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Electric craft will ‘fly’ a few metres above the waves

A US company called Regent is pioneering a new category of electrically-powered vehicle called the seaglider that uses the ground effect to fly on a cushion of air a few metres above bodies of water. Regent says that the vehicle will dramatically cut the time and cost of moving people and goods between coastal locations.

Cogging-free PCB motor helps to control cameras remotely

A Los Angeles company that develops equipment for the film industry has used a motor with a stator formed from a PCB (printed circuit board) to solve a problem with hand-wheel systems used to operate film cameras remotely.

Novel two-part ball bearings cut noise, even at high speeds

The German engineering plastics specialist igus has developed a plastic ball bearing that unusually combines two materials to make it wear-resistant and dimensionally stable and quiet, even at high speeds. This design makes the xiros 2K bearing suitable for use in applications such as fans and blowers.

Rare-earth-free 15MW generator ‘eliminates risks’

A UK wind turbine specialist has teamed up with a US developer of high-performance rare-earth-free magnets to design a 15MW generator for use in offshore wind turbines. Middlesborough-based GreenSpur Wind and Minneaopolis-based Niron Magnetics say that the high-efficiency low-mass generator will generate power without needing costly and environmentally-dubious rare-earth magnets. Their claims have been backed by the ORE Catapult, the UK’s technology innovation and research centre for offshore renewable energy.

New ballscrew technology could double service lives

NSK has developed a ballscrew technology that, it claims, can double service lives compared to standard ballscrews in some applications. The new ballscrews are aimed, in particular, at high-load applications such as injection moulding machines and servo presses which are switching from hydraulic to electric drive operation using servomotors and ballscrews to save energy.

Linear motors with magnet-free tracks cut costs

UK-based Motion Control Products (MCP) has announced what it claims are the first linear motors that do not have any magnets in their tracks, thus reducing the need for rare-earth materials and cutting costs, especially for long travel lengths. The motors are also said to be easier and safer to assemble, without the usual strong magnetic attraction between the track and the moving forcer.

First motor-driven energy-chain can travel more than 1km

Igus claims to have produced the world’s first driven energy chain, almost eliminating limits on travel distances, which can stretch to well over 1km. The technology also delivers high dynamics and long running times because there are hardly any push/pull forces acting on the chain.

Al-cage SR motor pairs IE5 efficiency with low costs

The Japanese motor manufacturer Nidec has developed a new design of electric motor which, it claims, combines the high efficiency of a synchronous reluctance (SR) motor with the low cost of a cage-type induction motor. It says that the IE5-efficiency SynRA (synchronous reluctance motor with aluminium cage rotor) machine is the world’s first SR motor with an aluminium cage. It does not need an electronic controller and can be connected directly to a mains power supply.

Industry groups join forces to standardise energy monitoring

Four industrial automation and manufacturing groups have joined forces to develop a standard interface for monitoring energy consumption in production processes, based on OPC UA. The four – ODVA, the OPC Foundation, PI (Profibus and Profinet International) and VDMA, which represents more than 3,400 German and European companies in the mechanical and plant engineering sector – have set up a working group which plans to publish a new OPC UA specification including details of the interface.

UniversalAutomation demo shows IEC 6199 products interacting

A group of automation companies have demonstrated some of the first products to implement the UniversalAutomation.Org (UAO) open runtime system interoperating with each other. Compliance with the system – based on the IEC 6199 standard for distributed control and information systems – is predicted to bring advantages including application interoperability and portability, efficient engineering and easy maintainability.

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.