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£8m project aims to make the UK an EV powertrain leader

A group of UK organisations, led by GKN Automotive, are collaborating on an £8m project to design and develop a “world-leading” electric vehicle powertrain for the global market. The ACeDrive (Advanced Cooling and Control of High Speed e-Drive) project aims to deliver the world’s lightest and most efficient electric vehicle powertrain for volume markets. To achieve this, the group is developing “ground-breaking” concepts in cooling and system integration, leading to significant reductions in the number and size of components needed. Key targets for the project include a 25% reduction in packaging size and cost, a 20% reduction in weight, and a 10% increase in efficiency, compared to current equivalents.

Modular access control system can be retrofitted

The German machinery safety specialist Pilz has developed a flexible, modular access permission management system which can be integrated into existing control consoles and can use existing pushbuttons. The PITmode fusion system consists of a reader with integrated RFID technology, a Web server (the PITreader) and a safe evaluation module (SEU). It is aimed at machines which need to switch between different control sequences and operating modes.

Smartphone, watch and thermal camera are intrinsically safe

Pepperl+Fuchs has created a portfolio of intrinsically safe “smart” devices, including a phone, smartwatch and thermal video camera designed to operate safely in potentially explosive atmospheres. It describes the SmartEx 02 phone as “the most advanced intrinsically safe smartphone for Zone 1/21 and Div 1” operation, and the first to be certified to Google’s AER (Android Enterprise Recommended) validation for these areas. It has a 5-inch display, runs the Android 9 OS and has global Ex and approval certifications.

Software bridges gap between standard and custom gearboxes

At the 2019 Hannover Fair, SEW-Eurodrive unveiled a new generation of its X industrial gearboxes which it has optimised in terms of their hardware as well as calculation processes designed to meet specific customer demands. The Generation X.e boxes include helical and helical-bevel types spanning the torque range 6.8-475kNm.

‘Plug-and-produce’ demo heralds no-programming future

At the 2019 Hannover Fair, Lenze demonstrated its vision of the future in which production lines will no longer need to be reprogrammed when new products are introduced. Instead, manufacturer-independent standards will allow various modules to configure the production line automatically and exchange data with one another.

Rolls-Royce buys Siemens’ electric aircraft business

Rolls-Royce has agreed to buy Siemen’s electric and hybrid-electric aerospace propulsion activities for an undisclosed sum. The move – announced at the Paris Air Show – is aimed at accelerating Rolls’ electrification strategy and boosting its ambition to become the leading supplier of electric and hybrid-electric propulsion systems for aircraft and to play a major role in the “third era” of aviation. The acquisition is expected to complete late 2019, following a period of employee consultation.

ABB announces ‘first’ use of 5G and AI for assembling drives

ABB is piloting what it describes as the world’s first industrial application using artificial intelligence (AI) and 5G wireless technology to assist in the assembly of drives. The application, at a plant in Helsinki, Finland, will support the plant’s workers by using a camera to monitor them as they assemble drives, and ensuring they perform the work in accordance with customers’ orders and appropriate work instructions. The fast 5G connections will allow real-time feedback, and this should make assembly “significantly” easier than having to follow work instructions from a paper document, thus helping to improve quality.

Hannover Fair 2019 Exclusive Show Report

An inescapable theme at this year’s Hannover Fair was the emergence of 5G as potential game-changer for industrial communications. The high-speed, low-latency technology could oust traditional signal wiring in many applications – although widespread adoption still seems several years away.

164 safety light curtains form ‘world’s broadest portfolio’

Omron has announced a family of 164 new safety light curtains, with the claim that they form the industry's broadest portfolio. The F3SG-SR/PG curtains provide finger (10mm beam gap), hand (20mm), leg (40mm), and body protection (80mm), and cover protective heights from 160–2,480mm. They are IO-Link compatible, and can thus be linked into IoT systems on factory floors.

Ironless linear motors boost force-to-mass ratios by up to 45%

At the 2019 Hannover Fair, Schaeffler presented a series of ironless linear motors designed to reduce the mass of the primary part without compromising drive forces. The UPLplus motors are aimed, in particular, at applications where the maximum acceleration of linear drives has previously been limited by the relatively large proportion of the rotor mass to the total moving mass.

Group aims to standardise industrial cloud interfaces

More than 30 companies and organisations involved in industrial automation and communications have come together to draw up a standard interface for industrial cloud communications that will ensure interoperability between factory systems and cloud platforms.

Future grippers will harness AI to operate autonomously

At the 2019 Hannover Fair, the gripper specialist Schunk announced that it is collaborating with the French artificial intelligence (AI) expert, AnotherBrain, to develop the world's first autonomous gripping system. The technology will allow handling operations to be performed without any manual programming.

Parameterising app talks to drives via Bluetooth

Nord Drivesystems has developed an app for diagnosing, analysing, monitoring and parameterising its drives. The Nordcomm app works with a Bluetooth stick to speed up commissioning, simplify maintenance and remedy faults faster.

Ferrari picks UK motors for 340km/h hybrid supercar

Ferrari has chosen the UK electric motor manufacturer Yasa to supply the motors for its first series production hybrid sportscar – the 340km/h SF90 Stradale. Each vehicle will contain three motors, with a combined capacity of 162kW, helping to propel the  four-wheel-drive vehicle to 100 km/h in 2.5 seconds, and 200 km/h in 6.7s.

Backdrivable actuator offers ‘unrivalled’ speed and stiffness

Genesis Robotics, the Canadian company which unveiled a gearless, high-torque rotary actuator at the 2017 Hannover fair, was back at this year's show, previewing a new family of low-friction, back-drivable actuators which, it says, respond much faster than traditional actuators.

UK manufacturers are among the keenest to adopt 5G

UK manufacturers are among the keenest to adopt 5G technologies, according to a survey of 800 industrial company executives and 150 telecoms executives in 12 leading countries, performed by Cap Gemini. It found that 75% of UK companies (and a similar proportion in Italy) want to implement 5G within two years of it becoming available. This puts them ahead of the global average of 65% and Germany, where the figure is just 49%.

Deep learning allows smart sensors to adapt to their task

The German sensor-maker Sick is using deep learning techniques to create “intelligent” sensors that can perform automated detection, testing and classification of objects and features. At the Hannover Fair, it announced an application that uses deep learning to detect whether a sorting tray in a logistics hub is loaded with an object.

Engineer of The Year is a German drives developer

A German engineer, Juan Carlos González Villar, was named Engineer of the Year at the Motion Control Industry (MCI) Awards ceremony, held last month in Solihull, UK. Villar, who is proprietor of Kabel.Consult.Ing, won the award for his patented “Energy Light” drive system and networked, continuously-variable transmission system, which he says, improves the energy efficiency of drive applications using a combination of a patented motor technology, advanced controls, and a lightweight construction using composite fibre materials. It is designed to minimise drive output during continuous operation, acceleration, delays, and braking, and to standardise the drive system.

Virtual reality demo gives remote control of a robot via 5G

Visitors to Rittal’s stand at the 2019 Hannover Fair could take part in a demonstration in which they used virtual reality (VR) glasses and two VR controllers to control a two-arm industrial robot, connected to an edge-based 5G network. The task was to plug a large replica of a conductor connection terminal onto a rail, insert a cable into the terminal, and disconnect it again. There was immediate optical and acoustic feedback on whether or not they were successful in the task.

Siemens' automation portal migrates to the cloud

Siemens is making its TIA Portal engineering framework accessible via the cloud, providing fast, flexible, Web-based access to pre-installed environments via any type of hardware, at any place and any time, without needing any installation. It says that this capability will reduce the effort needed to test TIA Portal innovations, allowing the framework to adapt flexibly to a user’s hardware and way of working. There is no need to install the software on local hardware.

Design your own low-cost robot ‘in just a few clicks’

A group of German robotics suppliers has joined forces to create a platform where users can create low-cost robots by choosing compatible components from different suppliers “with just a few clicks”. Initial supporters of the platform, called RBTX.com, include igus, ifm, Schunk, Servotronix, Schmalz and Commonplace Robotics.

Machine learning tool helps OEMs to deliver ROIs in ‘months’

At the 2019 Hannover Fair, Weidmüller presented an automated machine learning (ML) tool for machinery and plant engineering that will allow OEMs to create and develop models without having to rely on data scientists or external specialists. This will ensure that their knowledge of processes and machinery stays inside the company.

UK children get their own engineering institutions

The UK’s latest engineering institutions will also have the youngest members. Primary Engineer, the organisation that has spent the past 15 bringing engineering into primary classrooms, has taken its most ambitious step yet by launching the Institutions of Primary and Secondary Engineers which. It says they “are set to change the way skills are taught and nurtured in schools”.

Cloud-based apps give real-time insights into IIoT equipment

At the 2019 Hannover Fair, Schneider Electric announced seven new cloud-based apps for industry, smart buildings, data centres and energy grids, as part of its EcoStruxure platform. The Advisor apps and services provide visibility for connected products, while delivering analytics to drive efficiency. They include:

Now you can talk to a machine to tell it when to start

Iconics, the software developer recently acquired by Mitsubishi, has developed a voice interface for machinery that allows users to perform tasks such as starting and stopping equipment, changing temperatures, adjusting setpoints, and viewing work orders, without looking away from what they’re doing or lifting a finger. The Genesis64 Voice Machine Interface (VMI) allows them to use natural spoken commands to boost productivity and improve operational efficiency.

App reads error messages from industrial controls

Bosch Rexroth has released an app that provides wireless access to the error memory of machines equipped with its control systems, allowing maintenance personnel to read error messages and service information, and to order spares.

Gearbox data standard supports digital twins

Schaeffler, SEW-Eurodrive and FVA (the German research association for power transmission engineering) have collaborated to draw up a standard modelling system and nomenclature for gearboxes. Called REXS (reusable engineering exchange standard), the format will replace manual data exchanges between CAE (computer-aided engineering) tools, and eliminate the need for repeated gearbox modelling processes. This will cut development times, and the format can also be used to generate digital twins that can be used to analyse gearbox operating data.

Saab’s successor buys UK wheel-motor developer, Protean

National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS), a subsidiary of the Chinese group Evergrande Health, has acquired the British pioneer of in-wheel motors (IWMs) for electric vehicles, Protean Electric. The acquisition is part of Evergrande’s strategy to become a major player in the global EV industry, and paves the way for NEVS to use Protean’s in-wheel electric drive technology, ProteanDrive, in future products.

UK’s Langley Holdings buys Italian motor-maker, Marelli

The British engineering and industrial group, Langley Holdings, has bought the Italian electric motor and generator manufacturer, Marelli Motori, from the private equity investor, the Carlyle Group, for an undisclosed sum. The transaction includes the repayment of Marelli’s bank debt of €55m.

Variohm buys UK displacement sensor specialist, Positek

The Variohm Group has acquired the Gloucester-based sensor-maker, Positek, for an undisclosed sum. Positek, which produces linear, rotary, tilt and intrinsically safe position sensors, becomes the fifth member of the Variohm Group, alongside Variohm EuroSensor, Herga, Ixthus Instrumentation and Heason Technology.

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.

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