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AI slashes the automation set-up times by up to 66%

Mitsubishi Electric and Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) have developed an artificial-intelligence (AI) technology that, they say, can cut the time needed to set up factory automation (FA) equipment by up to two thirds. The technology, which combines AIST’s AI expertise with Mitsubishi FA technologies, will be implemented in Mitsubishi's Maisart (Mitsubishi AI creates the State-of-the-Art in technology) products.

German project develops autonomous ‘free form’ sensors

A consortium of German organisations has completed a 3½-year project to develop compact, intelligent, autonomous, wireless sensors that can be adapted into any shape or form factor. The Freiform (free form) project covered all aspects of sensor design – for example, signal processing, wireless data transmission, power supplies and location awareness ­– and included an investigations into mechanical, electrical and software design.

Flexible robotic gripper works like a chameleon’s tongue

A robotic gripper that holds workpieces in a similar way to how a chameleon’s tongue grabs and holds onto insects, has been developed by Festo. The DHEF “adaptive shape gripper” can pick up and put down objects of many different shapes without needing any manual adjustments.

Siemens, Festo and Rexroth join forces on carrier system

At the Hannover Fair in April, Siemens and Festo will present an new linear motor drive and control concept, said to offer flexible, efficient and high-performance motion for short-cycle applications. Siemens and Festo have integrated their Multi-Carrier System (MCS), first announced in 2015, with Bosch Rexroth’s TS 2plus transfer system, adding the modular MCS to Rexroth's building-block system which is based on standardised units.

Busbar trunking will carry data as well as power

At the Hannover Fair in April, Siemens will unveil a technology that allows busbar trunking systems to carry not only current, but also data, reducing the need for data cables and complex cabling installations. The new form of data transmission will be available for Siemens’ BD2, LD, and LI busbar trunking systems in its Sivacon 8PS portfolio.

Polymer frames result in light, efficient, direct-cooled motors

German researchers are developing a new cooling concept for electric motors that uses polymers in the motor housings, resulting in lightweight motors with high power densities and efficiencies. The motors are aimed, in particular, at electric vehicle applications where these characteristics, combined with the motor’s small size, will help to save weight and space.

Deep-learning machine vision opens up new possibilities

The emergence of machine vision technologies that use “deep learning” is expanding manufacturers’ capabilities and flexibility, leading to greater cost efficiencies and higher production yields, according to a new report from ABI Research. It predicts that these technologies will achieve a CAGR of 20% between 2017 and 2023, with revenues reaching $34bn by 2023.

Monitor stops dry running in hazardous area pumps

Siemens has developed a technology that prevents centrifugal pumps in hazardous areas from running dry. The technique said to need less hardware, to provide early detection of faults, and to avoid damage to pumps. It also claimed to cut the time and money spent on maintenance, and to result in higher system availabilities and efficiencies.

Using IO-Link for analogue signals cuts costs

Balluff has come up with a device that saves money by using IO-Link to handle analogue inputs and outputs, and uses unshielded three-conductor cables instead of shielded cables. It avoids the need for marshalling panels and expensive analogue interfaces, and is said to improve process quality by switching from analogue to digital data transmission.

System links sensors to any cloud in less than a minute

At the recent SPS IPC Drives show, a German start-up demonstrated a technology for connecting industrial sensors and actuators rapidly to almost any cloud platform, without needing edge gateways or fieldbuses. The system connects IO-Link-supporting sensors to the cloud using a plug-and-play approach. It recognises and configures IO-modules (such as IO-Link masters) and sensors automatically.

Machine-based edge platform cuts data costs

Siemens has developed a hardware platform for edge applications that captures and processes  manufacturing data at the point of production. Based on an embedded Simatic IPC227E industrial PC, the platform can process large volumes of data from machinery almost in real-time, bridging the gap between local and cloud-based data processing. Siemens says that, by processing large volumes of data in advance and sending only relevant data to the cloud or a company's own IT infrastructure, its Industrial Edge platform will help users to cut the costs of data storage and transmission.

Hybrid system integrates mechanical and touch controls

A UK specialist in touch sensors has developed a technology that integrates touch and physical controls. Newcastle-based Zytronic’s hybrid touch technology allows tactile buttons or mechanical dials to be incorporated in and around the active area of a projected capacitive touchscreen and to be connected invisibly through the viewable area of the screen. It claims that this is the first time that these two technologies have been integrated in this way.

Smart sensors will spot cable problems before they fail

ABB is developing a cable protection system that will be able to sense potential problems, such as condensation or rising temperatures, in the conduit that protects critical electrical cables. Using the analytical power and secure cloud-based communications of ABB’s Ability platform, the system will report and analyse data remotely, and allow facility managers to keep tabs on their electrical cables via smartphones, laptops or other remote devices.

‘First’ radar-based safety barrier is unaffected by dust

An Italian company claims to have developed the world’s first radar-based safety barrier system which, unlike optical systems, is not affected by smoke, dust, machining waste or liquid splashes. Inxpect’s LBK system is certified for SIL 2 / PL d for safety-critical applications.

Cobot automates the chore of applying attachment tapes

3M has collaborated with the American Industry 4.0 expert Eckhart to develop a system that uses a collaborative robot to apply attachment tapes automatically in industrial and automotive processes. The 3M Automated Taping System (ATS) uses a Universal Robots cobot to apply 3M Attachment Tapes – a process that is usually done by hand.