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20 August, 2017

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NASA's glass gears have cracking potential

05 January, 2017

US researchers, led by scientists and engineers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, are developing gears made out of special materials that that can act both as a metal and as a glass. The materials can operate efficiently without lubricants in extremely cold conditions, such as those found on the surface of planets and moons. They could also slash the cost of strain-wave gears used in applications such as robotics.


Open control platform supports your favourite tools

04 January, 2017

At the recent SPS IPC Drives show, Phoenix Contact unveiled a “future-proof” open control platform, called PLCnext, that will allow engineers from different disciplines to work together simultaneously on projects, each in their preferred development environments. They can continue to use their chosen programming tools – such as Visual Studio, Eclipse and Matlab Simulink – and to link their program code, saving time and reducing the risk of errors.


‘Basic’ 100Mbit version of CC-Link IE will cut costs

04 January, 2017

CLPA – the CC-Link Partner Association – has announced an addition to its CC-Link IE protocol that will allow device vendors to add CC-Link IE compatibility to any product with a 100Mbit Ethernet port. The new version, known as CC-Link IE Field Network Basic – or “Basic Mode” – can be implemented on devices or master controllers using software alone, allowing it to be added to existing products without making any hardware modifications. CLPA says that this will reduce the cost of development and time-to-market “significantly”.


Future enclosures will have built-in cooling 'like a fridge'

04 January, 2017

Ritttal used the recent SPS IPC Drives exhibition to preview its vision of the future where enclosures will have built-in cooling systems, avoiding the need to assemble cooling systems on enclosure roofs or side panels. It showed two prototypes: one with the cooling system at the top; the other at the side.


$18m backing for GE spin-off that ‘re-invents the switch’

08 December, 2016

A new US company, spun off from GE’s Global Research Center, claims to have re-invented the electronic switch, with a device that can handle kilowatts of power, yet offers the size, speed, cost, and reliability attractions of solid-state devices.


Free app could save manufacturers more than $1m a year

02 December, 2016

Rockwell Automation has released a free app for mobile devices such as smartphones that will allow engineering teams to collaborate and share knowledge, view live production statistics, interact with machine alarms and troubleshoot machines. Rockwell estimates that each team member using the FactoryTalk TeamOne app could save 1% of their workday, or 33 seconds per shift – equivalent to an annual saving of more than $1.4m for a manufacturer with about 2,000 production staff.


Automation giants back OPC UA TSN to unify comms

29 November, 2016

More than ten leading automation suppliers have joined forces to back OPC UA over Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) as a unifying communication system for use between industrial controllers and to the cloud. The companies – which include ABB, Bosch Rexroth, B&R, Cisco, General Electric, Kuka, National Instruments (NI), Parker Hannifin, Schneider Electric, SEW-Eurodrive and TTTech – intend to support OPC UA TSN in their future products.


I/O board will allow Raspberry Pi to control motors

21 November, 2016

The Californian industrial automation manufacturer Opto 22 has developed a digital I/O board for the low-cost Raspberry Pi computer that will allow the Pi to monitor, control, and automate devices that were previously beyond the capabilities of its built-in 3.3V DC GPIO sensing and control connector. The new Digital I/O Carrier Board can be used to sense or switch up to 16 electrical loads up to 3A, 2.5–280V AC/DC, allowing it to monitor and control electrical loads such as motors, pumps, and sensors.


X-Y gantry has an axis that rotates through 20 degrees

21 November, 2016

The US motion engineer Intellidrives has developed a large-area X-Y gantry in which one of the axes can be rotated through more than 20 degrees. This novel approach to kinematics allows large relative motions of independent (X1 and X2) parallel axes to control orthogonality in the X-Y plane, or to introduce large theta rotation of the Y-axis about the X1 and X2 axes, as well as rotating the Y-axis around a virtual programmable point.


£1.2m project aims to turn waste heat into electricity

21 November, 2016

A UK consortium has embarked on a three-year research programme to explore the potential for converting low-temperature waste heat into useful electrical power. The project, led by steam engineering specialist Spirax Sarco, has received a £1.24m grant from the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK.


3D smart glasses help to cut maintenance workloads

07 November, 2016

Mitsubishi Electric has developed a technology that allows maintenance technicians wearing 3D augmented reality (AR) glasses to confirm the order of an inspection and then enter the results by voice. It says that the technology will cut workloads and help to avoid entry errors because information can be entered reliably, even in noisy environments.


Mobile robots use AI to deliver materials, avoiding obstacles

11 October, 2016

Omron Adept Technologies has developed a free-roaming mobile robot with on-board artificial intelligence (AI) that allows it to transport materials weighing up to 130kg to a target location, calculating the optimal route and avoiding humans and obstacles en route. The Mobile Robot LD Platform is aimed at industrial applications such as transporting car parts, electronics, foods and pharmaceuticals. It is also suitable for use in warehouses and research facilities.


Low-cost HV SiC switches could enhance drives

07 October, 2016

Researchers in the US have created a high-voltage, high-frequency silicon carbide (SiC) power switch that could cost about half as much as conventional HV SiC power switches. They say that their device could help to cuts the costs and boost the performance of applications such as medium-voltage drives, solid-state transformers, HV transmission systems and circuit-breakers.


VSD control algorithms protect gas compressors

03 October, 2016

ABB has released what it claims is the first variable-speed drive (VSD) control software that uses Model Predictive Control to regulate torque.


$3.8m project aims for better motors using high-Si steels

28 September, 2016

A consortium of American researchers has won a $3.8m grant from the US Department of Energy to develop better materials for electric motors, especially for use in transport applications. The project – which includes researchers from Iowa State University, the DOE’s Ames Laboratory, the University of Delaware, and the United Technologies Research Center – is part of a $59.2m federal programme comprising 35 research projects aimed at cutting the costs and improving the efficiencies of electric, alternative-fuel and conventional vehicles.


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