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Power pods could cut ferry running costs by $1.7m a year

ABB has launched a new mid-sized series of its Azipod ship propulsion pods aimed primarily at ferry operators. The announcement comes as a new study by the Finnish marine consultancy Deltamarin found that Azipods could save ferry operators up to $1.7m in annual fuel costs per vessel, as well as cutting their CO2 emissions by about 10,000 tonnes per year – equivalent to taking about 2,200 passenger cars off the road.

Project develops methods for testing wireless comms

A multi-national group of researchers has developed a system for testing wireless industrial communications. They were aiming  to overcome the lack of standardised methods and test systems for measuring the reliability and performance of such systems. The three-year project, called ReICOvAir (Reliable Industrial Communication Over the Air), developed both software- and a hardware-based test beds for evaluating the reliability, latency and throughput of wireless communications systems.

‘Ground-breaking’ initiative will help UK firms to adopt I4.0

Siemens Digital Industries has joined forces with the analytics specialist Atos and the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Hartree Centre, to launch a “ground-breaking” Industrial Digitalisation Accelerator (IDA) programme that will offer UK businesses of all sizes a practical, collaborative space in which to explore Industry 4.0 technologies. They claim it is the first time that experts in the fields of IoT, analytics and computing have come together in this way to help industry to discover new pathways to growth.

Ceiling-mounted LEDS guide AGVs around factories

A group of German organisations have shown that using beams of light to locate and guide autonomous vehicles, such as AGVs, is a practical, flexible and reliable technique. In a three-year collaborative research project, backed by the German Federal Ministry of Education & Research (BMBF), the researchers demonstrated that ceiling-mounted LED lights can be used to guide driverless transport vehicles reliably through production or storage areas.

Low-power servodrives head a slew of CT launches

The Welsh drives-maker, Control Techniques, now part of the Japanese Nidec group, has announced a new generation of low-power servodrives and motors. The 200V Digitax SF drives, spanning ratings from 50–750W, will be positioned alongside CT’s flagship Digitax HD servo platform.

£3m extension will expand robotics r&d workforce by 50%

The UK government is funding a £3m extension to the Remote Applications in Challenging Environments (Race) research facility at the Culham Science Centre, near Oxford. The extension will allow Race to expand its workforce by more than 50%, to around 250, and increase its collaboration with academic and industry partners on the latest robotics equipment and testing facilities.

US centre will develop medical cobots for non-surgical duties

ABB is setting up a research centre in Texas where it will develop collaborative robot (cobot) technologies for non-surgical roles in laboratories and hospitals. Currently, the number of patients that can be treated using high-tech treatments, such as cancer therapies, is limited by the need for skilled medical experts who spend much of their day doing repetitive, low-value tasks, such as preparing slides and loading centrifuges. Using robots to automate these tasks would allow them to focus on more skilled and productive work, and could help more people to receive treatment by speeding up the testing processes dramatically.

Cobot sales will top $11bn by 2030, taking 29% of market

The market for collaborative robot (or cobot) arms will become increasingly mainstream over the next 10 years, with annual sales soaring from $711m in 2019 to reach $11.8bn by 2030, according to a new analysis by ABI Research. If revenues from related products such as end-of-arm tooling accessories and software are included, the cobot ecosystem will mushroom from just over $1bn in 2019, to $24bn by 2030 – a CAGR of 28.6%.

Sandvik’s Björn Rosengren succeeds Voser as ABB’s CEO

ABB has named Björn Rosengren as its new chief executive officer, succeeding Peter Voser, who stepped into the role on an interim basis when former CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer resigned suddenly in April 2019. Rosengren, who is currently CEO of the global engineering group Sandvik, will join ABB on February 1, 2020, and will succeed Voser on March 1, 2020. Voser will then revert to his position at ABB solely as chairman of ABB’s board.

Compact pneumatic slides are ‘the smallest available’

Festo has developed what it claims is the world’s shortest pneumatic slide. The DGST slide has a twin-piston design and comes in diameters from 6–25mm and stroke lengths from 10–200mm. The slide houses an integrated guide and end-plate made from a single part, thus eliminating torsion and misalignment issues and providing precise movements. Impact shocks at the end-of-stroke are reduced by integral cushioning, while in-built stroke adjustment eliminates the need for additional parts.

Production transport system carries five times more load

Rockwell Automation has upgraded its MagneMover Lite production transport system, allowing it to move heavier products and support larger-scale applications. The system, which uses independent carts to move items along production lines, can now carry loads of up to 10kg ­­– five times more than before – and supports larger applications.

UK soft-start pioneer Fairford becomes Motortronics UK

Fairford Electronics, the long-established British developer and manufacturer of soft-starters for electric motors, has adopted the name of the American company which bought it just over a year ago. It will now be known as Motortronics UK and will supply a much wider range of motor control products and systems.

Equistone buys UK connector-maker Bulgin for £105m

The private equity investor, Equistone Partners Europe, is buying a majority stake in Bulgin, the Cambridge-based manufacturer of rugged electrical components, from its current owner, Elektron Technology, in a deal that values the company at £105m. Bulgin will continue to be led by John Wilson, who will move from the role of executive chairman to CEO, and the company will keep its existing management team, who will acquire a minority shareholding. Peter Williamson will join as non-executive chairman.

nVent buys Eldon for $130m to add to its Hoffman brand

The London-headquartered connection and protection systems group nVent Electric is buying the Spanish enclosures manufacturer Eldon, adding it to a portfolio that already includes the Hoffman, Schroff, Raychem, Caddy, Tracer and Erico brands. nVent is paying around $130m in cash for the privately-owned business, including repayment of Eldon’s debt.

Metal proximity sensors boast ‘world’s longest sensing range’

Omron claims to have set a new world record for the sensing distances possible when using full metal proximity sensors. It says that its new E2EW series sensors achieve sensing ranges about twice as long as previous sensors when sensing steel objects, and six times as long when detecting aluminium components.

Schneider and Rockwell join ISA in cyber-security drive

The International Society of Automation (ISA) has created an alliance to promote cyber-security readiness and awareness in manufacturing, as well as in critical infrastructure facilities and processes. The founding members of the Global Cybersecurity Alliance (GCA) include Schneider Electric, Rockwell Automation, Honeywell, Johnson Controls, Claroty, and Nozomi Networks.

Automation product sales in the UK grew by 7.3% during 2018

Sales of industrial automation products in the UK grew by 7.3% last year – the third consecutive year of growth – according to the latest statistics issued by Gambica, the trade association that covers the sector. However, despite being boosted by including servodrives for the first time, growth in the sector was slower than the 12.3% it achieved in 2017.

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.

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