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UR’s owner adds AutoGuide to its robotics portfolio

The US robotics and test systems manufacturer Teradyne is buying the AMR (autonomous mobile robot) producer AutoGuide Mobile Robots for $165m – consisting of $58m net of cash acquired, plus $107m if certain performance targets are met.

Gearboxes for geared servomotors are ‘the smallest’

The German drives specialist Stober has announced a third generation of gearboxes for servo geared motors that, it claims, are the smallest on the market that offer their level of versatility. The company has reduced the lengths of the gearboxes “considerably”, resulting in smaller installation spaces, lower weights, higher torque levels, and a power densities that are up to 65% better than before.

Deep learning vision camera runs on-board neural networks

Flir Systems has developed what it describes as “the industry’s first deep-learning, inference-enabled machine vision camera with Flir Neuro technology”. The Firefly DL camera combines machine vision with deep learning to tackle complex and subjective applications such as recognising faces or determining the quality of solar panels.

All-in-one controllers bring IoT to small machines

Omron has announced a new family of all-in-one controllers that it says will bring the IoT (Internet of Things) cost-effectively to small machines. The CP2E Series controllers integrate axis controls, I/O ports and communications functions, and allow the performance of IoT-connected machines to be visualised using simple programming.

'Unique' conductive seals could tackle motor corrosion

Danish developers have come up with a pair of electrically conductive sealing materials that, they say, can provide reliable electrical connections between moving parts in components such as bearings and springs.

Cloud-based service predicts when drives are likely to fail

ABB has launched a condition-based maintenance service for variable-speed drives (VSDs) that gives early warnings of abnormal conditions that might cause a premature failure. The service covers its ACS800 or ACS880 air-cooled drives being used in critical applications in the oil and gas, metals, water and paper industries, where it is vital to avoid costly, unplanned shutdowns.

SKF Motion Technologies gets a new name

One year after the venture capital company Triton Partners bought SKF Motion Technologies for $310m, it has relaunched the business with a new name and a new strategy. It will now be known as Ewellix: Makers in Motion. The new name is pronounced “Eve-Liks”.

Are hybrid mobile robots the future of flexible production?

At the recent PPMA Total Show in Birmingham, UK, Omron demonstrated its vision of the future of manufacturing in which hybrid robots consisting of a cobots (collaborative robots) mounted on mobile, wheeled platforms move autonomously between production workcells, performing tasks such as machine tending, assembly, packing and palletising, automated pick and retrieval, as well as gluing and sealing.

High-temp fan-drives will make buildings safer during fires

The fan-maker Fläkt Woods has collaborated with Danfoss to develop and certify a range of high-temperature fan/VSD packages that comply with the EN12101-3:2015 standard, making it easier to provide efficient, reliable smoke control in buildings during fires. The certified fan/VSD packages are the first of their type to reach the market.

Stainless-steel servo gearboxes come with 5-year warranties

At the PPMA show earlier this month, Uttoxeter-based Apex Dynamics UK made its public debut with a range of servo gearboxes that it claims are the first in the world to come with a five-year warranty. The portfolio includes a series of stainless-steel, planetary servo gearboxes that it describes as “a game-changer for the food, pharmaceutical, packaging and automation sectors,” partly because they do not cost much more than standard steel boxes.

Nord aims to double the size of its UK business

The geared motors and drives specialist Nord Gear is aiming to almost double the size of its UK business to around £30m in the five years to 2023. The company, which is celebrating its 25th year in the UK this year, currently employs almost 50 people and assembles up to 30 geared motors every day. Together with ready-built assemblies delivered from its parent company in Germany, these account for about 80% of Nord’s UK business.

€20m EU project will create digital twin platform for industry

Researchers across Europe have embarked on a €20m, three-year project to build a flexible platform for creating digital twins for industrial plants. Funded under the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme, the IoTwins project will experiment with new technologies for digitising industrial processes and products, with 12 testbeds that will create “digital twins” – virtual copies of industrial processes that can be used to test plants and infrastructure management tools in advance.

Motor tester ‘combines all of the functions needed’

Megger has launched a handheld instrument that combines all of the functions needed to test electric motors in a single easy-to-use device. The MTR105 static motor analyser provides a full range of insulation resistance tests, along with four-wire low-resistance measurements. It also offers capacitance, inductance and temperature measurements, as well as phase rotation and diode-checking functions.

AI analyses workers' actions to improve productivity

Mitsubishi Electric has developed a technology that uses AI (artificial intelligence) to analyse the actions of workers on production lines and uses this information to improve their performance, thus boosting productivity.

Free BSI guide will help manufacturers to go digital

BSI has issued a free guide to help UK businesses to plan for digital transformation. Called PAS 1040:2019 Digital readiness – Adopting digital technologies in manufacturing – Guide, it will help them to assess and improve their readiness to adopt technologies such as AI (artificial intelligence), robotics, and the Internet of Things.

Universal Robots unveils its most powerful cobot

Universal Robots has announced its most power cobot (collaborative robot) to date – a machine with a payload of 16kg, that has a reach of 900mm and a repeatability of ±0.05 mm. The UR16e cobot is designed to automate tasks such as heavy-duty materials-handling, heavy-parts handling and machine tending.

Motor controls with built-in safety can mount on machines

Rockwell Automation has announced a range of distributed motor controllers with built-in safety functions that can be mounted directly onto machines, allowing functional safety to be implemented with fewer components and saving cabinet space.

Digital twin robot programming slashes commissioning times

ABB Robotics has announced a new generation of robot programming software which uses digital twin technology for the first time, and is claimed to cut commissioning times from days to hours, and changeover periods from hours to minutes. ABB asserts that its PickMaster Twin software will also reduce picking times by 15% and boost output and line efficiencies by 40%.

Siemens CEO Maier retires early, Ennis is his successor

Siemens UK CEO, Juergen Maier, is taking early retirement at the age of 55, after 33 years with the company. He will be succeeded on 1 January, 2020, by Carl Ennis, currently UK & Ireland head of Products & Systems Sales for Siemens Smart Infrastructure.

7kg six-axis robot is ‘the world's smallest and lightest’

Yaskawa has announced what it claims is the smallest, lightest, six-axis industrial robot for handling and assembling small parts. The 7kg MotoMini robot can be installed close to workpieces and other machinery in production lines or cells. It can handle payloads of up to 500g and offers a horizontal reach of up to 350mm and vertical reach of up to 495mm.

Industrial Wi-Fi technology is 'world’s most advanced’

Emerson and Cisco claim to have developed the world’s most advanced industrial wireless networking technology. They say that their next-generation system “fundamentally transforms data management to improve plant productivity, reliability and safety”.

Sumitomo buys Welsh drives-maker, Invertek, for £100m

Japan’s Sumitomo Heavy Industries (SHI) is buying the Welsh driver-maker, Invertek Drives, for around £100m (13 billion Japanese Yen). SHI says it is planning “significant investment” to expand and develop Invertek, and intends to combine Invertek’s motor control products with the portfolio of industrial motors that it acquired when it bought the Italian motor-maker Lafert last year.

Robots sales likely to stagnate in 2019, after a record 2018

A new record number of 422,000 industrial robots were shipped globally during 2018 – 6% more than the previous year – according to new figures released by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). But the organisation expects shipments to stagnate this year for the first time in many years as a result of the US-China tariff dispute and a downturn in key user industries.

Schaeffler enters motor-making with a portfolio for EVs

Schaeffler is entering electric motor manufacturing with a family of modular motors aimed at electric vehicle applications. The motors, in ratings from 20kW to more than 300kW, at voltages from 48 to 800V, are being designed for efficiency and a good price/performance ratios. Volume production is due to begin in 2021.

‘Soft’ magnetic materials could give lighter, faster motors

Researchers in the US are working on motor materials and designs that could reduce electric motor sizes by more than two thirds, while transforming the same amount of power.

Control Techniques extends drives warranties to 5 years

The drives-maker Control Techniques has announced a free five-year warranty on its Commander range of general-purpose drives. Anyone who buys one of these drives will be able to register to extend its warranty from two years to five, at no extra cost. The offer relates to the C200 and C300 general-purpose drives that CT launched last year when it reintroduced the Commander name.

'First' radar safety system copes with tough environments

Pilz has joined forces with the Italian radar specialist Inxpect to offer what they claim is the world’s first for monitoring safety protection zones, based on radar technology. The technology immune to dust, rain, light, sparks or even shocks, allowing safe, economical monitoring of protection zones in tough environments – such as dusty woodworking plants – where optoelectronic technologies may not work.

Integrated portfolio will help companies to go digital

Siemens has announced an integrated portfolio of software, services and an application development platform to help companies of all sizes to become digital enterprises. Called Xcelerator, the portfolio combines Siemens’ software for design, engineering and manufacturing, with an expanded version of its Mendix low-code, multi-experience application development platform, which now includes cloud and app services for digital engineering and Internet of Things (IoT), powered by Siemens’ MindSphere cloud-based, open IoT operating system.

Patented wear control avoids planetary gearbox adjustments

A German gear-maker has announced a planetary gearbox with an patented automatic wear control system that prevents the usual increase in torsional backlash caused by wear, thus avoiding the need to adjust or replace the gearboxes when their backlash exceeds tolerance limits. Hamelin-based Melior Motion claims that with this technology, its PSC gearboxes “virtually” ensure a backlash of less than 0.1 arc-min over their entire service lives.

Ballscrew-maker Jena Tec Precision enters administration

Jena Tec Precision, the Nottingham, UK, based manufacturer of linear and rotary motion products, including ballscrews, spindles and actuators, has been placed in administration. The joint administrators – Mike Solomons of restructuring, recovery and insolvency firm, BM Advisory, and James Robinson of Finn Associates – are hoping to sell the business and its assets as a going concern.

UK electrical manufacturers make net-zero pledge

Two dozen electrotechnical manufacturers with UK operations – including ABB, Eaton, GE, Mitsubishi Electric, Schneider Electric and Siemens – have pledged to reduce their emissions to net-zero by 2050. The announcement was made at the London launch of a new report from Beama, the trade body for the sector, which warns that setting targets in legislation alone will not be enough to achieve net-zero emissions.

Adaptor links older enclosure cooling systems to the IoT

Rittal has developed an adaptor that retrofits its Blue e cooling systems with communications capabilities, allowing them to link up with smart condition-monitoring and IoT systems. The adaptor uses a similar interface to that available for the more recent Blue e+ systems. The older systems cannot communicate directly with e+ interface.

Slam paves the way for new autonomous industrial robots

More than 15 million industrial and commercial robots that can navigate their paths autonomously will be in operation by 2030, according to a new analysis by ABI research. They will rely on a technology known as Slam – simultaneous localisation and mapping – to map their environment while positioning themselves accurately. ABI predicts that Slam will be a crucial driver for robotics over the coming decade and will enable the transition from AGVs (automated guided vehicles) to AMRs (autonomous mobile robots).

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 will keep its existing management team, who will acquire a minority shareholding. Peter Williamson will join as non-executive chairman.

‘Ground-breaking’ programme will help UK businesses to adopt industry 4.0

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 to help industry to discover new pathways to growth.

‘First’ AI-based diagnostics will cut downtime and boost productivity

Mitsubishi Electric claims to have developed the world's first diagnostic technology that uses machine learning to analyse sensor data, thus detecting machine abnormalities rapidly and accurately, and helping to improve productivity. The development is based on the company's Maisart  AI (artificial intelligence) technology.

Project aims to transmit IoT data on beams of light

A consortium of EU businesses and academia partners has embarked on a three-year project to develop a next-generation wireless communications technology that will transmit Internet of Things (IoT) data using light rather than radio waves.

Staff blamed for more than half of ICS cyber-incidents

More than half of all cybersecurity incidents involving industrial networks last year were caused by errors or unintentional actions by company employees, according to a new survey of 282 industrial organisations around the world. A report based on the survey blames this phenomenon on the growing complexity of industrial infrastructures, a shortage of professionals who understand how to detect threats, and low levels of awareness among employees.

Aerotech and Micronix form global partnership for motion control

Aerotech and Micronix USA have formed a global partnership under which they will offer complementary precision systems for industry and research – in particular, for precision nanopositioning. By working together, the companies hope to expand their core competencies, while advancing the development of new applications which need powerful, user-friendly nanopositioning technologies. They say that by cooperating, they will be able to offer a wider array of stepper motors, controllers, drives and software for positioning applications.

Cloud-linked wireless nodes monitor rotating machines

Sulzer’s Finnish-based pump business has worked with Treon, a local specialist in wireless IoT hardware, to develop a wireless condition monitoring device for rotating machinery. The battery-operated Treon industrial node measures tri-axial vibrations and the surface temperatures of equipment such as pumps, motors and agitators. It is designed to operate as part of a wireless mesh network, making it easy and cost-effective to deploy on a large scale, or to retrofit to existing equipment.

120-model inverter family is 'first to offer AI diagnostics'

Mitsubishi Electric in Japan has announced a new generation of general-purpose inverters which, it claims, will be the first to incorporate diagnostics functions based on AI (artificial intelligence). The first 44 models in the FR-E800 series, with ratings from 0.1–7.5kW, will be released in December 2019. They will be joined, from April 2020, by further versions with safety functions such as SLS (safely-limited speed) and STO (safe torque off). The family will eventually comprise a total of 120 models in ratings up to 22kW.

Nema hazardous area motors ‘deliver 15% more power’

ABB has announced a range of large Nema-frame AC motors for hazardous area applications which, it says, deliver an average of 15% more power than conventional designs. The AXR 5000 and 5800 motors meet American Petroleum Institute 541 and 547 standards for motors used in the oil and gas industry.

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.

Swiss robot-maker to use ‘revolutionary’ direct-drive tech

Genesis Robotics, the Canadian company behind the “revolutionary” LiveDrive high-torque, direct-drive motor technology, has signed a joint development agreement (JDA) with the Swiss robotics pioneer, Demaurex, to integrate its motors into Demaurex’s latest delta robots.

Cobot sales will top $11bn by 2030, taking 29% of the 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 (EOAT) 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%.

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.

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 the 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.

£35m facility will focus on safety of robotic systems

The University of York in the UK is to establish a £35m research facility aimed at ensuring the safety of robotics and other systems that use artificial intelligence. The York Global Initiative for Safe Autonomy will house specialist laboratories and testing facilities – bringing together industrial partners and experts in the field. The UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF) will provide £10.5m of the funding, with the rest coming through match funding from industrial and philanthropic partners.

Patented filters prevent bearing damage and cut EMI

A US company has developed and patented a series of EMI (electromagnetic interference) filters that, it claims, resolve many of the issues associated with PWM (pulse width modulation) drives – such as the high-frequency currents that can destroy motors’ bearings. California-based OnFilter says that in comparison with conventional reactors, which reduce these leakage currents by a factor of 2–3, its easy-to-install SF series dV/dt filters can reduce the currents by 50–100 times or more.

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.

Compact pneumatic slides are ‘smallest on the market’

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.

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