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Motor modules create multi-axis robots of almost any shape

At the Automatica exhibition in Germany, the automation specialist Beckhoff has unveiled a new concept for creating robots of almost any type – from simple single-axis rotary indexing tables to multi-axis articulated arms – simply by connecting a series of motor modules that serve as active joints.

Effector that gives robots a human touch is ‘a paradigm shift’

At the recent Hannover Messe, Bosch Rexroth unveiled a sensor-based compensation module that gives robots and Cartesian linear systems a “human-like sensitivity” and, according to the company, marks “a paradigm shift in factory automation”. The Smart Flex Effector allows complex assembly processes that previously could only be automated at great expense or not at all, to be automated at a “reasonable” cost.

Tech combines the best of optical and magnetic encoders

Nidec has developed a technology for detecting the position of motor rotors that, it claims, combines the high accuracy of optical encoders with the low costs and component counts of magnetic encoders.

Software compensates for cogging effects in linear motors

The German automation specialist Beckhoff has developed a software tool that makes it possible to use linear motors for precision applications such as milling or laser-cutting machines. The software uses machine learning to compensate for the uneven cogging forces that have previously limited the use of linear motors in applications of this type.

‘Virtual PLCs’ will turn factories into software systems

A German company has developed a “virtual PLC” technology that decouples real-time control from proprietary hardware, allowing automation engineers to manage PLCs from suppliers such as Siemens, Bosch Rexroth and Beckhoff like cloud-based software systems. Software Defined Automation (SDA) says that its industrial-control-as-a-service model will break up proprietary silos in control technologies and turn factories into software systems.

Motor monitoring tech eliminates on-machine sensors

Schneider Electric has launched a condition-monitoring technology for rotating machines that analyses motor currents rather than relying on traditional vibration-monitoring techniques. It claims that this approach offers several advantages, including accurate prediction of imminent machine failures, the ability to operate in harsh environments, and the ability to provide data that can be used to cut energy consumption and optimise the performance of machinery.

Pipe-crawling robot could revolutionise utility inspections

Robotics experts at the UK’s Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) have developed an autonomous robot vehicle designed to move along underground pipes to carry out inspections. The invention has the potential cut costs cost and improve efficiency for utilities, as well as preventing pipework leaks and reducing human exposure to hazardous environments.

First pneumatic cobot will cost less than electric rivals

Festo has previewed what it claims will be the world’s first pneumatic cobot. It says that the device – due to go on sale in 2023 – will be cheaper than electric cobots in the same class, as well as offering other attractions such as a high sensitivity to collisions and a low weight.

Plug-and-play cobot costs €4,970 and carries 2kg

igus has announced a smart cobot (collaborative robot) which costs just €4,970 (£4,230) and can be up and running within days. The plug-and-play cobot – part of the company’s Rebel family of robotic technologies – weighs just 8.2kg. It is claimed to be the lightest of its type, due largely to the fact that around 90% of its mechanical components are made from engineering polymers, including “the world's first industrial-grade cobot gearbox made of plastic”.

Patented regen function simplifies servodrive apps

The American motors and controls manufacturer Teknic has been awarded a US patent for a method for dissipating energy recovered from mechanical loads connected to servomotors during braking. It says that this function – which it calls VRS (vector regen shunt) – will simplify servodrives by eliminating the need for external regenerative circuits and shunts, thus cutting costs, space requirements, wiring and system complexity.

AI-based edge app could raise drives availabilities by 30%

At the 2022 Hannover Fair, Siemens will unveil an AI-based edge app that detects problems in drive systems before they can affect production. The app will allow users to avoid unplanned downtime and to schedule maintenance times in good time, raising plant availability by up to 30%. Siemens says that by scheduling maintenance and servicing activities based on actual demand, companies will be able to boost their productivity by up to 10%.

‘Breakthrough’ robot software delivers a 70% speed boost

ABB Robotics has launched a software package which, it claims, will boost the speed of six-axis robots by 70% and their accuracy by 50%, significantly reducing time-to-market, while improving accuracy levels.

First bearings with bioplastic cages cut emissions by 91%

NSK has announced what it claims are the world’s first rolling bearings to have cages made of a bioplastic material derived from renewable biomass sources – mainly plants. It says that the cages will cut lifecycle CO2 emissions by 91% compared to conventional plastics made from fossil fuels. Unlike other bioplastic materials that have problems in high temperatures, tests have shown that the new cage material can withstand temperatures of up 120°C.

Synthetic images ‘revolutionise’ vision system training

Siemens has launched a service that uses AI (artificial intelligence) to generate synthetic images of objects from CAD files. These images can then be used to simplify the training of machine vision systems to identify the objects.

Airbus and Roche join digital twin project for industrial plants

A group of European technology companies including Airbus, the pharmaceuticals giant Roche and Capgemini Engineering, have joined forces to develop and industrialise a digital ecosystem for industrial and manufacturing environments. The Vims (Virtual IoT Manufacturing System) will deliver detailed visualisations of manufacturing processes from single production lines to complete factories.