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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.

$4.5m funding will help to market ‘revolutionary’ motor

A US start-up has raised $4.5m to help market a “revolutionary” electric motor that uses multiple rotors in “ways never before devised” and can adapt to conditions while in motion. Compared to the best permanent magnet motors, Linear Labs claims that its Hunstable Electric Turbine (HET) motor delivers twice the torque density, three times the power density, and twice the output for a given motor size.

Non-contact vibration sensors will open up new uses

An Israeli company has developed a non-contact, laser-based sensing technology that measures the vibrations emitted by industrial machinery to predict and prevent mechanical failures before they occur. VocalZoom says that because its sensors can monitor machine health without touching the equipment, they will have a much wider range of applications than traditional predictive maintenance systems, as well as avoiding the deployment and downtime costs associated with fixed sensors.

Tiny plug-in servodrive is ‘the world’s smallest’

The Spanish motion control specialist Ingenia claims to have produced the world’s smallest plug-in servodrive module. Its Earth drive has a footprint of 29 x 19mm and is aimed at applications such as robotics end-effectors, cutting tools, drills and medical devices.

Soft robotic gripper can lift items 100 times its weight

Researchers in the US have developed a robotic gripper that’s soft and strong. The cone-shaped structure, called Magic Ball, collapses in on objects and can pick up items that are 100 times its weight. The gripper can grasp objects ranging from soup cans and wine glasses, to single florets of broccoli.

HMS takes control at German IIoT firm, WEBfactory

Swedish-based HMS Industrial Networks AB, a subsidiary of HMS Networks AB, has acquired 74.9% of the shares in the German company WEBfactory, which provides Web-based software for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

UK and Ireland VSD hire fleet has ‘the widest coverage’

ABB has launched a fleet of low-voltage variable-speed drives (VSDs) that are available for hire from locations across the UK and Ireland. It claims that it is offering the widest geographical coverage of any VSD leasing scheme in the UK.

Liquid-cooled, 690V and crane drives debut at Hannover

At the Hannover Fair in April, Mitsubishi Electric will be showing extensions to its portfolio of frequency converters, including 690V models in ratings up to 630kW, a liquid-cooled series for use in harsh operating conditions, and high-performance drives dedicated to crane and winding applications.

Automated loading of parcels into trucks tackles ‘the last mile’

Trials have begun of a system that can load parcels automatically into delivery trucks, thus reducing the amount of manual work needed, and saving time. The system, called PackMyRide, has been developed by the supply chain specialist, Dematic, and is being tested in a pilot project at distribution centre operated by the delivery company DPD in Nagold, Germany.

Mitsubishi reveals ‘first’ 102 products to support CC-Link TSN

Mitsubishi Electric has announced the release of 102 factory automation products that will be the first to support the next-generation CC-Link IE TSN industrial network that was announced at the end of 2018. The products – which include PLCs, servo amplifiers, robots, HMIs, inverters and CNCs – will start to reach the market in May 2019. They will include 65 new-generation servodrives and seven motion controllers.

ABB ties up with Dassault and unveils new structure

ABB has formed a global software partnership with Dassault Systèmes and revealed details of its global reorganisation following its recent decision to sell its Power Grids business to Hitachi. The company’s focus will now be predominantly on the industrial sector with more than half of its almost 2018 revenues of $30bn coming from its automation, motion, robotics and discrete automation activities, which make up three of the four businesses in its new structure – the fourth being electrification.

Pneumatic ‘hand’ and ‘arm’ can collaborate safely with humans

Festo has unveiled its latest nature-inspired technologies: a pneumatically-operated “hand” and “arm” which can interact safely with people. Both will make their public debut at next month’s Hannover Fair.

Module links existing motors to the cloud for analysis

Siemens has announced plans for a technology that will transmit data from existing electric motors directly to the cloud for analysis, without needing any structural modifications. At next month’s Hannover Fair, the company will demonstrate a module that will allow plant operators to view the operational status of their drive systems and to plan servicing schedules, improve efficiency, as well as extending service lives. Typical applications will include pumps, fans and compressors.

RFID helps robots to track objects and could replace vision

Researchers at MIT (the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in the US have developed a system that uses RFID (radio-frequency identification) tags to help robots home in on moving objects with “unprecedented” speed and accuracy. Using the system, called TurboTrack, robots can locate tagged objects within 7.5ms on average, and with an error of less than 1cm.

Servodrives target protective extra-low-voltage applications

Siemens is launching a new servodrive system for extra-low-voltage (ELV) safety applications, which comprises a PDC (Profidrive Control) servo converter used in conjunction with compatible motors and connecting cables. The Simatic Micro-Drive is designed for use with DC and EC (electronically commutated) motors from 24–48V and is suitable for applications such as precision positioning, AGVs (automatic guided vehicle systems), and shuttles used in storage and warehousing systems.

AI slashes the automation set-up times by up to 66%

Mitsubishi Electric and Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) have developed an artificial-intelligence (AI) technology that, they say, can cut the time needed to set up factory automation (FA) equipment by up to two thirds. The technology, which combines AIST’s AI expertise with Mitsubishi FA technologies, will be implemented in Mitsubishi's Maisart (Mitsubishi AI creates the State-of-the-Art in technology) products.

No-deal Brexit would be ‘catastrophic’ for UK manufacturing

Almost half (44%) of all UK manufacturers have taken some form of action to prepare for the UK leaving the European Union, according to a survey of 429 senior decision-makers in UK manufacturing firms conducted by YouGov for Make UK, the new name for EEF. Among larger companies (with more than 250 employees), the figure rises to 70%, and with 47% of them either having adjusted their supply chains or considered doing so.

UK manufacturers' body EEF rebrands itself as Make UK

After representing UK manufacturers for more than 120 years, the Engineering Employers Federation (EEF) has relaunched itself under the new name, Make UK. It says that at a time when the country and the industrial sector face an “unparalleled” set of challenges and opportunities ­– including Brexit, digitalisation, automation, artificial intelligence and the emergence of new markets – “it was time for us to adopt a modern name designed to reflect the world-class innovation undertaken by our member companies across the whole of the country.”

48V conveyor drives could halve power supply needs

The Swiss conveyor drive specialist Interoll has announced a modular, plug-and-play conveyor platform that offers a choice of 24V or 48V DC operation, and includes motors rated up to 50W for driving heavy loads. At the heart of the DC Platform are the new EC5000 RollerDrives which power the zones of zero-pressure-accumulation conveyors individually.

First trial of 5G communications in a UK factory goes live

Trials of the first live installation of 5G technologies in a UK factory have begun at Worcester Bosch’s boiler production plant in Worcester. The company will test the ability of the high-speed wireless transmission technology to improve output, and to provide preventative maintenance using IoT sensors and data analytics to predict potential breakdowns.

IIC and OPC will collaborate to promote the IIoT

The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) and the OPC Foundation have agreed to work together to advance their shared interests. Under a deal signed in the US, they will collaborate to promote the digital economy by preventing fragmentation and harmonising various aspects of the industrial Internet.

Flexible safety network boosts cobot and AGV productivity

The German sensor-maker Sick has developed an intelligent safety network for collaborative robots (cobots) and AGVs (automated guided vehicles) which, it says, will deliver flexibility and productivity. The Safe EFI-pro system combines safe sensor and control technologies with open Ethernet networking, supporting application-specific safety concepts for AGVs and cobots that also improve their performance.

German project develops autonomous ‘free form’ sensors

A consortium of German organisations has completed a 3½-year project to develop compact, intelligent, autonomous, wireless sensors that can be adapted into any shape or form factor. The Freiform (free form) project covered all aspects of sensor design – for example, signal processing, wireless data transmission, power supplies and location awareness ­– and included an investigations into mechanical, electrical and software design.

Midlands company offers robots for hire from £2.70 per hour

A West Midlands company believes it is the first in the UK to offer robots for hire, with prices starting at £2.70 per hour. Halesowen-based Bots Automation has secured an investment of £1m to back its business model which, it says, is already popular in the US.

Scheme offers £4m to help solve productivity problems

Innovate UK has announced that £4m is available for UK companies that want to work with scientists and research organisations to help solve productivity problems and improve industry competitiveness. Businesses are being asked to suggest analysis and measurement problems – for example, why a certain defect rate is occurring in one of their production processes – and the value that solving the problems would bring.

Flexible robotic gripper works like a chameleon’s tongue

A robotic gripper that holds workpieces in a similar way to how a chameleon’s tongue grabs and holds onto insects, has been developed by Festo. The DHEF “adaptive shape gripper” can pick up and put down objects of many different shapes without needing any manual adjustments.

UK axial-flux motor developer signs deal with global OEM

Yasa, the British developer and manufacturer of axial-flux electric motors and controllers, has signed a long-term innovation agreement with an unnamed global automotive OEM. The partnership will focus on developing custom electric motor and controller systems for high-performance hybrid and pure electric vehicles.

Siemens, Festo and Rexroth join forces on carrier system

At the Hannover Fair in April, Siemens and Festo will present an new linear motor drive and control concept, said to offer flexible, efficient and high-performance motion for short-cycle applications. Siemens and Festo have integrated their Multi-Carrier System (MCS), first announced in 2015, with Bosch Rexroth’s TS 2plus transfer system, adding the modular MCS to Rexroth's building-block system which is based on standardised units.

Busbar trunking will carry data as well as power

At the Hannover Fair in April, Siemens will unveil a technology that allows busbar trunking systems to carry not only current, but also data, reducing the need for data cables and complex cabling installations. The new form of data transmission will be available for Siemens’ BD2, LD, and LI busbar trunking systems in its Sivacon 8PS portfolio.

Industrial robot sales plunged by 15% in the UK during 2018

The number of new industrial robots sold in the UK plummeted by 15% last year compared to 2017, according to figures released by Bara, the British Automation and Robot Association. The fall follows two years of steady growth. If automotive applications are excluded, 856 industrial robots were sold in the UK last year – 13% fewer than in 2017, when 988 were sold.

Motion function cuts machine set-up times by up to 90%

Bosch Rexroth claims that a new drive-based motion control function can cut machine programming and commissioning times by up to 90%, compared to traditional PLCs. With the Sequential Motion Control (SMC) function, users can program single- and multi-axis applications in Rexroth’s IndraDrive drives without needing an external control system.

IO-Link revenues hit $3.5bn in 2018 and are booming

Global sales of IO-Link compatible equipment were worth more than $3.5bn in 2018 and will grow by a further 12.2% in 2019, according to a new study by the analyst, Future Market Insights (FMI). It adds that IO-Link devices accounted for more than 56% of global turnover (almost $2bn) last year, with IO-Link masters accounting for the remainder.

Factory in a Box demonstrates smart manufacturing

The UK’s Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) has developed an industrial-scale demonstrator to show manufacturers how they can benefit by adopting smart production technologies and processes. Called the “Factory in a Box”, the demonstrator has been developed in collaboration with the Universities of Birmingham and Loughborough, and several industrial partners.

Controller-PC allows operators to see machine data

Rockwell Automation has announced an industrial controller that combines its Logix control engine with the Microsoft Windows 10 IoT Enterprise operating system, allowing users to view machine information at its source and make more informed operating decisions. The Allen-Bradley CompactLogix 5480 controller can support applications with up to 150 axes of motion, making it ideal for large packaging and converting, printing and web applications that would benefit from a simplified architecture and smaller footprint. It also provides fast scan times and motion-loop updates to help improve machine throughput.

SPS IPC Drives 2018 Exclusive Report

The annual SPS IPC Drives show in Germany is probably the world’s largest exhibition dedicated to developments in automation. We look at some of the highlights from the most recent event, held last November.

Polymer frames result in light, efficient, direct-cooled motors

German researchers are developing a new cooling concept for electric motors that uses polymers in the motor housings, resulting in lightweight motors with high power densities and efficiencies. The motors are aimed, in particular, at electric vehicle applications where these characteristics, combined with the motor’s small size, will help to save weight and space.

Sales of motor-drives and on-machine VSDs ‘will hit $1.4bn’

The global market for integrated motors and machine-mounted drives will expand with a CAGR of 6.8% in the five years from 2017, reaching $1.4bn by 2022, according to a new study from IHS Markit. Factors driving the market include an expansion in machinery production and additional revenues being generated by sales of AC brushless servo and AC induction motors and drives.

VSDs with motion controls simplify machine-building

ABB has added positioning control capabilities to its ACS880 variable-speed drives, avoiding the need for dedicated external motion controllers that require specific tools, user interfaces and programming languages. The same product family can now be used for positioning, speed or torque control across an entire production line. ABB says that embedding position control inside the drive will minimise machine engineering and installation work, remove the need for extra equipment, and cut the costs of training, tools and spare parts.

Drives are optimised for synchronous reluctance motors

At the recent SPS IPC Drives show, Siemens launched a new range of converters aimed mainly at pump and fan applications. With a power range of 0.75–630kW, the G120X drives can be used with any type of motor, but are optimised for use with Siemens’ synchronous reluctance motors.

Deep-learning machine vision opens up new possibilities

The emergence of machine vision technologies that use “deep learning” is expanding manufacturers’ capabilities and flexibility, leading to greater cost efficiencies and higher production yields, according to a new report from ABI Research. It predicts that these technologies will achieve a CAGR of 20% between 2017 and 2023, with revenues reaching $34bn by 2023.

Embedded controller can synchronise up to 192 axes

Rexroth has topped its MLC motion control system with an embedded controller that can handle up to 192 synchronised axes. By choosing the appropriate software package, users can decide whether they want the XM42 controller to synchronise 64, 128 or 192 axes.

Permanent magnet HVAC motors are 'most efficient’

WEG has developed a range of electronically commutated permanent magnet motors with IEC 80 aluminium housings, specifically for HVAC (heating, ventliation and air-conditioning) applications. The WECM motors achieve an IE5 efficiency rating, and packaged with an impeller, they comply with all current and future EU directives for HVAC.

Monitor stops dry running in hazardous area pumps

Siemens has developed a technology that prevents centrifugal pumps in hazardous areas from running dry. The technique said to need less hardware, to provide early detection of faults, and to avoid damage to pumps. It also claimed to cut the time and money spent on maintenance, and to result in higher system availabilities and efficiencies.

Communicative inverter supports single-cable links

SEW-Eurodrive has a new inverter which, it says, is notable for the flexibility of its communications interfaces, controllable motor types and scalable functions. The Movidrive technology application inverter is part of SEW’s Movi-C modular automation system and supports Movilink DDI single-cable digital connections to motors in this family.

Maxon acquires UK geared motor maker Parvalux

The Swiss precision motor and drive specialist maxon motor has acquired the British geared motor manufacturer Parvalux Electric Motors for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition expands maxon’s portfolio into drives for applications including medical technology and industrial automation, among other fields.

Nidec takes 70% stake in German gearbox manufacturer, Desch

The Japanese motors and drives giant Nidec is acquiring a 70% stake in the German precision gearbox and drive component manufacturer, Desch Antriebstechnik, and its subsidiaries in Germany and China. The transaction will give Nidec’s gearbox subsidiary Nidec-Shimpo access to the market for large precision gearboxes, in addition to its current presence in the small precision gearbox market. Desch’s companies in North America are not part of the agreement, whose financial details have not been disclosed.

Using IO-Link for analogue signals cuts costs

Balluff has come up with a device that saves money by using IO-Link to handle analogue inputs and outputs, and uses unshielded three-conductor cables instead of shielded cables. It avoids the need for marshalling panels and expensive analogue interfaces, and is said to improve process quality by switching from analogue to digital data transmission.

Distributed starters and drives are ‘fit for Industry 4.0’

At the recent SPS IPC Drives show in Germany, Eaton unveiled a new generation (5.0) of its Rapid Link series of distributed motor starters and frequency converters that are “fit for Industry 4.0”. As well as the previous AS-i versions, there are now Ethernet/IP and Profinet versions of the IP65-protected Ramo starters and Rasp drives that can be integrated into IIoT applications. The Rasp drives can now be used with IE4 motors (permanent magnet, brushless DC or synchronous reluctance) and their power ratings now extend to 4kW.

Vision system is 'the first' integrated into an automation system

After previewing its new integrated machine vision technology at the 2017 SPS IPC Drives show, B&R Automation provided more details and demonstrations at the 2018 event.

P+F buys US industrial comms specialist Comtrol

The German industrial automation company Pepperl+Fuchs is acquiring Comtrol Corporation, the US-based pioneer of industrial Ethernet technologies and manufacturer of IO-Link products. From 1 February, Comtrol will join P+F’s Factory Automation division and a new company called Pepperl+Fuchs Comtrol Inc, will be established in the US. The business will remain in Minneapolis and plans to increase its headcount during 2019. The financial terms of the deal have not been revealed.

KEB takes 30% stake in Italian motor-maker, Brusatori

The German motors and drives manufacturer KEB Automation has acquired a 30% stake in the Italian motor producer, Brusatori Motori Elettrici, thus expanding its servo and high-torque portfolio.

EU scheme hopes to create 1,000 start-ups by 2030

The European Union has set up a consortium with the goal of creating 1,000 manufacturing start-up businesses, and training and upskilling 50,000 people across the EU by 2030. The EIT Manufacturing consortium brings together 50 partners from 17 countries (not including the UK) with aim of helping the European manufacturing sector to become more competitive, sustainable and productive.

Global group aims to accelerate uptake of Industry 4.0

Five organisations – Siemens, SAP, the management consultancy McKinsey, the testing body TÜV SÜD, and the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) – have joined forces to help manufacturers around the world adopt Industry 4.0 technologies. The group aims to develop tools that will accelerate the digital transformation of manufacturers in Singapore and elsewhere.

System links sensors to any cloud in less than a minute

At the recent SPS IPC Drives show, a German start-up demonstrated a technology for connecting industrial sensors and actuators rapidly to almost any cloud platform, without needing edge gateways or fieldbuses. The system connects IO-Link-supporting sensors to the cloud using a plug-and-play approach. It recognises and configures IO-modules (such as IO-Link masters) and sensors automatically.

Troubleshooting team helps manufacturers to solve problems

The Coventry-based Manufacturing Technology Centre has launched a team of manufacturing experts and research engineers to help UK businesses of all sizes to improve productivity, processes and efficiency. The MTC says it is responding to demand in establishing its System Architecture team, which will examine companies’ processes to seek opportunities for improvement, identify bottlenecks, and find areas where technology could help cut costs, increase safety, save time or improve productivity.

Machine-based edge platform cuts data costs

Siemens has developed a hardware platform for edge applications that captures and processes  manufacturing data at the point of production. Based on an embedded Simatic IPC227E industrial PC, the platform can process large volumes of data from machinery almost in real-time, bridging the gap between local and cloud-based data processing. Siemens says that, by processing large volumes of data in advance and sending only relevant data to the cloud or a company's own IT infrastructure, its Industrial Edge platform will help users to cut the costs of data storage and transmission.

Piezo motors challenge traditional technologies

The global market for piezoelectric motors was worth $8.3bn last year and will reach $12.5bn by 2027 – a CAGR of 4.7% – according to a new study from the analyst Fact.MR. It reports that more than two billion piezo motors were sold last year (about a quarter of them linear motors) and says that the market is being driven by factors including the motors’ high torque and force capabilities.

‘Singular’ controller simplifies robot integration

At the recent SPS IPC Drives show, Yaskawa unveiled a “singular” control system that allows users to integrate robots into existing architectures without needing to use a programming device or a robot programming language. The MP3300iec RBT controller can handle robots, servodrives, inverter drives and I/O systems, and can synchronise them via the real-time Mechatrolink III Ethernet bus.

Hybrid system integrates mechanical and touch controls

A UK specialist in touch sensors has developed a technology that integrates touch and physical controls. Newcastle-based Zytronic’s hybrid touch technology allows tactile buttons or mechanical dials to be incorporated in and around the active area of a projected capacitive touchscreen and to be connected invisibly through the viewable area of the screen. It claims that this is the first time that these two technologies have been integrated in this way.

Bosch buys Daimler’s stake in their EV motor venture

Robert Bosch has bought Daimler’s share of EM-motive, the 50:50 joint venture that they set up in 2011 to manufacture electric motors for electric and hybrid vehicles. The terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

‘Open’ control system gets safety controller and app store

Two years after it announced its PLCnext “open” control technology for data-centric applications, Phoenix Contact has unveiled a high-performance controller, based on an Intel i5 dual-core processor with 4GB of RAM, which incorporates a safety controller. The RFC 4072S uses two independent CPUs with different architectures to perform safety calculations, making it suitable for applications up to SIL 3 / PL e.

Smart sensors will spot cable problems before they fail

ABB is developing a cable protection system that will be able to sense potential problems, such as condensation or rising temperatures, in the conduit that protects critical electrical cables. Using the analytical power and secure cloud-based communications of ABB’s Ability platform, the system will report and analyse data remotely, and allow facility managers to keep tabs on their electrical cables via smartphones, laptops or other remote devices.

Experience Centre shows transformative technologies

Siemens has refurbished a demonstration centre at its Manchester, UK, headquarters to create a “Digital Experience Centre” that illustrates how industrial companies can embark on a journey of digital transformation. The centre includes working examples of digital technologies which will help them to enhance productivity, implement flexible manufacturing, optimise performance and open up new business models.

NFC-based time relay is ’50 times more accurate’

At the recent SPS IPC Drives show in Germany, Schneider Electric announced the “first” time relay with built-in NFC (near-field communications), allowing it to be set from a smartphone 50 times more precisely than conventional time relays. The 22.5mm-wide Zelio Time relay can even be set through packaging and when it is de-energised – unlike systems based on Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

‘First’ radar-based safety barrier is unaffected by dust

An Italian company claims to have developed the world’s first radar-based safety barrier system which, unlike optical systems, is not affected by smoke, dust, machining waste or liquid splashes. Inxpect’s LBK system is certified for SIL 2 / PL d for safety-critical applications.

Rockwell buys UK automation simulation developer

Rockwell Automation has acquired Emulate3D, a UK engineering software developer whose products simulate and emulate industrial automation systems digitally. By using accurate simulation models to improve systems planning and decision-making, followed by emulation trials that test the control system before installation, Emulate3D’s software allows customers to test machine and system designs virtually before incurring manufacturing and automation costs and committing to a final design. The financial details of the transaction have not been released.

Danfoss buys US drivetrain developer UQM in $100m deal

Danfoss is buying the US electric drivetrain developer UQM Technologies in a cash transaction worth around $100m, including the assumption of UQM’s debts. Danfoss says that UQM’s expertise in motors and inverters up to 250kW for electric, hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid electric propulsion systems, “adds an important and complementary technology to our current product range”.

Cobot automates the chore of applying attachment tapes

3M has collaborated with the American Industry 4.0 expert Eckhart to develop a system that uses a collaborative robot to apply attachment tapes automatically in industrial and automotive processes. The 3M Automated Taping System (ATS) uses a Universal Robots cobot to apply 3M Attachment Tapes – a process that is usually done by hand.

Flexible chain concept marks a ‘paradigm shift’ in light grids

The German sensor-maker Sick claims to have reinvented the industrial light grid with a flexible system consisting of up to 60 individual beams that are daisy-chained to each other and controlled by a single host. Unlike traditional rigid profiles with fixed send and receive modules, the transmitters and receivers in the new FlexChain system can be positioned flexibly with different photoelectric sensing technologies – through-beam, retro-reflective and proximity – being mixed freely to suit an application.

IE5 motors with PCB stators slash costs and weights

A US motor developer claims to have designed a “transformational” high-efficiency motor that will cost up to 25% less to produce and will weigh up to 60% less than comparable motors. Texas-based Infinitum Electric has just raised $1.8m of Series A financing, bringing its total funding since its founding in 2016 to $2.7m. It plans to use the funds to launch an integrated HVAC-specific version of the motor and to boost r&d for applications in the electric vehicle, and oil and gas, markets.

Austria's Keba buys Germany’s LTI and Heinz Fiege

The Austrian automation specialist Keba has acquired two German companies – the servodrives manufacturer LTI Motion and the spindles-maker Heinz Fiege – to widen its technology base and strengthen its position in industrial automation. Lahnau-based LTI and Röllbach-based Fiege were previously owned by the German technology group Körber. The purchase price has not been disclosed.

LV motor sales to process sector are booming

Global sales of low-voltage motors to the process sector have been growing faster than those to the discrete industries, according to a new report from IHS Markit. It says that LV motor revenues from the process sector grew by 4% between 2016 and 2017, generating $3.7bn in revenues, and will reach $4.4bn by 2022.