Drives and Controls Magazine
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.

Siemens and Sony unveil immersive engineering tech

Siemens and Sony are joining forces to combine a new head-mounted display with Siemens software to create a new technology that will allow designers and engineers to create and explore design concepts in borderless immersive workspaces. The development was unveiled at CES – the Consumer Electronics Show – in Las Vegas this month, where Siemens also announced partnerships with Amazon Web Services (AWS) Red Bull Racing and others, aimed at propelling its vision of the industrial metaverse.

ABB takes control of Bosnian developer to create AI R&D hub

ABB is buying a majority stake in the Bosnian software service provider Meshmind to expand its R&D capabilities in AI, industrial IoT and machine vision. Financial details of the deal have not been released.

LV AC motor sales likely to decline further in 2024

Growth in the global market for low-voltage AC motors market slowed from 16.4% in 2022 to 4.2% in 2023, and will fall back even further in 2024, according to a report by Interact Analysis. It expects worldwide revenues to reach almost $16.6bn this year, with average sales prices for motors increasing by 1.2%.

ABB buys Swiss AI navigation firm to boost AMR presence

ABB is buying the Swiss AI-based AMR navigation specialist Sevensense, for an undisclosed sum. ABB, which has had a minority stake in Sevensense since 2021, says that the acquisition makes it the leader in next-generation AMRs (autonomous mobile robots) that integrate Visual Slam (simultaneous localisation and mapping) technology with hardware and software. In 2021, ABB bought the Spanish AMR developer, ASTI Mobile Robotics.

1,300 robots will help Volvo to cut its energy use by 20%

Volvo Cars to is buying more than 1,300 robots and functional packages from ABB to build its next generation of electric vehicles. The robots, which will be deployed at sites in Sweden and China, will help the car-maker to achieve its sustainability targets by cutting its energy consumption by up to 20% through the use of regenerative braking on the robots and efficient power electronics in their controllers.