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Siemens opens largest R&D hub to work on AI and data analytics

Siemens has opened the first part of its Siemens Technology Centre (STC) near Munich, in which it is investing more than €100m. The Centre will be the company’s largest global research hub, bringing together all of its corporate research activities in Germany, with around 450 people working on future technologies during its first phase.

Omron joins Neura to ‘revolutionise’ manufacturing

Omron Robotics and Safety Technologies has formed a strategic partnership with Neura Robotics, a German pioneer of cognitive robotics, with the aim of revolutionising manufacturing by introducing AI-based cognitive robots designed to enhance efficiency, flexibility and safety.

Nvidia unveils multiple robot technologies

The chip-maker and software developer Nvidia has announced a slew of developments aimed at advancing robotics and automation technologies at its annual GTC (GPU Technology Conference) event in California. These included a model for humanoid robots called Gr00t (Generalist Robot 00 Technology), as well as a powerful new computer, called Jetson Thor, also aimed at humanoid applications.

Mercedes and BMW explore using humanoid robots

Mercedes-Benz and BMW have announced plans to start testing humanoid robots for possible deployment in their production plants. Mercedes-Benz is exploring using humanoid robots supplied by the US manufacturer Apptronik to carry parts to production lines for workers to assemble, while simultaneously inspecting the components. And BMW is planning to use humanoid robots from the Californian developer Figure AI to perform unspecified tasks at a plant in the US.

Siemens is buying ebm-papst’s drive technology business

Siemens is buying the industrial drive technology (IDT) business of the German fans and mechatronic systems manufacturer, ebm-papst, for an undisclosed sum. The business, which employs around 650 people in Germany and Romania, produces intelligent mechatronic systems in the protective ELV (extra-low voltage range) as well as motion control systems used in AGVs and driverless transport vehicles.

Nidec and KPS ‘in bidding battle’ for Siemens business

The Japanese motor-maker Nidec and the US private equity firm KPS Capital Partners are reported to be in a bidding battle to acquire Innomotics, the business that Siemens set up last year to spin off its motors and large drives activities. According to Bloomberg News, the bidders have been asked to make second-round bids for the business, which has sales worth €3bn and could fetch a similar sum if sold.

$100bn plan aims to make Saudi Arabia a leader in automation

Saudi Arabia has embarked on an ambitious programme to make it a global leader in robotics and industrial automation. It has set up a company called Alat which has formed a strategic partnership with the Japanese investment group SoftBank to develop “groundbreaking” industrial robots and to create a next-generation industrial automation infrastructure with the aim of establishing 32,000 “leading edge” factories in the Kingdom by 2025. An investment budget of $100bn has been allocated to Alat (which will also be promoting other high-tech activities). The robotics project is predicted to be contributing $1bn to Saudi GDP as soon as 2025.

Siemens buys visual inspection start-up offering ‘instant QA’

Siemens has bought the German visual inspection start-up Inspekto from its venture capitalist owner, D11Z Ventures, for an undisclosed sum. Inspekto has developed an AI-driven, machine-vision-based QA (quality assurance) technology that can be installed “within minutes” without needing systems integrators or the lengthy processes usually associated with setting up QA systems.

Chinese automation giant pushes into Europe

The Chinese automation giant Inovance is continuing to push into the European market and at SPS demonstrated a selection of its technologies including AC drives, servodrives and motors, motion controls, CNC controllers, PLCs and HMIs. Although still having a relatively low profile in Europe, Inovance claims to lead the Chinese servodrives market (with 3.4m drives sold in 2022) and to be just behind ABB in the Chinese LV AC drives market (with 4.4m LV and MV drives shipped in 2022).

Online community supports automation collaboration

B&R has launched an AI-enhanced online community where users of its automation technology can collaborate and share knowledge. The B&R Community brings together machine-builders, systems integrators, end-users and others interested in harnessing the power of collective automation know-how. Users can connect with a global network of experts and peers, forming a “repository of collective wisdom”.

North American robot sales dropped by 30% in 2023

Following record orders in both 2021 and 2022, sales of industrial robots fell by 30% in North America during 2023, according to the Association for Advancing Automation (A3). North American companies bought a total of 31,159 robots in 2023, compared to the 44,196 they ordered in 2022, and 39,708 in 2021.

LV AC drives sales hit $14bn in 2023, but growth is slowing

More than 20 million low-voltage AC drives, worth more than $14bn, were shipped globally during 2023 as the market continued to expand, new data from Interact Analysis shows. But the pace of growth slowed during the year and is expected to continue to do so in 2024, before steady growth returns to the market in 2025. IA is predicting a CAGR of 4% over the period to 2028, in line with expectations for the manufacturing economy as a whole.

Cyberattacks soar to 13 per second – with OT a key target

There were more than 420 million cyberattacks on the world’s critical infrastructure last year – equivalent to 13 attacks every second, and a 30% increase on 2022 – according to a new report by the cyber-research organisation, Forescout Research.

US firm developing tech to recycle drives wins $30,000 prize

A US company, Molg, which is developing robotic microfactories that can autonomously assemble and disassemble complex electronic products such as variable-speed drives, is one of three winners of ABB’s 2023 Accelerating Circularity Startup Challenge. The competition attracted entries from more than 100 start-ups from around the world. Each winner receives $30,000 to develop their concept in collaboration with ABB.

VSD is first product to win US certification using digital twins

A variable-speed drive is the first industrial product to be certified for use in the US after some of the required tests were conducted using digital simulation. The simulation was verified and validated with physical testing.