Drives and Controls Magazine
Ball-shaped gripper adapts to objects with different shapes

A novel balloon-shaped gripper for robots will make its public debut at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) in Chicago this month. Unlike conventional grippers, the Versaball, developed by Boston-based Empire Robotics, can grasp a wide variety of objects without reprogramming, and can pick-and-place objects ranging from heavy bricks to delicate light bulbs — all in the same cycle without any changes to the application.

US standards body plans a cyber-security test-bed

The US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is developing a cyber-security test-bed for industrial control systems. The aim is to measure the performance of industrial control systems when fitted with cyber-security protection in accordance with best practices prescribed by national and international standards and guidelines such as IEC-62443 and NIST-800-82.

Cloud service networks data securely in real time

A Canadian cloud computing specialist, Skkynet Cloud Systems, has launched a cloud-based service that provides remote access to industrial devices and systems without exposing the plants or devices to Internet security risks.

Fourth-gen DTC promises better speed and torque control

ABB has announced a fourth generation of its direct torque control (DTC) motor control platform, with the claim that it will bring more accuracte motor speed and torque control, as well as the ability to control more types of motor.

Stepper motor chip compensates for sudden load increases

The German motion control specialist Trinamic has announced a controller-driver chip for stepper motors that incorporates a new technology that adapts the motor velocity automatically to cope with sudden increases in load. The TMC5062 chip is a monolithic dual-axis motor controller that can deliver up to 1.5A, making it suitable for stepper motors up to Nema size 17, and covering most typical hybrid stepper applications.

Novel materials produce small motors with 90% efficiencies

UPDATED: Australian researchers have used novel magnetic materials to design and build small motors with energy efficiencies of up to 90%, compared to 60-70% for conventional designs. The new motors are also smaller in size for a given power output.

Cable-driven robots can move heavy loads over long distances

German researchers have developed a novel robotic system in which a platform carrying end-effectors is suspended from an array of eight ropes, which are driven by winches to position the platform precisely in three dimensions with six degrees of freedom.

PoE extensions ‘can damage non-PoE equipment’

A manufacturer of networking hardware is warning users of Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) systems that non-PoE equipment can be damaged if connected to these networks, especially if the network is extended beyond the 100m data transmission limit of copper-based Ethernet connections.

Touch controls can be created on any surface

A Dutch company called Aito is offering a touch control technology that can be used to create a configurable user interface of up to 11 touch buttons that can replace conventional mechanical switches. It claims that the technology overcomes problems with other touch technologies that need a significant button travel or will not operate with gloved hands or through metal panel overlays.

Technology can ‘print’ 3D sensors inside machinery

Researchers at GE Global Research in the US are developing a technology that will allow machine designers to use special “inks” to print miniature sensors inside machinery and in other hot, harsh and hard-to-reach places. They say that the technology, called Direct Write, will allow them to put sensors where they’ve never been before, and could speed up the transition to link up machines to the Internet of Things.

2kW motor propels world’s lightest electric skateboard

A Florida company claims to have developed “the world’s lightest electric vehicle” – a 9.9lb (4.5kg) skateboard powered by a 2kW brushless DC motor which can propel the board at speeds of up to 20mph (32km/h) for an hour or more. In less than a month, a Kickstarter campaign to back the development has more than doubled its initial funding target of $90,000.

Production plants adapt themselves to changing demands

A group of German organisations – including Festo and the fortiss research institute – have developed an open software architecture for automation systems that allows factory production components to network and configure themselves intelligently and autonomously.

Robots learn how to grasp unfamiliar objects reliably

Researchers at the University of Birmingham in the UK have developed a way of teaching robots to pick up unfamiliar objects without dropping or breaking them.

Silicon carbide device ‘will boost EV efficiencies by 10%’

Toyota and the automotive parts supplier Denso have developed a silicon carbide (SiC) power semiconductor for use in automotive power control units (PCUs) which, they say, will boost hybrid vehicle (HV) efficiencies by 10% and reduce PCU sizes by 80%, compared to systems based on silicon devices. Toyota plans to start test-driving vehicles fitted with the new PCUs within a year.

Twin-stator SR motor ‘out-performs standard designs’

US researchers have developed a switched reluctance motor with two stators that, they claim, produces significantly more power and torque for a given size and weight than traditional motor technologies, without using permanent magnets or rare-earth materials.