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EV motor is ‘first’ to avoid the use of ‘heavy’ rare-earths

Two Japanese companies – Honda and Daido Steel – claim to have developed the world’s first practical “hot deformed” neodymium magnets that contain no “heavy” rare-earth materials, yet offer good temperature resistance and the magnetic performance needed for use in electric vehicles (EVs). The new magnets will be used for the first time in Honda’s new Freed hybrid vehicle, which is due to go on sale later this year.

‘Smart’ guides, cables and energy chains will boost uptime

The plastics engineering specialist igus has announced a series of “smart” technologies that add sensing, monitoring and communications capabilities to its cables, energy chains and linear bearings. The company says that these technologies – which it is marketing under the “smart plastics” banner – will help to increase plant availability and uptime, and cut costs through condition monitoring and predictive maintenance.

‘First’ collaborative robot gripper brings safety to end-effectors

At the recent Automatica show in Germany, Schunk unveiled what it claims is the first robotic gripper capable of interacting and communicating directly with humans, and designed to be used safely with collaborative robots. The JL1 Co-act gripper can detect if it comes into contact with a human, avoid injuries if it senses a human between its jaws, and ensure that it never loses grip of the object that it is holding.

Plane powered by 50kg electric motor 'will change aviation'

An aircraft powered by a 50kg electric motor with a continuous output of 260kW has flown for the first time, from an airfield in northern Germany. The two-seater plane – an adapted aerobatic craft built by Extra Aircraft – flew for ten minutes on its maiden flight in June. Its developers believe that it could be the forerunner for hybrid-electric aircraft with four or more seats that will cut fuel consumption and emissions by up to 50%, as well as reducing noise levels dramatically.

Omron’s first IO-Link devices will lead to smarter production

Omron has announced several ranges of IO-Link-compatible photoelectric and proximity sensors which, it says, will make it easier to integrate industrial equipment with the Internet of Things. Omron describes the launch of its first IO-Link sensors as “a big step” towards making production equipment smarter and combining factory automation components with ICT (information and communications technology) systems.

Nasa’s electric plane will cut running costs by up to 40%

The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) is building an aircraft powered by 14 electric motors which, it claims, could cut operating costs by up to 40% compared to conventional aircraft, as well as reducing energy use during high-speed cruising by around 80% .

Electrically assisted vehicle overcomes drawbacks of bicycles

The German bearings and automotive systems manufacturer Schaeffler has unveiled a concept two-seater vehicle designed to overcome some of the disadvantages of bicycles – such as their lack of stability, weather protection and storage space. The electrically-assisted, four-wheeled Bio-Hybrid vehicle can travel at speeds of up to 25km/h, does not need a driver’s licence, and is small enough to be used on bicycle lanes, thus reducing congestion in urban environments.

Fault-finder for rotating machines needs no expertise

The German bearings manufacturer Schaeffler has developed an automated system for analysing the condition of rotating plant and equipment with fixed or variable speeds from 100–15,000 rpm. The FAG SmartQB is a pre-configured, ready-to-use condition-monitoring system for electric motors, pumps, fans, compressors and gearboxes, which can be commissioned in five minutes and can be operated by staff with little or no expertise in vibration monitoring.

Vacuum-powered actuators mimic muscle behaviour

Researchers in the US have developed an actuator that generates movements similar to those of muscles by using vacuum to shrink rubber beams. Like real muscles, the actuators are soft, shock-absorbing, and pose no danger to their environment or humans working alongside them. They could pave the way to soft-bodied robots that are safer than conventional rigid designs, the developers suggest.

Monitoring system depicts production data in real time

Bosch Rexroth has developed a communication platform that continuously records, processes and filters production data and makes it available on the production line and elsewhere in real time via large touchscreens or tablets.

Collaborative demo shows 'batch of one' production in action

A crowd-puller at the recent Hannover Fair was a collaborative demonstration by several companies showing Industry 4.0 concepts – in particular, mass customisation – in action. The demo was manufacturing individual keyrings in colours and with text (names or phone numbers) specified by visitors via a Web site. They also had the option of incorporating a smartchip that would allow them to find the key using a smartphone.

Vision-based luggage ID system is ‘15% better than lasers’

The machine vision specialist Cognex has announced a vision-based system for identifying airport baggage which, it claims, is the first of its type and overcomes the limitations of laser-based baggage identification systems. It says that its ABH-ID (airport baggage handling identification) system achieves much higher read rates than laser-based systems, cutting the costs of delivering lost or late-checked luggage by hand.

Browser-based system turns block I/Os into PLCs

Turck has announced a technology that allows users to add logic functions to I/O devices without needing a PLC, thus driving down the cost per I/O point and increasing control flexibility. The Argee “field logic controller” (FLC) system is programmed via a Web browser, eliminating the need for third-party software or licensing that is common with PLCs.

Software links mechanical, electrical and PLC activities

At the recent Hannover Fair, Eplan and Cideon – both members of the German Friedhelm Loh Group – announced a software platform that, they say, will simplify collaboration between mechanical and controls engineers and PLC programmers. The Syngineer software interfaces mechanical and electrical computer-aided design (MCAD and ECAD) and PLC programming software via a mechatronic structure.

‘Smart’ cables can predict when they are about to fail

Two German companies – the sensor manufacturer Leuze Electronic and the connection specialist Murrelektronik – have joined forces with the French cable-maker Nexans to develop a cable that can sense when it is close to failure, thus alerting users and allowing them to replace the cable before it fails.