Drives and Controls Magazine
Software EtherCat motion control is ‘transformative’

The Taiwanese edge computing specialist Adlink Technology has announced a software-defined EtherCat motion controller that, it claims, overcomes the limits of hardware-based controllers, extending maximum axis counts from 64 to 128 axes and achieving cycle times as short as 125μs. The company says that its SuperCat technology marks “a significant advancement in EtherCat control”, enhancing performance, and streamlining the integration of automation processes, while offering cost-effective hardware and “effortless” software configuration.

New link modules can create twin-armed modular robots

Beckhoff has enhanced the flexibility of its Atro modular robotic system by introducing new link modules that open up new possible topologies, including multi-arm robots. It unveiled the new modules at the Automatica show in Germany where it demonstrated a T-shaped link module with two junctions being used to create a two-armed robot with four motor modules – or joints – in each of the arms. There are also L- and S-shaped link modules.

Mobile welding robot ‘raises productivity and cuts costs’

Two Italian companies – the robot-maker Comau and the shipbuilder Fincantieri – have unveiled a mobile robotic welding system at the Automatica exhibition in Germany. They say that the MR4Weld (Mobile Robot for Welding) could deliver a three-fold increase in productivity compared to manual techniques. Although the system is being designed and deployed initially to weld steel structures in shipyards, the developers believe that it could be reconfigured easily to address other applications and industries.

Twin-robot bin-picker achieves ‘record’ 2,700 picks an hour

The German vacuum technology specialist Schmalz claims to have set a new speed record for automated bin-picking using a pair of Scara robots that were able to perform 2,700 picks per hour. For this pilot application, Schmalz worked with the German systems integrator Körber to integrate a robot cell into an existing logistics installation at Schmalz’s headquarters.

UK-developed 1MW motor will power hybrid aircraft

Collins Aerospace’s UK operation is developing a 1MW motor for use in a hybrid-electric aircraft propulsion system that aims to achieve a 30% improvement in fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions compared to today's best regional turboprop aircraft. The 1MW motor will deliver four times the power and twice the voltage of Collins’ most advanced electric motor generators flying today, with half the heat loss and half the weight.

Plastic magnet rotors ‘could revolutionise’ high-speed motors

The Japanese manufacturer IHI has developed a “breakthrough” prototype high-flux plastic magnet rotor for use in ultra-high-speed motors, that would be would be efficient, lightweight and compact. IHI says these motors could revolutionise the production, performance and economy of electric aircraft and automotive propulsion systems.

Automated bin-picker works with any make of robot or gripper

The Italian robotics and automation manufacturer Comau has developed a bin-picking technology that can be used with any make of robot, bin or gripper to recognise, locate and grasp up to 40 randomly placed items every minute. The MI.RA Picker uses two high-resolution laser sensors and a central camera, combined with virtual simulation tools and predictive algorithms, to optimise path management and achieve collision-free trajectories, while lowering costs and potential risks.

MIT’s megawatt motor could help to electrify aviation

A team of engineers at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in the US are working on a 1MW motor that, they believe, could be a key stepping stone toward electrifying larger aircraft. They have designed and tested the motor’s main components, and shown through detailed computations that the parts could work together to generate 1MW at a weight and size competitive with current small aero-engines. The researchers plan to assemble and start testing a fully working motor later this year.

SiC module will lead to smaller, more efficient industrial kit

Mitsubishi Electric has announced a silicon carbide (SiC) power semiconductor module for industrial applications that it says will result in smaller, more efficient and lighter industrial equipment.

Whale’s tail inspires ‘revolutionary’ propulsion concept

ABB has announced a “revolutionary” electric motor-driven marine propulsion system that, it claims, breaks new ground for efficiency in the marine industry. Inspired by the dynamic movements of a whale’s tail, the system – called Dynafin – is the result of more than a decade of research, development, and testing. The first prototype is expected to be available in 2025.

Digital twins help cobots to build more cobots faster

The Taiwanese cobot (collaborative robot) manufacturer Techman has turned to digital simulation to help it cut inspection times on its cobot assembly line by around 20%.

First cobot-based spot welder is ‘the future of spot welding’

A Californian welding specialist has developed what it claims is the world’s first cobot-based spot welder. Pro Spot International says that its i5s resistance spot welder will deliver up to three times more manufacturing capacity than manual welding.

AI system automates previously impossible screwdriving tasks

The German screwdriving technology specialist Deprag has joined forces with the Berlin robotics software developer Micropsi Industries to develop what they claim is the first automated screwdriving system that can handle changes in the environment. They say that such automation has not been possible, or economically feasible, using previous technologies.

UK project uses robots to embed wiring in components

British researchers have been working on a £1.7m project to accelerate automation in the aerospace industry by using a novel robotic system to embed wiring into complex aircraft components. The venture, called Project LiveWire, has been led by Bristol-based Q5D Technologies, working in collaboration with the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC). The two-year collaborative project, funded by Innovate UK as part of the ATI (Aerospace Technology Institute) programme, also involved other companies including OnePLM, M-Solv and Safran.

Robotic picker has an efficiency of at least 99.5%

ABB Robotics has launched an AI-based system that detects and picks items in unstructured environments in warehouses and fulfilment centres with an efficiency claimed to be better than 99.5%. The robotic item picker can handle up to 1,400 unsorted items per hour, each weighing up to 3kg.