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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.

Levitating transport systems could be ‘a motion revolution’

A revolution in production machinery design in which components float between workstations on magnetically levitated movers was unveiled at the recent SPS IPC Drives exhibition by two different developers. On neighbouring stands, both Beckhoff and Bosch Rexroth were demonstrating their visions of the future in which components are carried smoothly, silently and friction-free on movers that have six degrees of freedom. As well as moving freely in X and Y directions, they can rotate, move up and down by a few millimetres, and even tilt – to avoid spilling liquids, for example.

Automation giants join forces to back OPC UA TSN

Visitors to the recent SPS IPC Drives show in Germany witnessed the remarkable sight of representatives from Siemens, Rockwell Automation and Mitsubishi Electric sharing a stage to endorse a single industrial networking technology ­–  the OPC Foundation’s recently announced version of OPC UA which will use TSN (Time Sensitive Networking) down to the field level.

NFC-equipped connectors will talk to smartphones

At the recent SPS IPC Drives show, TE Connectivity was demonstrating industrial connectors with built-in NFC (near-field communications) chips, allowing them to communicate with NFC-equipped smartphones and other devices. TE suggests that this capability will help to provide data for Industry 4.0 applications such as preventative maintenance.

CC-Link announces ‘first’ industrial network with TSN

The CC-Link Partner Association (CLPA) claims that it will be the first organisation to offer an open industrial network that uses Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) technology. At the recent SPS IPC Drives show in Germany, it announced that it has completed a specification that adds TSN to its existing CC-Link IE Ethernet-based network, which supports operating speeds up to 1Gbit/s.

Schaeffler buys Elmotec to launch into motor production

Schaeffler has acquired the German motor-making machinery specialist Elmotec Statomat, setting it on course to become a large-scale producer of electric motors, especially for automotive applications. The company wants to reduce its reliance on producing components for combustion engine powertrains, and to tap into the burgeoning market for electric drivetrains.

Cloud-based app makes maintenance paperless

Festo has announced its first digital-only product – a cloud-based maintenance management system that will reduce or eliminate the need for paper-based documentation, and is not specific to any manufacturer. Called Smartenance, the system consists of two parts: an app for smartphones and tablets which acts as a mobile maintenance schedule; and a dashboard in the form of a Web page that allows production managers, machine-builders and others to manage and document maintenance tasks.

Beckhoff cranks EtherCat speeds up to 10Gbit/s

At the recent SPS IPC Drives show in Germany, Beckhoff announced the development of two new versions of EtherCat that will support Ethernet transmission rates of 1Gbit/s and 10Gbit/s. Known as EtherCat G and G10 (which is still at the proof-of-concept stage), the high-speed versions are aimed at data-intensive applications involving equipment such as machine vision, complex motion control systems and measuring equipment with high sampling rates.

Cyber-researchers find ‘major’ flaws in IoT protocols

Cyber-security researchers have found “major” design flaws and vulnerable implementations related to two popular machine-to-machine (M2M) protocols, MQTT (Message Queuing Telemetry Transport) and CoAP (Constrained Application Protocol). In a joint report, Trend Micro and the Politecnico di Milano highlight what they see as a growing threat of industrial espionage, denial-of-service and targeted attacks resulting from abuse of these protocols.

MTC's Levy-funded manufacturing degree will avoid fees

The UK's Manufacturing Technology Centre is launching a degree-level programme to equip employees with high-level manufacturing skills. The Degree Apprenticeship in Product Design and Development will include a BEng (Hons) degree in Advanced Manufacturing. The four-year course will be funded by the Apprenticeship Levy, allowing students to obtain a degree while in full-time paid employment and without having to pay university fees.

Matrix composites slash motor rotor weights by 40%

A collaborative UK project has shown that the efficiency and performance of electric motors can be improved significantly, and their rotor weights cut by 40%, by using rotors formed from aluminium matrix composites (AMCs). Other potential benefits include faster assembly times, and optimised strength-to-weight and stiffness-to-weight ratios, even in continuous products. The technology could also have benefits for other rotating machines, including fans, flywheels and turbines.

GE launches $1.2bn IIoT arm and sells 90% of ServiceMax

GE has announced plans to establish an independent company focused on building a comprehensive Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) software portfolio. The company will start with $1.2bn in annual software revenues and a global customer base. It will be an independently-run business with a new brand and identity, its own equity structure, and its own board of directors.

Motor-driven probe will drill into Mars’ history

Nasa’s InSight probe, which landed on Mars in November 2018, is using a motor-driven probe to penetrate 5m into the Martian surface to shed light on the formation of rocky planets. The lander is scheduled to perform measurements for the next two years that will provide insights into Mars and the formation of the Earth.

EtherCat interface allows third-party access diagnostics

The EtherCat Technology Group (ETG) has developed a specification for a vendor-independent diagnosis interface that will allow third-party tools to access diagnostic information from EtherCat networks. The software-based interface could be implemented in controllers from any manufacturer.

Module adds AI to industrial controls and I/O

Siemens has developed a module that adds artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities to its Simatic S7-1500 controllers and the ET 200MP I/O system. The S7-1500 TM NPU (neural processing unit) is equipped with an Intel Movidius Myriad X Vision neural network chip, which is used in combination with a trained neural system on an SD card.

Project shows how to link legacy sensors to IT systems

The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) has announced results of a testbed project which has been looking at how operators of established manufacturing facilities can connect their sensors to IT systems using existing cabling infrastructure, without affecting real-time operations. The testbed was run by TE Connectivity and SAP, with support from the OPC Foundation and the sensor-maker ifm electronic

‘World’s smallest’ optical distance sensor uses IO-Link

The German sensor-maker SensoPart claims to have developed the world’s smallest optical distance sensor – a sugarcube-sized digital device that weighs about 10g and incorporates an IO-Link interface. The FT 10-RLA laser sensor is suitable for challenging measuring tasks in applications such as semiconductor assembly or robotics.

Plug-and-play IoT kit monitors machine conditions

Bosch and Harting have joined forces to produce what they describe as the first plug-and-play IoT kit for industrial applications. The kit – which is IP54-protected for use without a protective enclosure – allows quick and easy digital condition monitoring of any type of machinery.

ODVA enhances Ethernet/IP to integrate Hart devices

ODVA has published enhancements to the EtherNet/IP specification outlining how to integrate devices that support the Hart Communication Protocol into an EtherNet/IP architecture. It says this will allow Hart users to take advantage of industrial Ethernet.

Friction-based speed-reducing technology challenges gears

A Dutch start-up has developed an alternative speed-reducing technology to gears which, it claims, can deliver higher precision, stiffness, torque densities and efficiencies, at a lower cost and with shorter lead times. Delft-based IMSystems adds that its Archimedes drive is compact, lightweight and backlash-free and can achieve ratios of 10,000:1. IMS is targeting the drive in particular at robots, but it could have other applications.

Regal Beloit sells its drives businesses to Sun Capital

Regal Beloit is selling its engineered drives and control systems businesses to Sun Capital Partners, a private investment firm specialising in leveraged buyouts and investments. The terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

Spain’s Fersa Bearings takes control of Austria’s NKE

The Spanish bearings manufacturer Fersa Bearings has acquired 100% of the Austrian bearings-maker NKE, completing a process that started in in 2016, when the Fersa bought 49% of NKE’s shares. With the acquisition of the remaining 51%, NKE is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Fersa and there are two commercial brands: Fersa for the automotive sector; and NKE for the industrial sector. Fersa has not ruled out adding further brands to its portfolio in the near future.

Molex expands into sensing through deal with Contrinex

The electronics and connectivity giant Molex has announced a collaboration with the Swiss sensor-maker Contrinex, under which it will integrate inductive and photoelectric sensors into its industrial range.

Free 3D CAD modelling software is given an upgrade

RS Components has released a new version of its free 3D CAD modelling tool, DesignSpark Mechanical. Version 4.0 – the first update for three years – offers new functions and a more intelligent design engine, as well as being faster. The additions and enhancements are based on feedback from users.

Safety PLC is ‘first’ with failsafe condition monitoring

ABB has developed what it claims is the world’s first safety PLC with integrated condition monitoring. It says the combination will enhance the functional safety of applications and reduce the need for manual inspections and maintenance.

Tiny PLC board will ‘unleash’ the power of the IIoT

The electronics developer Maxim Integrated has produced a reference PLC design that packs 17 configurable IOs into a space half the size of a credit card. It says that the Go-IO board will “unleash” the full power of the IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) and allow designers to bring greater intelligence into Industry 4.0 factory equipment, while meeting the stringent size and power demands of PLCs.

Engineering centre doubles to service ABB VSDs and others

ABB has more than doubled the size of its UK Engineering Centre in Coalville, Leicestershire – from 830m2 to 1,789m2 – to meet a rising demand for variable-speed drive (VSD) servicing, customer training, and developing specialist test rigs (STRs). As well as repairing and upgrading ABB’s own low-voltage AC and DC drives and medium-voltage AC drives, the centre will upgrade MV drives made by third parties.

Google reveals plans to launch cloud robotics platform

Google has announced that it is working on a cloud robotics platform that will combine the power of artificial intelligence, robotics and the cloud. It says that initiative, due to go commercial in 2019, will create “an open ecosystem of automation solutions” using cloud-connected collaborative robots. It will enable efficient robot automation in dynamic environments.

Gateways open an easy path to IIoT via MQTT and OPC UA

HMS Industrial Networks has announced a pair of gateway families that support MQTT (Message Queue Telemetry Transport) and OPC UA, enabling data to flow between equipment on any major industrial network, and IIoT applications.

Conferences will help UK SMEs to decipher digitalisation

DFA Media, which publishes Drives & Controls and Smart Machines & Factories, has launched a series of one-day conferences aimed at helping UK companies – especially SMEs – to make the move to digitalisation. Under the umbrella title of Demystifying the jargon: How to make the digitalisation transition, each conference with focus on the needs of a particular sector.

‘First multi-colour camera’ adapts to product changes

Omron has announced what it calls the “world’s first multi-colour smart camera”. When a product design is changed or a new model introduced on a production line, users can simply change parameters on the FHV7 camera, rather than needing to fine-tune or replace the lighting.

TSN core could simplify real-time Ethernet networks

Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems (IPMS) has developed a TSN IP core to simplify the implementation of endpoints in TSN-capable Ethernet networks. The core consists of modules for time synchronisation, traffic-shaping and Ethernet MAC communications.

Module adds safety functions to drive controller

The German drives specialist Stober has collaborated with the safety specialist Pilz to develop a safety module for its SD6 drive controller which allows safe drive monitoring of applications up to SIL 3 / PL e (Cat 4), in accordance with EN 61800-5-2 and EN ISO 13849-1. A worst-case response time of less than 10ms results in fast stopping, and minimises safety distances.

European Centre of Expertise includes drives workshop

Eriks has opened a European Centre of Expertise for power transmission in the UK, which will include a repair and test workshop for drives. It is one of a series of technology centres the group is setting up and will provide customers with technical and engineering support.

Novel cooling boosts power densities of air-cooled HV motors

Siemens has announced a range of compact, lightweight high-voltage motors which incorporate an innovative cooling system that combines fin and tube cooling, and is claimed to improve temperature distribution in the motor and boost power densities “significantly”. The Simotics HV C motors, which come in ratings up to 3.2MW, can be connected to Siemens’ new Sidrive IQ digital platform to allow cloud-based analyses of their condition.

Challengers chip away at UR’s dominance of cobot market

The Danish pioneer of collaborative robots, Universal Robots, still dominates the cobot market, but its share is starting to slip – from more than 55% in 2016 to 46% in 2017 – according to a new study by Interact Analysis. It estimates that UR’s market share dipped further in the first nine months of 2018, to around 40%, despite raising its revenues by more than 40%.

Rockwell announces first control devices to support CIP Security

Rockwell Automation has announced the first industrial control products that support CIP Security – the protocol developed by ODVA to protect critical industrial communications as part of a defence-in-depth security strategy

Rockwell Automation unveils a new logo and brand promise

At its annual Automation Fair in the US, Rockwell Automation has unveiled a new logo and a new brand promise: “expanding human possibility by combining the imaginations of people with the intelligence of machines”. It says that the promise supports its emphasis on bringing the connected enterprise to life and how, by linking people, machines and data across an entire business, manufacturers can become more effective and productive.

SPS IPC Drives exhibition is changing its name

The organisers of the German automation megashow, SPS IPC Drives, have announced that the event will be changing its name to SPS – Smart Production Solutions, from 2019 – the 30th anniversary of the show’s founding.

Brexit is a factor in Schaeffler’s plan to halve UK workforce

Schaeffler has announced plans to shut two of its three UK manufacturing plants: its Barden site in Plymouth, which produces spindle bearings and machine parts for its industrial division, as well as specialised bearings for the aerospace and defence industries; and its Llanelli site, which makes tappets and special-purpose bearings for automotive and industrial users. It also plans to transfer the activities currently undertaken at its logistics centre in Sutton Coldfield to its other UK logistics site in Hereford.

Extending OPC UA to the field level ‘will end fieldbus wars’

The OPC Foundation has announced plans to extend vendor-independent end-to-end interoperability down to field-level devices such as sensors and actuators. This is part of a wider initiative aimed at delivering an open, cohesive approach to implementing OPC UA, including TSN (Time-Sensitive Networking) and associated application profiles, with the ultimate aim of creating a global industrial interoperability standard that integrates field devices with the shop floor.

£600,000 lab will show how robots can solve users’ problems

Omron has opened a robotics innovation lab at its UK headquarters in Milton Keynes. The lab, which represents an investment of £600,000 with a creation of five new jobs, will show potential users how robots could enhance their applications.

New CT VSDs revive Commander name and green colour

Control Techniques has revived the Commander name and green colour for a new family of general-purpose variable-speed drives (VSDs) that will make their debut at the SPS IPC Drives show in Germany later this month. The easy-to-use Commander C200 and C300 drives will span ratings from 0.25–132kW and are claimed to have among the smallest footprints in their class, making them attractive to machine-builders and OEMs.

Cloud app boosts drive productivity and reliability

Siemens has announced a digital platform for evaluating and using data gathered from networked drive systems in ratings up to several megawatts. The cloud-based Sidrive IQ application is available for medium- and high-voltage motors and drives, and is claimed to open up an array of benefits, ranging from optimised maintenance and availability, to increases in productivity across the entire lifecycle.

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