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Ball-balancing mobile robot carries flexible pneumatic ‘hand’

The German pneumatics and automation technology manufacturer Festo has unveiled a mobile robot that moves by balancing on a ball, and carries a human-like pneumatic “hand” that can identify items and handle them delicately.

IEC approves push-pull standard for M12 circular connectors

Eight connector manufacturers have joined forces to establish a standardised push-pull locking mechanism for M12 round connectors. The resulting IEC 61076-2-010 standard describes both external and internal systems using push-pull locking, and is intended to ensure compatibility between connectors from different manufacturers.

Cooperative AI helps people and machines to work together

Mitsubishi Electric has developed an artificial intelligence (AI) technology that enhances collaboration between humans and machines using a technique known as “inverse reinforcement learning” (IRL) that learns and imitates the actions of skilled workers. IRL allows machines to replicate human-like actions based on relatively small amounts of data.

Next-generation robotics platform is ‘first to support 5G’

The wireless technology giant Qualcomm has announced what it describes as the world’s first 5G- and AI-enabled robotics platform. The RB5 platform consists of hardware, software and development tools that bring together the company’s expertise in 5G and AI “to empower developers and manufacturers to create the next generation of high-compute, low-power robots and drones for the consumer, enterprise, defence, industrial and professional service sectors”.

Custom sensor apps need no programming expertise

The German sensor-maker Sick has unveiled a technology that will allow automation users to create customised sensor- and edge-based applications without needing any programming experience. The technology – an enhancement of the company’s existing AppSpace platform – will allow users to link and configure predefined function blocks via a graphical user interface.

UK project aims to recycle rare-earths for use in new motors

A group of UK companies, including Bentley Motors and the electric motor developer Advanced Electric Machines Research, have embarked on a £2.6m project to develop technologies for recovering rare-earth materials from old equipment and recycle them for use in new electric motors. The RaRE (Rare-earth Recycling for E-machines) project has secured £1.9m of funding from the government-backed Innovate UK organisation.

Dummy apples help to cut handling damage and costs

A UK company, Martin Lishman, has developed a range of fruit- and vegetable-shaped sensing devices designed to monitor and log the conditions experienced by fresh produce during handling and transport. Another company, the produce-handling specialist, Brillopak, has used Lishman’s “electronic apple” to redesign its systems to minimise potential damage to fruit, and to cut packing wastage and costs.

Touch-free touchscreen lets you keep your distance

The Japanese electronics manufacturer Alps Alpine has developed a non-contact technology for operating “touchscreen” control panels in situations where it is undesirable, impossible or forbidden to touch the panels. The company demonstrated the technology at the world’s largest electronics trade show, CES 2020, in Las Vegas earlier this year, and is now talking about commercialising it, possibly next year.

Crowdfunding drive for high-torque motor hits target in 2 weeks

A Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to help finance the production of “the world’s highest-torque motor” has exceeded its $30,000 target less than two weeks into a four-week campaign. Texas-based Linear Labs hopes to start deliveries of its 1.4kW, 15Nm (continuous), 3.4kW, 50Nm (peak) Honey Badger motor in December 2020.

Mitsubishi starts 5G automation tests at a Japanese plant

Mitsubishi Electric has begun a demonstration test of 5G technology at one of its factories in Japan, designed to verify wireless transmission between local 5G base stations and the company’s factory automation products. It will also examine possible uses of local 5G systems, such as remote operation and maintenance support, as well as using augmented and virtual reality to enhance production efficiency.

Trough-free e-chain replaces busbars and slashes build times

The German engineering plastics giant igus has come up with a new design of energy chain that does not need a guide trough, and is claimed to cut assembly times by up to 88%. The autoglide 5 system is aimed, in particular, at horizontal applications such as cranes and intralogistics systems, where it could replace the need for conventional busbar systems. It can guide cables at speeds of up to 4m/s over travel lengths of up to 80m.

‘Spatial toolbox’ speeds up AR programming

The software giant PTC has released an open-source spatial computing platform that, it says, will allow users to accelerate machine prototyping, as well as AR (augmented reality) and IoT applications. To allow users to take advantage of the Vuforia Spatial Toolbox platform while working from home, PTC has also created a simple hardware interface that can link their Arduino projects and Lego Boost and Education WeDo kits to its Vuforia edge server.

Sensor detects metal in plastics with micrometre accuracy

A German start-up has developed a sensor that, it claims, can detect metallic structures embedded in plastics or other electrically non-conductive materials precisely “for the first time”. The sensor, based on a radar technology, is claimed to measure, with micrometre accuracy, the distances to objects made of steel, copper or other metals, embedded in plastics, cardboard, rubber and other substances. It can also detect objects behind electrically non-conductive materials.

AI maintenance technology pinpoints problem assets

Senseye, the UK-based maintenance software specialist, has announced an “industry first” technology that pinpoints assets that require immediate attention, by detecting any abnormal behaviours. The Attention Index technology notifies users when it detects such anomalies, which it prioritises by analysing parameters such as vibration, pressure, torque and current.

3D software is ‘first’ to simulate robotic cells accurately

Omron claims to have developed the first 3D simulation software that can reproduce accurately the movements of all of the robots and peripheral devices that make up an automation cell and verify their operation with the same accuracy as the actual machine. The Sysmac Studio 3D simulation software allows mechanical designers responsible for drawing up equipment specifications, and  electrical engineers responsible for control programming, to work concurrently at an early stage of a machine design project. This, says Omron, will help to avoid errors when the machine is started up, leading to faster start-ups and improved productivity.