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Siemens PLC vulnerability is cyber-attackers’ ‘holy grail’

Cyber-researchers have found a vulnerability in Siemens’ Simatic S7-1200 and S7-1500 PLCs that could give attackers read and write access anywhere on the PLC, allowing them to execute malicious code remotely. The researchers at Claroty describe such unrestricted and undetected code execution as the “holy grail” for cyber-attackers, allowing them to hide code deep inside the PLC undetected by the operating system, or any diagnostic software.

Rockwell invests in PCB motor firm in $40m funding round

Rockwell Automation has taken an equity stake in the Texan motor developer and manufacturer, Infinitum Electric, as part of a $40m funding round that takes total funding in the company to date to $55m. Infinitum’s integrated motors, which use PCB (printed circuit board) stators instead of the copper wire and laminated iron cores of conventional motors, are claimed to be 10% more efficient, 50% lighter and smaller, and much quieter than standard motors.

Drives-maker tackles component lead times of up to two years

As the world starts to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, manufacturers around the world are having to cope with a new series of problems including shortages of critical electronic components, soaring materials costs, and severe supply-chain disruptions. Steve Brooks, director of global operations finance and procurement at the Welsh drives-maker, Nidec Control Techniques, says that together these problems are creating “the most challenging supply chain event of my career”.

Merger will take automation start-up public after 3 years

A Californian start-up that specialises in intelligent, software-based manufacturing, is merging with a SPAC (special-purpose acquisition company) to become a publicly listed company just three years after it was founded. San Francisco-based Bright Machines has doubled its revenue every year since its inception in 2018 and currently employs more than 500 people, including 150 software engineers. It is projecting a CAGR of more than 84% for the five years from 2020 to 2025, and expects to achieve $727m in sales and a gross margin of 50% by 2025.

Siemens and Schaeffler cut motor maintenance bills

Siemens is collaborating with the bearings manufacturer Schaeffler to offer intelligent diagnostics for motor-based drive systems. They are using automated bearing diagnostics to deliver informed maintenance decisions and to integrate information on bearing condition into motor health monitoring systems.

Rockwell and Comau offer a single interface for integrating robots

Rockwell Automation and the Italian robot-maker Comau have teamed up to offer industrial customers easier, smarter, and more productive ways to design, deploy, and manage robot applications. The development will allow engineers to program entire machines, including Comau robot arms, in a single environment controlled via Rockwell Logix-based controllers. They will also be able to use Rockwell’s Studio 5000 design software to simplify the time-consuming, and often difficult task, of coordinating traditionally separate machine control and robot systems.

US and German groups shape future of smart production

The German Plattform Industrie 4.0 organisation is collaborating with the US national institute for smart manufacturing CESMII to map out the future of manufacturing. The two organisations are aiming to promote interoperability and a shared set of skills and competencies, and at the recent virtual Hannover Fair they presented first results of their cooperation.

Siemens links up with Google to ease use of AI in manufacturing

Siemens and Google Cloud have announced a cooperation designed to optimise factory processes and improve productivity on the shop floor. Siemens plans to integrate Google Cloud’s data cloud and AI/ML (artificial intelligence/machine learning) technologies with its own factory automation systems to help manufacturers to innovate.

ODVA ends the use of ‘hurtful’ master and slave terminology

ODVA, the international automation standards organisation, has decided to stop using the terms “master” and slave” to describe the relationship between devices in industrial communications hierarchies. It says it wants to eliminate the use of “hurtful” terminology and to help create a “more inclusive” industry.

Profinet overtakes Ethernet/IP to lead networking market

After battling to dominate the global industrial networking market for several years, Profinet has now overtaken EtherNet/IP to take an 18% share of the market, compared to the 17% held by Profinet. In its annual survey of the market, the industrial networking specialist HMS Networks also finds that wireless networking’s share of global sales has soared by 24% in the past year, although it still accounts for just 7% of the total market.

Kickstarter campaign for ‘most powerful’ robot hits goal in 13h

UPDATED: A Chinese-American robotics start-up has exceeded a $50,000 target within 13 hours on the first day of Kickstarter campaign to fund the development of a what it claims will be “the world’s most powerful and affordable modular robot”. Umbratek is planning a family of five Scara and industrial robot arms with up to six axes, capable of lifting loads up to 20kg, with reaches of up to 1.5m and repeatabilities of up to ±0.01mm. It says they will cost about 70% less than their rivals.

Automation industry expects to grow by at least 10% in 2021

A survey of automation companies around the world has revealed widespread optimism, with revenues, investment in automation, and headcounts all expected to grow by more than 10% this year. The survey, conducted by Interact Analysis for the US-based Association for Advancing Automation (A3), quizzed more than 200 respondents from automation-related companies with combined revenues of more than $50bn. The majority (70.3%) were based in the Americas, with 23.6% in the EMEA region.

Downey and Gates invest in switched reluctance developer

Investment funds set up by the actor Robert Downey Jr and Microsoft founder Bill Gates and are among the latest investors in the Californian motor developer Turntide Technologies, which is producing a new generation of switched reluctance motors. The company has recently completed an $80m funding round, bringing its total funding to date to $180m.

Former Tesla head of automation promises no-code platform

Luc Leroy, former head of core automation engineering at the electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla, has set up a company that is aiming to produce “the first no-code automated manufacturing platform”.

PLC vulnerability can be attacked using ’low’ skill levels

Cyber-researchers have discovered a “severe” vulnerability in a mechanism that verifies communications between Rockwell Automation PLCs and engineering software. Exploiting this flaw could allow an attacker to connect remotely to almost any of Rockwell’s Logix PLCs (programmable logic controllers) – as well as its drives and safety controllers that use the Logix technology – and to upload malicious code, download information from the PLC, or install new firmware.