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January News in Brief

01 January, 2008

º  Elau, Schneider Electric’s packaging automation specialist, has announced that it will base the next generation of its PacDrive automation system on the Ethernet-based Sercos III network. Elau’s CEO Dr Thomas Cord says that Sercos III offers "a viable one-network choice for synchronised motion, safety, I/O and information over Ethernet for high-performance applications". Elau will still supply other open technologies, such as EtherNet/IP, "for users preferring to continue to segregate their networks according to functional requirements".

º  ABB is investing $5m in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) over the coming five years to fund research on energy efficiency and related technologies, including power electronics, intelligent robotics, nanofluids and equipment heat management. Under the agreement, ABB will join MIT’s Energy Initiative (MITEI) and will have a seat on its governing board. ABB spends around $1.1bn per year on research and development, about half of this being devoted to energy efficiency.

º  The UK`s Technology Strategy Board is aiming to stimulate improvements in low-carbon energy technologies by providing £10m for industry-led collaborative research and development projects. The Board is offering partial funding for projects lasting two to three years and involving collaborations between businesses and other firms, research organisations or academic institutions. Outline proposals must be submitted by 22 February.

º  The Profibus Group is organising the first certified Profinet Engineer course to be held in the UK. The course will be held at Manchester Metropolitan University from 12–14 May. Participants who pass an end-of-course exam will get the title Certified Profinet Engineer.

º  ODVA has issued new editions of the specifications for its CIP family of networks including EtherNet/IP, DeviceNet, CompoNet and ControlNet. The 23 enhancements include new specifications for industrially hardened cables for EtherNet/IP, and a four-conductor, IP67 cable for CompoNet that allows communications and power conductors to share the same cable.

º  A US robotics specialist iRobot has won a $286m contract from the US Army which could result in the delivery of up to 3,000 military robots over the coming five years. Initially, iRobot will supply 101 robots "for urgent deployment". The contract is said to mark a turning point in the way the Army uses robots which, until now, have been used in limited numbers for bomb disposal tasks. The new robots, which incorporate grippers and low-light zoom cameras, will be used for "a variety of critical missions".

º  The US motor-maker UQM Technologies is supplying 150kW permanent magnet motors for a collaborative project to develop an advanced hybrid electric bus which will use up to 40% less fuel than conventional diesel buses. The project, led by the Mass Transportation Authority in Flint, Michigan, aims to have the first production vehicles on the road during the 2009 financial year.

º  Lambda Europe claims to be providing the first lifetime warranty for industrial power supplies. It is offering the warranty on its HWS series, covering ratings from 15–1,500W. Lambda says that since the supplies were introduced several years ago, the return rate has been "negligible"

º  Smiths Electric Vehicles claims to have developed the world’s largest, high-performance electric truck, weighing more than 12,000kg. The Newton truck is propelled by a 120kW motors powered by a rack of 278V batteries. It has a fully-charged range of 240km and a top speed of 80km/h. Initial users include Royal Mail, Marks & Spencer, DHL and Starbucks.

º  Allegro Microsystems has announced a high output (35V, ±2A) microstepper driver chip for PWM control of bipolar stepper motors in various modes from 16th- to full-step. Built-in translator circuitry allows a pulse at the step input to advance the motor by one microstep, without needing phase sequence tables or complex programming.




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