Drives & Controls November/December 2023

NEWS n 5 Siemens simplifies motion engineering to tackle skills crisis AT THE SPS EXHIBITION in Germany, Siemens has announced several software and hardware developments designed to make motion programming easier and thus to tackle the shortage of skilled motion engineers around the world. Rainer Brehm, CEO of Siemens’ Factory Automation division, unveiled the latest version (v19) of the company’s Totally Integrated Automation (TIA) portal, with the claim that it offers “the simplest motion engineering on the market”, and avoids the need for complicated lists. In delta robot pick-and-place applications, for example, users will be able to see how the system will operate using a digital twin before any hardware is ordered or configured. Using the Portal is said to be intuitive for non-experts and new users, and Brehm argues that this is crucial for industrial users. To manage an increasing variety of products flexibly, and to cope with the shortage of skilled workers, more processes need to be automated – and this means that machines and systems and the resulting demands on motion control and automation technology are becoming increasingly complex. The new version of TIA Portal now integrates motion control from initial engineering through to the eventual commissioning and operation of the drives. Whether users want to control a single axis or complex kinematics, the Portal provides support with graphical interfaces and extensive diagnostics. It also offers extended functions, including software that helps with modularisation, and allows users to write complex applications. The modular design makes it easy to deploy, track, trace and re-use applications, and to create versions. A new function called Named Values can be used to create readable, easy-to-maintain code, and for debugging. Another new element in the Portal, called Simatic Motion Interpreter, avoids the need for in-depth programming knowledge. It acts more like a navigation system, with the user entering a simple sequential description of the movements that they want to perform. The Interpreter then takes over the programming, from single axes to complex kinematics with up to six interpolating axes. Changes can be made to applications without needing to delve into PLC code. Brehm also announced a new generation of drives including: n the economical, space-saving Sinamics G220 drive, which is said to generate 95% less harmonic distortion, avoids the need for input or output filters, works with IE4 or IE5 motors, and is designed to connect to the edge and the cloud; n the Sinamics S200 aimed at standard servodrive applications, which is easy to engineer via TIA Portal; and n the Sinamics S210 safety servodrive, which supports safety functions up to SIL3. All of these drives can be tested virtually using digital twins built into Siemens’ Sinamics DriveSim Basic and Advanced tools. November/December 2023 ROBOTICS AND AI experts at Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh have secured funding for a training centre to help make robots safer, more dependable and trustworthy. The UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training in Dependable and Deployable Artificial Intelligence for Robotics (CDT-D2AIR) will train PhD students in verification and certification systems for robotics and AI. The aim is to ensure that robotics applications can interact safely with the environment and with users. The centre has been awarded a share of £117m of funding announced by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) for 12 Centres for Doctoral Training in AI at 16 UK universities. The investment will help to train the next generation of AI researchers. It builds on a previous UKRI investment of £100m in 2018. The D2AIR Centre for Doctoral Training will be based at the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics (ECR), a joint initiative between Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh. ECR includes the National Robotarium, at Heriot-Watt’s Edinburgh campus, and the Bayes Centre, the University of Edinburgh 's Innovation Hub for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence. These centres include robotic testing and development facilities and more than £20m of robotic equipment. Students working at the D2AIR Centre will be able to simulate and test systems, and will be trained in the latest methods in AI, verification, design and robotics. “There is a clear need for robotics and AI systems be certifiable, reliable and capable of interacting safely with people and the environment,” says Professor Ron Petrick, professor of Computer Science at Heriot-Watt University, and director of the new Centre. “While AI methods are being increasingly used in robotics, much of this technology was not originally designed with safety and other important human-centred requirements in mind. Making AI truly applicable to, and deployable in, robotic solutions will require advanced sets of skills and a new way of thinking.” The £117m UKRI investment will involve partners including IBM and Google, as well as AI SMEs. A further £110m is coming from these partners in the form of cash or in-kind contributions. Scottish researchers win slice of £117m funds to make robots safer Siemens’ Factory Automation CEO Rainer Brehm: simpler motion engineering is needed to tackle the skills crisis