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Outdoor plastics enclosures ‘redefine’ the technology

The German enclosure-maker Rittal claims that it is “completely redefining” plastic enclosure technology with a new family of enclosures designed to protect electrical components even in harsh outdoor environments. The new AX enclosures – which replace the previous KS series – incorporate new mounting functions said to make rapid expansion possible and to provide more scope for installations using smart technologies. For the first time, says Rittal, they will transform plastic housings into enclosure systems, with enhanced scope for interior installation.

Real-time location system helps ensure safe plant distancing

Siemens has developed a combination of hardware and software that can monitor where people and items are located in a plant, thus helping to ensure social distancing as well as improving productivity. The Simatic Real-time Locating Systems (RTLS) uses a built-in digital twin to simulate the safety of employees, to test and optimise the set-up of work areas, and to validate safety measures.

Competitions offer up to £1.5m of funding for supply-chain ideas

The UK government has launched two funding competitions to help British businesses develop world-leading digital technologies to improve manufacturing supply chain productivity and resilience, thus boosting the recovery from Covid-19. Business-led consortia will be able to apply for up to £1.5m of funding for projects designed to transform supply chains, and to help make the UK’s manufacturing sector more efficient, flexible and resilient.

Ford installs first private 5G network at a UK automotive site

The car-maker Ford is installing what is thought to be first private 5G network at an automotive site in the UK. The installation, partly funded by the UK Government, will replace older WiFi networks at Ford’s new E:PriME (Electrified Powertrain in Manufacturing Engineering) facility in Dunton, Essex. The 5G technology will be used to improve the connectivity of welding processes used to manufacture batteries and motors for electric vehicles.

PPMA packaging exhibition is postponed to 2021

One of the few industrial trade shows still scheduled to be held in 2020, the PPMA packaging and processing event, has been postponed for a year until September 2021. The exhibition, which had been due to take place at the Birmingham NEC from 29 September to 1 October this year, will now take place from 28-30 September, 2021, at the same venue.

Ball-balancing mobile robot carries flexible pneumatic ‘hand’

The German pneumatics and automation technology manufacturer Festo has unveiled a mobile robot that moves by balancing on a ball, and carries a human-like pneumatic “hand” that can identify items and handle them delicately.

SME manufacturers urge Boris Johnson to avoid no-deal Brexit

More than 100 UK SME manufacturers and organisations representing them have written to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, warning him that a no-deal or bad-deal Brexit would be “hugely damaging” to the UK economy, especially at a time when businesses are recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic. They are calling on him to secure the best possible trading arrangements to fight the pandemic and secure an economic recovery.

UK manufacturing stabilises in June and output edges higher

The UK manufacturing sector showed signs of stabilising in June, following the recent steep downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the latest IHS Markit/CIPS Purchasing Managers’ Index. The seasonally adjusted PMI rose to 50.1 in June, up from 40.7 in May, indicating a stabilisation (not a marked improvement) in operating conditions, while output edged back into growth as factories restarted, lockdown restrictions were loosened and staff returned to work.

Water-cooled motors deliver 40% more power than TEFC

ABB has announced a pair of water-cooled motors that, it says, will deliver an average of 40% more power than fan-cooled designs. The constant cooling of the AXW 315 and 400 IEC frame motors extends their insulation and bearing lives, thus boosting uptime. Their small footprints save space.

Strategy aims to put manufacturing at heart of UK economy

The first detailed analysis of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on UK manufacturing estimates that it could cost up to £35.7bn in GVA (Gross Added Value) this year, and predicts it will take until 2022 for manufacturing to recover to pre-Covid levels. The report, produced by Make UK and Santander UK, also analyses the opportunities for building a new economy with a renewed manufacturing sector at its heart.

5G router for private industrial networks is ‘the first’

Three companies – Phoenix Contact, Quectel and Ericsson – have worked together to develop and deploy the first 5G router for local industrial applications in private 5G networks. It will allow machines, controls and other equipment to be connected to private 5G networks to manage their behaviour and use of resources.

Impending Brexit will ‘disrupt’ UK manufacturing sector

Brtian's departure from the European Union – Brexit – will have significant adverse effects on the UK manufacturing sector and on the wider economy, according to a new report from UK in a Changing Europe, an initiative set up to provide impartial information on UK-EU relations. The report, Manufacturing and Brexit, finds that Brexit will have “disruptive and negative” effects on the UK manufacturing sector, with the extent of disruption depending on the outcome of the UK-EU negotiations.

IEC approves push-pull standard for M12 circular connectors

Eight connector manufacturers have joined forces to establish a standardised push-pull locking mechanism for M12 round connectors. The resulting IEC 61076-2-010 standard describes both external and internal systems using push-pull locking, and is intended to ensure compatibility between connectors from different manufacturers.

Siemens and Realtime team up to slash robot deployment times

Siemens has joined forces with Realtime Robotics, the US specialist in autonomous motion planning for industrial robots, to slash the time it takes to deploy robots. Under the strategic partnership with Siemens’ Digital Industries Software division (formerly known as Siemens PLM Software), Realtime’s technology will be integrated into Siemens simulation software. This will simplify robot programming and workcell coordination by automating the motion programming and interlock processes.

£73.5m UK scheme will develop tech for future EVs

The UK government is investing £73.5m in ten projects to develop cutting-edge technologies for the next generation of electric vehicles (EVs), including high-efficiency axial-flux electric motors and power electronics.

Salford University wins EU funding for £13m robotics centre

The University of Salford has secured funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to support the creation of a £13m centre that will house robotics and manufacturing labs, teaching space and an automotive laboratory.

WEG takes control of Brazilian AI machine vision start-up

The Brazilian motors and controls manufacturer WEG is acquiring a controlling stake (51%) in Mvisia, a Brazilian start-up that specialises in applying AI (artificial intelligence) to computer vision systems for industry. Under the agreement, WEG could increase its stake in Mvisia in the future.

Microsoft buys IoT/OT industrial cybersecurity firm

Microsoft is buying the Israeli IoT/OT cybersecurity specialist, CyberX, for an undisclosed amount, reported to be around $165m. The acquisition will complement Microsoft’s existing Azure IoT security capabilities and extend them to devices such as those used in industrial IoT, OT (operational technology) and infrastructure applications.

Next-generation robotics platform is ‘first to support 5G’

The wireless technology giant Qualcomm has announced what it describes as the world’s first 5G- and AI-enabled robotics platform. The RB5 platform consists of hardware, software and development tools that bring together the company’s expertise in 5G and AI “to empower developers and manufacturers to create the next generation of high-compute, low-power robots and drones for the consumer, enterprise, defence, industrial and professional service sectors”.

Direct-drive integrated servomotor has wide speed range

The UK positioning technology manufacturer Overview has announced a direct-drive, integrated servomotor with a wide dynamic speed range (0.05–720 degrees/second), 0.007-degree repeatability and 1Nm of output torque. The Miranda motor fills a torque gap in Overview’s Servotorq series of direct-drive, servomotors, which are designed to deliver high positional accuracy with fast, smooth and silent motion.

Cooperative AI helps people and machines to work together

Mitsubishi Electric has developed an artificial intelligence (AI) technology that enhances collaboration between humans and machines using a technique known as “inverse reinforcement learning” (IRL) that learns and imitates the actions of skilled workers. IRL allows machines to replicate human-like actions based on relatively small amounts of data.

UK manufacturers call for stimulus package to save jobs

Britain’s manufacturers are calling for a national recovery plan, including an immediate stimulus package, to boost investment and help save jobs, on the back of a survey that reveals how output in the sector has plunged to a record low as the full impact of the Coronavirus crisis hit home.

Code-free robot teaching device wins $30m of backing

A German start-up has developed a hand-held device for code-free programming of industrial robots, which has attracted $30m of second-round funding from backers including Microsoft’s M12 funding arm. Dresden-based Wandelbots claims that its TracePen device costs a fraction of traditional programming techniques and is up to 70 times faster. “Even a layman can teach a robot a task within minutes,” it adds.

Fast, high-payload delta robot targets retail logistics

ABB has announced a flexible, high-payload delta robot to target applications such as customised packaging, vertical packing, and high-speed, high-variation sorting and on-demand order-picking in logistics and e-commerce fulfilment centres.

Group aims to link location-tracking technologies

UPDATED: A global group of 60 industrial companies, led by the machine-tool maker Trumpf, and including Siemens, Sick and Pepperl+Fuchs as members, is drawing up a new positioning technology standard for tracking items including AGVs and drones. The consortium, called Omlox, had planned to unveil the technology at the 2020 Hannover Fair but, following the event’s cancellation, it is holding an online launch from 29 June to 2 July instead.

Custom sensor apps need no programming expertise

The German sensor-maker Sick has unveiled a technology that will allow automation users to create customised sensor- and edge-based applications without needing any programming experience. The technology – an enhancement of the company’s existing AppSpace platform – will allow users to link and configure predefined function blocks via a graphical user interface.

UK project aims to recycle rare-earths for use in new motors

A group of UK companies, including Bentley Motors and the electric motor developer Advanced Electric Machines Research, have embarked on a £2.6m project to develop technologies for recovering rare-earth materials from old equipment and recycle them for use in new electric motors. The RaRE (Rare-earth Recycling for E-machines) project has secured £1.9m of funding from the government-backed Innovate UK organisation.

Industrial Ethernet powers ahead, while fieldbuses slide

Industrial Ethernet increased its share of the global market for new industrial networking nodes from 59% in 2018 to 64% last year, while fieldbuses continued to decline, dropping from 35% in 2018 to 30% in 2019. The figures come from the latest annual analysis of the industrial networking market by the Swedish industrial networking specialist, HMS Networks.

5 Mpx vision sensors can replace several low-res devices

The German sensor-maker Sensopart has announced a 5 Megapixel vision sensor which it describes as “unique”. The Visor V50 boasts an image resolution that is several times larger than standard vision sensors.

Gambica members are back to working at 75% of full capacity

Members of the Gambica, the trade association which represents companies in the UK’s automation and instrumentation sectors, are now running their operations at about 75% of their full capacity, according to the organisation’s chief executive, Steve Brambley.

Bolt-on device can link remote assets anywhere in the world

HMS Networks has announced a device that delivers reliable cellular-based Internet connections for remote assets almost anywhere in the world. The Anybus Wireless Bolt IoT uses Low Power Wide Area Network (LP-WAN) technologies with frugal power needs, limited bandwidths (25-300 kbit/s), and low connection costs.

Motion control sales will fall by 7.5% in 2020, but rebound

The global motion controls market will fall by 7.5% this year, before starting to recover in 2021 and slowing down again in 2023, according to the latest predictions from Interact Analysis. The smaller CNC (computer numerical controls) market will be particularly badly hit, with a 24.7% decline this year, partly because of its exposure to two major sectors – aerospace and automotive – that have been almost completely shut down by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dummy apples help to cut handling damage and costs

A UK company, Martin Lishman, has developed a range of fruit- and vegetable-shaped sensing devices designed to monitor and log the conditions experienced by fresh produce during handling and transport. Another company, the produce-handling specialist, Brillopak, has used Lishman’s “electronic apple” to redesign its systems to minimise potential damage to fruit, and to cut packing wastage and costs.

UK manufacturers call for equipment scrappage scheme

Make UK, the body that represents UK manufacturers, is calling on the government to introduce a scrappage scheme for old plant, machinery and IT equipment to incentivise cash-strapped firms to invest in automation and digitisation, and to help manufacturers recover from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tool can slash enclosure configuring times by up to 95%

The enclosure manufacturer Rittal has announced a tool for configuring its small enclosures that, it says, can cut the time it takes to choose, configure and purchase a compact enclosure by up to 95%. The Rittal Configuration System (RiCS) allows users to browse through an online catalogue of more than 250 accessories, but only shows them components that are suitable for a chosen cabinet. Once selected, the accessory can be positioned in an online 3D model of the enclosure.

5G connections are set to disrupt factory communications

There will be almost four billion wireless connections in smart factories around the world by 2030, according a new forecast from Nokia and ABI Research. It predicts that between 2019 and 2030, the market for low-power, wide-area (LPWA) LTE (Long-Term Evolution) wireless networking in factories will mushroom with a CAGR of 93.8%.

Siemens suggests using digital twins to keep factories safe

By equipping factory workers with personal transponders, Siemens has created a way for companies to model how their employees interact with each other, and with production lines and plant designs. The technology, based on proven hardware and software, will allow organisations to create digital twins that simulate worker safety, and can optimise workspace layouts and validate safety and efficiency measures.

Rockwell and PTC offer free AR software for remote servicing

As part of their strategic alliance, PTC and Rockwell Automation, are offering free augmented reality (AR) software until August 2020 to help their customers to maintain business continuity while complying with stay-at-home orders. The PTC Vuforia Chalk software allows service personnel and operators to connect and collaborate with remotely located experts to solve unfamiliar or unexpected machinery or equipment problems.

Touch-free touchscreen lets you keep your distance

The Japanese electronics manufacturer Alps Alpine has developed a non-contact technology for operating “touchscreen” control panels in situations where it is undesirable, impossible or forbidden to touch the panels. The company demonstrated the technology at the world’s largest electronics trade show, CES 2020, in Las Vegas earlier this year, and is now talking about commercialising it, possibly next year.

Manufacturing is main target for cyber-attackers in the UK

Manufacturing is the sector of the UK economy most commonly attacked by cyber-criminals, according to a new analysis by the global technology services provider, NTT. Last year, almost a third (29%) of all cyber-attacks in the UK were targeted at manufacturers, followed by the technology sector (19%) and business and professional services (17%). Government and finance are the other two sectors in the top five.

Global manufacturing will not hit 2019 levels until 2024

Global manufacturing output will fall by 7.6% in 2020, but most countries will exceed 2019 levels of production by 2024 – some as soon as 2022 – according a new forecast from Interact Analysis. It expects the US, the UK, Italy, India and Brazil to be the countries whose manufacturing sectors will be worst affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, with South Korea and China being the least affected.

Efficient motors comply with new Ecodesign Directive

The German drives and automation specialist Lenze is launching a new motor platform that complies with the Ecodesign Directive that is due to come into force in Europe in the summer of 2021. The m500 motors are designed to be future-proof and can be used worldwide. They are intended primarily to be combined with Lenze’s g500 gearboxes and i500 inverters.

Intuitive software speeds cobot set-ups and cuts costs

Mitsubishi Electric in Japan has announced a series of collaborative robots (cobots) designed to be deployed quickly using intuitive programming software. It says that the combination will help to achieve more efficient production, and cut the total cost of ownership (TCO) of robotic systems

Europe's biggest 5G research network targets factory apps

Europe’s largest 5G research network has gone live in Germany with the aim of developing technologies and applications for digitised and networked production in factories. The German government is contributing almost €6.2m towards the cost of establishing and running the 5G Industry Campus Europe, which covers an area of 1km2 at RWTH Aachen University, including 7,000m2 of machine halls.

Crowdfunding drive for high-torque motor hits target in 2 weeks

A Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to help finance the production of “the world’s highest-torque motor” has exceeded its $30,000 target less than two weeks into a four-week campaign. Texas-based Linear Labs hopes to start deliveries of its 1.4kW, 15Nm (continuous), 3.4kW, 50Nm (peak) Honey Badger motor in December 2020.

Mitsubishi starts 5G automation tests at a Japanese plant

Mitsubishi Electric has begun a demonstration test of 5G technology at one of its factories in Japan, designed to verify wireless transmission between local 5G base stations and the company’s factory automation products. It will also examine possible uses of local 5G systems, such as remote operation and maintenance support, as well as using augmented and virtual reality to enhance production efficiency.

Nema publishes guide to disinfecting electrical equipment for Covid-19

The US-based National Electrical Manufacturers Association (Nema) has published a free downloadable guide on how to disinfect electrical equipment for Covid-19, while preserving the equipment’s functions and integrity.

US researchers find that every robot replaces 3.3 jobs

American researchers have calculated that every new industrial robot installed in the US between 1993 and 2007 replaced 3.3 jobs. But in a separate analysis of French industry from 2010 to 2015, they have also found that firms that adopt robots quickly became more productive and hire more workers, while their competitors fall behind and shed workers – with jobs again being reduced overall.

Self-build PLC-based counter helps control social distancing

The German PLC-maker Barth Elektronik has joined forces with RS Components to develop a simple self-build project to help implement social distancing.

Pocket-sized thermal camera sends images straight to the cloud

Flir Systems has announced a pocket-sized thermal camera that uploads thermal images and videos directly to the cloud via WiFi, allowing maintenance personnel to store and back up the files, and to share them with other people. The Flir C5 – the first camera in the company’s Cx series to support its Ignite cloud services – is designed to speed up electrical and mechanical testing, energy auditing, and other applications.

Siemens plans to spin off its Flender gears and couplings arm

Siemens has announced plans to spin off its Flender mechanical power transmission business, which it describes as “the world’s leading manufacturer of mechanical drive systems”.

UK manufacturers propose three-point plan for recovery

The British manufacturers’ body, Make UK, has published a three-point plan calling on the Government to give manufacturers time to scale up their operations and recover by extending the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (JRS) in a more flexible form, using part- or short-time working patterns, during the critical rebuilding phase.

Manufacturers welcome PM’s back-to-work message

Make UK, the body that represents UK manufacturers, has “cautiously” welcomed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement that the government wants manufacturers which stopped production during the Coronavirus lockdown to return to work - provided their workplaces are safe.

Trough-free e-chain replaces busbars and slashes build times

The German engineering plastics giant igus has come up with a new design of energy chain that does not need a guide trough, and is claimed to cut assembly times by up to 88%. The autoglide 5 system is aimed, in particular, at horizontal applications such as cranes and intralogistics systems, where it could replace the need for conventional busbar systems. It can guide cables at speeds of up to 4m/s over travel lengths of up to 80m.

Drives & Controls pulls further ahead of its rivals

Drives & Controls has pulled further ahead of other magazines in the sector in the latest analysis by the independent circulation auditing organisation, ABC. For the first time, ABC has audited Drives & Controls’ digital edition, adding 3,515 copies to the 18,028 printed copies for the audited month in 2019, and taking the magazine’s total circulation for that issue to 21,543 .

‘Spatial toolbox’ speeds up AR programming

The software giant PTC has released an open-source spatial computing platform that, it says, will allow users to accelerate machine prototyping, as well as AR (augmented reality) and IoT applications. To allow users to take advantage of the Vuforia Spatial Toolbox platform while working from home, PTC has also created a simple hardware interface that can link their Arduino projects and Lego Boost and Education WeDo kits to its Vuforia edge server.

Graphical software allows novices to program cobots

ABB has announced a graphical programming aid for its single-arm YuMi cobot (collaborative robot) that allows users with no prior knowledge of robot programming to create programs quickly without needing specialised training.

Voith buys Austrian electric motor manufacturer, Elin

The global technology company Voith has taken control of the Austrian motor and generator manufacturer Elin Motoren, by acquiring a 70% stake in the company for an undisclosed sum. Elin will remain an independent business and will continue to use the Elin brand. The remaining 30% of the business is being held by Franz Hrachowitz.

Sensor detects metal in plastics with micrometre accuracy

A German start-up has developed a sensor that, it claims, can detect metallic structures embedded in plastics or other electrically non-conductive materials precisely “for the first time”. The sensor, based on a radar technology, is claimed to measure, with micrometre accuracy, the distances to objects made of steel, copper or other metals, embedded in plastics, cardboard, rubber and other substances. It can also detect objects behind electrically non-conductive materials.

IIoT platform gathers data to help move to smart factories

Fanuc has announced an open-source IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) platform that can connect a wide range of Fanuc and third-party production technologies – including legacy models dating back to 2000. The aim of the Field (Fanuc Intelligent Edge Link and Drive) system is to provide fast, centralised access to all production data in a plant and to help users to move towards smart factories.

Lockdown length will determine future of UK machine tools

The latest economic forecast from the MTA (Manufacturing Technologies Association) predicts that the UK market for machine tools will fall by 21% in 2020 before recovering by 23% in 2021. But the MTA warns that its Spring update forecast – produced for it by Oxford Economics (OE) – makes assumptions about the length of the lockdown period and the shape of the subsequent recovery.

SPE industry groups expand – and one gets a new name

Two separate industry groups that are promoting Single-Pair Ethernet (SPE) technologies, have both added new members. The SPE Industrial Partner Network, whose previous members included Harting, TE Connectivity, Leoni, Murrelektronik, igus and Softing, has added Belden’s Hirschmann brand to its ranks, while the second group – now called the SPE System Alliance – has attracted several new members including Sick, Rosenberger and Microchip Technology. The Alliance already counted Phoenix Contact, Weidmüller and Fluke Networks among its supporters.

AI maintenance technology pinpoints problem assets

Senseye, the UK-based maintenance software specialist, has announced an “industry first” technology that pinpoints assets that require immediate attention, by detecting any abnormal behaviours. The Attention Index technology notifies users when it detects such anomalies, which it prioritises by analysing parameters such as vibration, pressure, torque and current.

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