK, which closed the factory last year. Saietta plans to take on many of ZF’s 110 former employees.

Airbus and Roche join digital twin project for industrial plants

A group of European technology companies including Airbus, the pharmaceuticals giant Roche and Capgemini Engineering, have joined forces to develop and industrialise a digital ecosystem for industrial and manufacturing environments. The Vims (Virtual IoT Manufacturing System) will deliver detailed visualisations of manufacturing processes from single production lines to complete factories.

Large robots target EV production and other complex tasks

ABB has announced two new families of large industrial robots for complex manufacturing applications such as EV (electric vehicle) manufacturing, foundries, forging, rubber, plastics and metal fabrication. The IRB 5710 and 5720 robots are designed to boost productivity, performance and uptime by delivering enhanced speed, accuracy, flexibility, and a more robust design with integrated cabling.

Danfoss-Semikron merger creates power electronics giant

The power semiconductor manufacturers Semikron and Danfoss Silicon Power are merging to create a joint business focusing on power semiconductor modules for use in variable-speed drives and other applications such as electric vehicle chargers and renewable energy power converters. With a workforce of more than 3,500, the new Semikron-Danfoss will be owned by the current owner-families of Semikron and the Danfoss Group, with Danfoss being the majority shareholder. They say they plan to invest “significantly” in innovation, technology, and capacity with the aim of at least doubling the size of the business within five years.

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