ROBOTICS AND AUTOMATED MANUFACTURING: Unlocking the potential of robots and automation SENSORS AND ENCODERS: Lasers help to gauge metal thickness at Scottish plant HAZARDOUS AREAS: Containing the risk of explosions at sugar processing sites Drives&Controls FEBRUARY 2024 www.drivesncontrols.com #1 ENGINEERING MAGAZINE FOR AUTOMATION, POWER TRANSMISSION AND MOTION CONTROL INSIDE
WEG is a world leader in producing stand-alone products, so why not complete systems? ☐ One stop supplier ☐ Investment optimisation ☐ Technological compatibility amongst the products (motor + gearbox + drive) ☐ Technical support (service centres with the same brand products) ☐ Global presence MOTORS DRIVES GEARBOXES DIGITAL www.weg.net What is WEGmotion Drives? WEG is a leader in developing and delivering stand-alone products for industry. When our products operate autonomously, they guarantee high performance and efficiency to the customer and allow total interchangeability with different machines and equipment. However, if your company demands total process control, regardless of your machine’s design, WEG provides fully integrated and flexible WEGmotion Drives solution that can maximise the performance of your machines utilising a combination of our products together, whatever the application. Why choose WEGmotion Drives?
50 CONTENTS n Drives & Controls is a controlled circulation publication. If you live in the UK and want to subscribe phone 0333 577 0801 or fax 0845 604 2327. Alternatively for both UK and overseas subscriptions please subscribe online at www.drivesncontrols.com. If you have any enquiries regarding your subscription, please use these numbers. The content of this magazine, website and newsletters do not necessarily express the views of the Editor or publishers. The publishers accept no legal responsibility for loss arising from information in this publication. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be produced or stored in a retrieval system without the written consent of the publishers. Paid subscriptions UK: £110 per annum Europe: £145 per annum Rest of World: £180 per annum Printing: Warners Midlands PLC., PE10 9PH ISSN 0950 5490 Copyright: DFA Media Group 2024 NEXT ISSUE The March issue of Drives & Controls will contain a report on applications in the food and beverage sector, coverage of the latest developments in bearings, belts and chains, plus a look at the world of building services and HVAC. UPDATE 12 Comment 13 ABB Back to Basics 45 Gambica Column 46 New Products 48 Design Data and Multimedia 49 Products & Services IN DEPTH Follow us on X @DrivesnControls Drives Magazine Web site www.drivesncontrols.com Follow us on LinkedIn @ Drives & Controls Join us on Facebook Drives & Controls Drives& Controls REGULARS DfAmedia group 40 34 24 14 6 48 DRIVES & CONTROLS February 2024 Vol 40 No 2 Editor Tony Sacks t: 01732 465367 e: firstname.lastname@example.org Consultant Editor Andy Pye t: 07808 137312 e: email@example.com Production Manager Sarah Blake t: 01233 770781 e: firstname.lastname@example.org Operations Manager Emma Floyd t: 01732 370340 e: email@example.com Marketing Manager Hope Jepson t: 01732 370340 e: firstname.lastname@example.org Financial Finance Department t: 01732 370340 e: email@example.com ADVERTISING Sales Director Damien Oxlee t: 01732 370342 m: 07951 103754 e: firstname.lastname@example.org Sales Manager Peter Sayer t: 01732 370341 m: 07802 583726 e: email@example.com DFA Direct Ian Atkinson t: 01732 370340 e: firstname.lastname@example.org Italy Oliver & Diego Casiraghi e: email@example.com t: +39 031 261407 f: +39 031 261380 Managing Director Ryan Fuller t: 01732 370344 e: firstname.lastname@example.org Chief Executive Officer Ian Atkinson t: 01732 370346 e: email@example.com Reader/Circulation Enquiries Perception-MPS Ltd t: 01825 701520 e: firstname.lastname@example.org HEAD OFFICE DFA Media Group 192 High Street, Tonbridge, Kent TN9 1BE t: 01732 370340 f: 01732 360034 e: email@example.com www.drivesncontrols.com 5 News A round-up of the latest business and industry developments from around the world. 14 Technology Cutting-edge innovations in motion, power transmission, controls and related technologies. 24 SPS show report Germany’s SPS automation mega-show is showing signs of returning to its pre-pandemic scale, despite difficulties in the German industrial market. We look at some of the key technologies, developments and trends on show at the 2023 event, which took place in November. 32 Robotics and Automated Manufacturing In a special feature, we report on how a Japanese manufacturer of aluminium profiles has installed an array of two-armed cobots to perform assembly tasks previously done by hand, boosting productivity by 20%. Plus we examine the future for piece-picking robots and bust seven automation myths. 38 Sensors We explain how incorporating Teds (transducer electronic datasheet) chips in sensors can avoid the costly and time-consuming need for calibration. Plus, how a Scottish producer of bi-metal strip materials has adopted a laser-based technology to measure the thickness of the strip. 43 Hazardous Areas Powdery materials such as sugar and flour can cause massive explosions in processing plants if not handled correctly. An expert explains the vital role that materials-handling equipment can play in improving worker safety and reducing the risk of explosive incidents when transporting such materials. 44 Talking Industry After appearing as a zone at Manufacturing & Engineering Week in 2023, the Drives & Controls show can be found in its own hall at the NEC in June as part of the recently renamed Smart Manufacturing & Engineering Week. We look forward to what visitors can expect to see at the show. 46 43 21,157 Average net circulation January to December 2022 45 44
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NEWS n 5 Manufacturers see UK as a more competitive base BRITISH MANUFACTURERS VIEW THE UK as a more competitive place to locate their activities than they did 12 months ago, with an growing number believing they are moving ahead of their European rivals. However, they remain wary of the threats posed by the US, India and China. The ndings come from a survey of more than 200 senior manufacturing executives conducted by the manufacturers’ group Make UK and PwC. The survey reveals that after a dicult few years with Covid and soaring energy prices, there are signs of optimism among British manufacturers, with companies being more bullish about the prospects for 2024. Most now see the opportunities as outweighing the risks to their business. They are backing this belief by investing in new products, expanding into new markets and accelerating their use of digital technologies. However, the survey also shows that manufacturers are wary of the prospects for both the UK and the global economies, while signicant challenges remain in terms of high energy and employment costs, and limited access to skilled workers. “The last few years have been a rollercoaster of emotions for manufacturers, yet they have more than demonstrated their resilience time after time,” says Make UK CEO, Stephen Phipson. “We are now seeing some hope that conditions may be improving, amid a more supportive and stable policy environment, but this must be cemented within a long-term industrial strategy. “While undoubted challenges remain, the accelerating use of digital technologies, our strength in innovation and expansion into new markets sets the scene for manufacturing to be at the heart of eorts to boost growth.” According to the survey, more than half of UK manufacturers (52.7%) now see the UK as a more competitive place to operate. This compares with just under a third (31%) a year ago. Less than a fth (16.6%) believe the UK is not a competitive location in which to manufacture. Furthermore, almost a third of companies believe the UK is increasing its competitiveness against Germany and France (30.7% and 30.2% respectively) while more than a quarter believe the UK is moving ahead of Spain and Italy (29.3% and 28.3%). These gures are higher than those who see the UK’s competitiveness declining compared to EU rivals. But the share of companies who believe the UK is losing competitiveness against the US, India and China dwarfs those who believe it is gaining. The survey also reveals that manufacturers are bullish about prospects for the coming year, with more 44.4% believing that conditions in the sector will improve, against 20.5% who expect conditions to deteriorate. Almost two thirds (62%) of companies see opportunities outweighing the risks this year. However, 41.5% of companies expect the UK economy to deteriorate in 2024, compared to 36.6% who see it improving. A similar proportion (37.6%) see the global economy getting worse this year compared to 31.2% who expect an upturn. More than half of manufacturers (52.7%) see opportunities in new products in the year ahead, while 27.3% are expanding into new markets and 26.3% are tapping net-zero opportunities. Furthermore, most see digital technologies as having the potential to boost productivity, with 71.2% believing that digitising their operations will boost their operational eciency. In addition, more than half (52.2%) see generative AI raising the productivity of their workforce. However, 53.2% of companies still see risks from higher energy costs, followed by the impact of political instability (43.9%). More than two thirds (36.1%) are still experiencing supply chain disruption, while 35.1% see the lack of access to domestic skills as a risk. The survey of 205 companies was carried out between 8 and 29 November, 2023. www.drivesncontrols.com February 2024 A US COMPANY, MOLG, which is developing robotic microfactories that can autonomously assemble and disassemble complex electronic products such as variable-speed drives, is one of three winners of ABB’s 2023 Accelerating Circularity Startup Challenge. The competition attracted entries from more than 100 start-ups from around the world. Each winner receives $30,000 to develop their concept in collaboration with ABB. Molg, based near Washington DC, is tackling the growing electronic waste problem by making manufacturing circular. It is partnering with electronics manufacturers to design new products with re-use in mind, so that one product’s end is another’s start. It uses proprietary software to design bi-directional assembly into products, using techniques such as press-ts and latches, instead of screws. Molg points out that most electronic products are still designed to be assembled with hand tools and little to no consideration is given to how to take them apart. ABB runs several Startup Challenges each year in dierent categories. UK-based Quantum Power Transformation (QPT) won this year’s Power Density Challenge for Motor Drive Products for its gallium nitride power semiconductor technology which could make drives smaller and more ecient. ABB has been running the Startup Challenges for four years and more than 10 winners have already gone on to work with it to commercialise their oerings. https://www.molg.ai US firm wins $30,000 prize for technology it is developing to recycle drives The EU remains the top choice for manufacturers exporting from the UK Source: Make UK TCA Survey 2023
n NEWS February 2024 www.drivesncontrols.com 6 THE ASSOCIATION OF Electrical and Mechanical Trades (AEMT) is working with the British Standards Institute (BSI) and Innovate UK’s Driving the Electric Revolution Challenge, to develop an AI-powered tool to help repairers ensure that they repair hazardous area motors to the correct standard. The tool, which is being developed with funding from Innovate UK, will allow engineers working on rotating electrical machines to clarify technical issues through a simple chatbot-style interface. The BS EN and IEC 60079 series of standards govern, among other things, the repair, overhaul, reclamation, installation, maintenance, inspection, design, testing and marking of equipment for use in explosive atmospheres. Navigating and interpreting these complex standards can be timeconsuming and error-prone. In addition, the standards are reviewed and updated periodically, and it can be a challenge to ensure the right standard is being applied to suit the age of the equipment being repaired. The new tool aims to simplify the interpretation of, and compliance with, these standards while reducing the potential for errors. Users will be able to ask questions about repairs they are working on and will be oered technical guidance and information to ensure compliance and safety. The chat-based interface draws on large language model (LLM) technology, which allows for further detail or clarication where needed. It is expected to be particularly valuable when interpreting a range of cross-referenced documents, where identifying the pertinent parts of various standards is not straightforward. By understanding the year in which the hazardous area equipment was certied (which can be established from the rst two digits of its certicate number), the chatbot will establish which version of the relevant standard applies. For example, the dimensions relating to ame paths in the 2000 version of the Ex d standard BS EN 50018, dier from those in the 2004 version, IEC 60079-1. However, where the latter – which covers the repair, overhaul, and reclamation of equipment for use in explosive atmospheres – is concerned, the chatbot will only give information from the latest version. This is because repair procedures improve over the dierent versions released. For example, a go-no-go test, which helps to check for damaged threads, was introduced in the latest (2019) edition, but is not referred to in the 2015 version of the same standard. The tool will initially cover ten versions of four dierent BS EN hazardous area standards. It is due to be tested by AEMT members and rolled out from the second quarter of 2024. AI tool will make it easier to apply hazardous area standards p The Scottish engineering services provider Edwin James Group has bought Burton-onTrent-based Automated Control Solutions Holdings and its subsidiaries Automated Control Solutions and ACS Electrical Engineering (together trading as ACS), for an undisclosed sum. The deal will enhance the Glasgowbased Group’s digitalisation oering, expanding its systems integration and OT automation capacity. All of ACS’ sta will stay, including its leaders, who will work with Edwin James’ CEO Christopher Kehoe and EJ Peak Technology executive director Michael Thomas to integrate the businesses. pEasyfairs is buying European Trade & Exhibition Services (Etes), which organises the annual Southern Manufacturing & Electronics exhibition. The 2024 event, which takes place at the Farnborough International Exhibition Centre this month, will be run by Etes, but Easyfairs will take over after that. The details of the transaction have not been revealed. Until now, Southern Manufacturing & Electronics has been run as a family business, led by founders Phil Valentine and Jo Valentine, who will remain involved as consultants. p The machine vision market for quality control applications in manufacturing is facing a period of signicant evolution due to the growing presence of AI as an enabling technology, according to a new report from ABI Research. It says that this will fuel growth in the market, which it predicts will expand from $2.3bn in 2023 to reach $7.2bn by 2028. www.abiresearch.com pBob Squirrell, who was chairman of the Probus Group – PI UK – for more than 29 years, from its formation in 1993 until 2022, has died at his home in Cyprus. In a tribute, the group said: “Bob was an inspiration to us all, he was a valued friend, leader, a driving force and will be missed. Bob was a devoted evangelist for Probus and Pronet and without his dedication to PI UK we would not be the successful group we are today.” NEWS BRIEFS GROWTH IN THE GLOBAL market for low-voltage AC motors market slowed from 16.4% in 2022 to 4.2% in 2023, and will fall back even further in 2024, according to a report by Interact Analysis. It expects worldwide revenues to reach almost $16.6bn this year, with average sales prices for motors increasing by 1.2%. The 2023 slowdown followed two years of double-digit growth, fuelled by record price increases. Interact expects that 2024 will see a slight contraction of the market and increasing price competition, resulting in average sales prices worldwide falling by –2.4%. However, it expects growth to resume in 2025, and says by 2028 the market will return to historically normal growth. Some 65.3m LV AC motors were shipped last year – a rise of 2.9% on 2022. ABB remains the biggest seller of LV AC motors. In 2023, it added Siemens’ Nema motor business to its portfolio, increasing its value by around $75m. Siemens, meanwhile, has split its large motors business o into a new company called Innomotics. Interact thinks that the Japanese motor-maker Nidec expanded in 2023 after a lacklustre 2022, and predicts that the Chinese supplier Wolong will see its share grow as the Chinese market outpaces other regions into 2024. Revenue growth was ¦at in the EMEA region last year and it was the only part of the world where unit shipments are thought to have fallen in 2023, as manufacturing nations such as France, Germany, Italy, and the UK continued to struggle. “We are seeing increasing consolidation of the supplier base in the LV AC motor market, particularly in the US,” says Interact Analysis research manager, Blake Gri§n. “For example, following an increase in its market share of 1.7% during 2021, WEG is expected to continue growing its stake further following its acquisition of Regal Rexnord’s industrial motors business in late 2023.” The AI-powered tool will help to ensure that hazardous area motors are being repaired to the correct standard AC motor sales set to fall further
February 2024 www.drivesncontrols.com 8 SIEMENS AND SONY ARE joining forces to combine a new Sony head-mounted display with Siemens software to create a technology that will allow designers and engineers to explore design concepts in unlimited immersive workspaces. The development was unveiled at CES – the Consumer Electronics Show – in Las Vegas last month, where Siemens also announced partnerships with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and others, to propel its vision of the industrial metaverse. Siemens’ NX Immersive Designer will combine its NX software with Sony’s XR headmounted display with 4K OLED microdisplays and controllers, to allow intuitive interaction with 3D objects. The technology, due to be released later this year, will oer immersive design and collaborative product engineering capabilities. Siemens believes it will kickstart content creation for the industrial metaverse. “We envision the industrial metaverse as a virtual world that is nearly indistinguishable from reality, enabling people – along with AI – to collaborate in real time to address realworld challenges,” Siemens’ CEO, Roland Busch, said in a keynote speech at CES. “This will empower customers to accelerate innovation, enhance sustainability and adopt new technologies faster and at scale, leading to a profound transformation of entire industries.” Yoshinori Matsumoto, Sony’s executive deputy president and ocer in charge of technology and incubation, added: “By combining our technologies and Siemens’expertise in engineering, we are excited to enable more immersive engineering that redenes the daily workow of designers and engineers. The highquality, realistic rendering and intuitive interaction will give creators tools to pursue a more immersive creative processes that fuels further innovation in the industrial metaverse.” Also at CES, Siemens and AWS announced they are strengthening their partnership to make it easier to build and scale generative AI (articial intelligence) applications. Siemens is integrating Amazon Bedrock – a service that oers a choice of AI models via a single API – with Siemens’ Mendix low-code platform from its Xcelerator portfolio. The companies say this development will help users to accelerate digitalisation and to tackle labour shortages Speaking at CES, Cedrik Neike, CEO of Siemens Digital Industries said: “Siemens is making the industrial metaverse more accessible so that our customers can use it to solve their real-world problems faster, more sustainably and with greater eciency.” Siemens and Sony unveil immersive engineering technology Combining Sony’s new spatial content creation system with Siemens Xcelerator software will enable immersive engineering Equipmake, the Norfolk-based motors and controls developer, has appointed Dr Nicholas Moelders as chief operating o cer and executive director, supporting the company’s global expansion plans and targeting key electrication markets. For the past seven years, Moelders has held managerial roles at Sensata Technologies, a $3.8bn company with 20,000 employees that develops electrication products and power conversion systems. He succeeds James Bishop, who is stepping down as COO. Darren Reynolds, managing director of RA Rodriguez (UK) for the past two years, has been appointed group managing director of RARUK Holdings (which also includes RARUK Automation and Drive Lines Technologies), following Peter Williamson’s decision to focus on his role as CEO of Automate UK (formerly the PPMA Group of Associations), after 16 years rst as managing director, and later as group managing director. Williamson will initially stay on as a nonexecutive director to support to the board. Ross Lacy has taken on the role of sales director of RARUK Automation. The vacuum automation and handling systems supplier Schmalz UK has appointed Neil Turnbull as its sales director. His key objectives include securing new business and developing the Schmalz brand in the UK. German-headquartered Schmalz set up its UK subsidiary in 2021 and in 2022 moved to new premises in Manchester. EVENTSSouthern Manufacturing & Electronics 2024 6-8 February, 2024 Farnborough The annual regional event is aimed at people involved in design, engineering production and procurement. They can see the latest in production hardware, components, consumables and other technologies. The organisers expect around 800 exhibitors and 9,000 visitors. www.industrysouth.co.uk Hannover Messe 22-26 April, 2024 Hannover, Germany The industrial megashow returns, bringing together exhibitors from digital industries, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and the energy sector. Key topics will include Industry 4.0/Manufacturing-X, digitisation, AI and machine learning. The fair will include a Research and Innovation Summit for the rst time. The partner country is Norway. www.hannovermesse.de/en Talking Industry Live 30 April, 2024 Location: MTC, Coventry, UK Building on the foundations laid at the inaugural event in 2023, TI Live will provide delegates from the manufacturing and engineering sector with an opportunity to learn, grow and connect in a high-end environment. https://talkingindustry.org/ talking-industry-live Drives & Controls 5-6 June, 2024 NEC, Birmingham Now part of Smart Manufacturing & Engineering Week, the Drives & Controls show will run alongside other events including Air-Tech, Fluid Power & Systems, Maintec, Smart Factory Expo and Design & Engineering Expo. It will cover areas including industrial automation, energy e ciency, machine safety, drives, motion controls, power transmission and robotics. www.mandeweek.co.uk/ drives-controls-expo-home Smart Manufacturing & Engineering Week 5-6 June, 2024 NEC, Birmingham The event will include the Maintec, Smart Factory Expo and Design & Engineering Expo shows and will run alongside Drives & Controls, AirTech, Fluid Power & Systems. The organisers say the “Festival of Industrial Innovation” represents the future of manufacturing and engineering in the UK. As well as the exhibitions there will be conferences and summits. www.mandeweek.co.uk n NEWS
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n NEWS February 2024 www.drivesncontrols.com 10 ABB IS BUYING A majority stake in the Bosnian software services provider Meshmind to expand its R&D capabilities in AI, industrial IoT and machine vision. Financial details of the deal have not been revealed. ABB plans to integrate Meshmind’s engineering talent, AI and software expertise to create a new global R&D hub in Sarajevo aimed at accelerating innovative automation technologies in ABB’s B&R machine automation division. The hub will focus on AI and software development. Meshmind’s approximately 50 employees will collaborate with B&R on a variety of R&D projects, including deep-learning vision systems, AI-enabled engineering tools, and IoT app development. “AI-powered robotics and automation have the power to transform industries, providing businesses with greater exibility and intelligence amidst critical global trends and workforce challenges,”says Sami Atiya, president of ABB’s Robotics and Discrete Automation business. “Through this acquisition, we will further accelerate the development of our software and AI-powered solutions to make automation more adaptive and accessible, enabling businesses of all sizes to become more resilient.” “This acquisition builds on our successful relationship with Meshmind to establish a new global R&D hub for B&R,” adds Joerg Theis, president of B&R’s machine automation division. “As part of our wider ecosystem that includes universities, partners and start-ups, this latest investment will strengthen our capacity and expertise to create solutions that make our customers' lives easier, helping them shape the future of their industries.” n ABB is also buying the Swiss AI-based AMR (autonomous mobile robot) navigation specialist Sevensense, for an undisclosed sum. ABB, which has had a minority stake in Sevensense since 2021, says that the acquisition makes it the leader in nextgeneration AMRs (autonomous mobile robots) that integrate Visual Slam (simultaneous localisation and mapping) technology with hardware and software. Following pilot projects in the automotive and logistics industries, ABB plans to integrate Sevensense’s technology into its AMRs, promising “an unprecedented combination of speed, accuracy, and payload”. Sevensense was founded in 2018 as a spin-o from the Swiss technical University, ETH Zurich. Its sta of around 35 people will continue to be based in Zurich. ABB takes control of Bosnian software firm to create a global R&D hub for AI and software Meshmind will collaborate with B&R on R&D in advanced automation technologies such as B&R’s Acopos levitating transport system THE BRITISH MOTORS and gearboxes manufacturer, Parvalux, has ocially opened a new £30m headquarters building in Poole, Dorset, which brings together operations which were previously spread across three sites. The company, which was acquired by the Swiss motor-maker maxon in 2018, is hoping to double in size by 2030. The new 13,000m2 site will house the company’s workforce of almost 200 people. Parvalux claims to be the UK’s largest manufacturer of fractional horsepower, geared electric motors, with a portfolio that covers AC motors up to 250W, as well as permanent magnet DC motors and brushless DC motors up to 600W. It also makes gearheads that can be paired with the motors. Material delivery trains on the production oor will reduce the need for manual labour, allowing sta to focus on production. An app developed by the company’s logistics department tracks where stock is located, speeding up the materials-picking process and saving time when locating materials for orders. The new building has more than 1,500 solar photovoltaic panels – one of the largest installations on a single building in southern England – and these are expected to reduce the company’s CO2 emissions by around 343 tonnes a year. According to Parvalux’s managing director, Doug Sheppard, the new factory “represents the commitment the maxon group has towards the future of Parvalux.” n Parvalux has appointed Ben Smith as its new UK sales manager. He has more than 10 years’of motor and mechatronics experience, including periods working for Bon¨glioli and TEC Electric Motors. Smith will support OEM customers in the UK and Ireland, and joins Parvalux as it sets out to expand customer support in its home market. Maxon’s UK motor-maker Parvalux opens new £30m HQ in Poole Parvalux’s new headquarters will house almost 200 staff
WEG AUTOMATION IS NOW MANUFACTURING IN EUROPE WEG Automation Europe S.r.l. is the new company based in Italy, born from the acquisition of Gefran’s Drives and Motion Business Unit by the Brazilian WEG group in 2022. WEG Automation Europe is now part of the Automation Business Unit of the WEG Group and contributes to the market offering of WEG inverters for both industrial and residential lift applications. The product family for industrial applications consists of inverters for controlling AC motors and one-way regenerative AC/DC power supplies (AFE and FFE) for common DC bus solutions as well as converters for controlling DC motors. The inverters for AC motor control of both synchronous and asynchronous motors are called ADV200 and reach up to 1.8MW with 400Vac and 690Vac power supply. WEG Automation Europe has long-standing experience and expertise also in residential lift applications. The ADL500 represents the new generation of AC inverters for lift applications, certified to European standards EN81-20 and EN81-50, boasts a host of pioneering features including Safe Torque Off SIL3, Safe Brake Test (SBT) and the Safe Brake Control (SBC-SIL3) with EBC500 accessory, operators can check motor break status and avoid any unintentional movement. With the new Electronic Brake Control concept, the proposal of the ADL550 combined with the EBC500 accessory leads to an extension of the contactorless concept by further reducing contactors in switchgear. The added value is compliance with the EN81-20 / EN81-50 standards specific to the lift sector and STO and SBC safety certifications at SIL3 level. For more information visit www.weg.net The new WEG Automation Europe inverters combine with WEG motors and gearboxes for an effective and efficient motion drive system. www.weg.net
CAN WE RISE UP THE ROBOT CHARTS? The UK’s poor showing in the global league of robot-users is often cited as evidence (or the reason) that we are no longer at the forefront of manufacturing, and as a partial explanation for our poor productivity. The latest statistics from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) – in its 2023 World Robotics report – put esh on the bones. The gures – which come from robot suppliers – con rm that the UK had just 98 industrial robots for every 10,000 workers employed in manufacturing in 2022, placing it 25th in the global ranking of robot penetration, and way behind the leaders such as South Korea (on 1,012), Singapore (730) and was also well below the global average of 151 robots per 10,000 employees. What’s more, these gures are buoyed up by the UK automotive sector which had 755 robots per 10,000 employees (less than half as many as German carmakers). If you exclude automotive installations, the gure for the rest of the UK manufacturing sector was just 56 robots per 10,000 workers. So, are there any signs that the UK is catching up with its rivals? Well, in 2022 the number of new industrial robots installed in the UK rose by just 3% (to 2,534) compared to the previous year. Way back in 2012, the UK installed almost 3,000 robots in a single year, probably driven by large automotive contracts. In recent years, the number of robots installed has almost atlined, with a CAGR of 1% between 2017 and 2022. The number of robots installed by car-makers in the UK fell by 3% in 2022 to 472 (representing 19% of all the industrial robots installed that year). Although still by far the largest user of robots, this sector is declining in size. In 2017, it accounted for more than half (54%) of the industrial robots in use in the UK; by 2022, the gure was 46%, with a total of more than 12,200 machines in use. The second-largest user of robots in the UK is the plastics and chemicals sector, with almost 3,000 working robots in 2022. The metals industry was using 2,191 robots (10% more than in 2021), while the food and beverage sector had 2,060 (a 24% rise on 2021). In fact, food and beverage is one of the fastest-growing adopters of industrial robots in the UK, adding 348 new machines in 2022 – a 76% increase on the previous year – making it the second-largest purchaser of new robots. By contrast, demand for new robots from the metals sector fell by 15% to 270, while plastics and chemicals orders plummeted by 32% to just 213 machines. The most popular use for new robots in the UK is for handling and machine-tending, which accounted for 1,191 installations in 2022 (47% of the UK total), putting it ahead of welding (221 new robots) and assembly (142). By 2022, the UK had a total stock of 26,515 operational industrial robots – 7% more than in 2021 – making it the world’s 15th-largest robot user. More than half of these (53%) were being used for handling and 22% for welding. In terms of technologies, articulated robots accounted for 1,780 of the new industrial robots installed in the UK in 2022, followed by linear/Cartesian/gantry on 389, parallel/delta on 119, Scara on 170 and others (such as cylindrical) on 76. The number of parallel/delta robots installed in 2022 was 95% higher than in 2021, while the number of Scara installations fell by 24%. So, there we have a snapshot of the UK market for industrial robots in 2022. There are few signs that the UK is installing enough robots to improve its position in the global rankings. In 2022, it was the world’s 20th-largest buyer of robots and the uptake was particularly low outside the automotive sector. There are signs that some sectors, such as food and beverage, are beginning to buy more robots, but they are starting from a low base. It certainly doesn’t look like British industry is buying enough industrial robots to make inroads into its poor productivity gures. A case could be made for more government support for this sector, but with public spending being under such intense pressure, this doesn’t seem like a priority at present. It seems that the UK will continue to languish in the lower regions of the global robotics charts for some time to come. Tony Sacks, Editor n COMMENT - t Switches & best oE Etherne Ethe Hardware Solutions: energy with our lity goals make co e Demo: w Interactiv new SFP & Gigabit E aunch: oTmodules -in-class IoT ast, ernet to Serial, F y monitoring system t ost-savings and mee thernet Switch range s: B145 Visit U
Drives&Controls & BACK TO BASICS n SPONSORED BY EPDs: what you need to know If you haven’t heard about Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) already, you’re certainly going to be hearing a lot more about them in the coming months and years. ABB’s Martin Richardson explains what they are and why they matter. Picture a lump of concrete. While a stationary lump of concrete may not appear to consume much energy, the processes by which that lump came into being are typically extremely energy-intensive. The extraction of raw materials, then the processing to turn them into cement, and the transportation of the nished concrete to a construction site, all contribute to the concrete’s “capital carbon” (also known as “embodied carbon”). When we talk about the energy eciency of variable-speed drives and motors, the focus is often on what they do when they are operating. However, there is a bigger picture to consider. For instance, some motors incorporate rare-earth metals. The process of extracting these metals from the ground is extremely energyintensive, and so the end-device will have a high capital carbon cost. Even the most ecient devices may take years or even decades to oset this. Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) seek to address this by providing greater transparency of the true carbon pro le of a product over its whole life. They are a form of third-party certi cation, which is registered and published via what is known as the International EPD System. Product manufacturers must provide complete transparency over the origin and carbon impact of all of the materials and processes involved in the manufacture, use and disposal of their devices, both at a component level and as a whole. Importantly, they must also address potential energy and carbon bene ts that products – such as high-eciency motors and variable-speed drives – can have when in use. Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions are de ned as emissions that occur within the value chain of the reporting company – that is, all indirect emissions not related to purchased energy. According to the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, these can account for 80-95% of the total value chain of an organisation’s footprint . However, because Scope 3 emissions are typically outside of the reporting company’s direct control, they are also the most dicult to measure, let alone reduce. While EPDs are not mandatory at present, they can help purchasers of drives and motors to make more informed decisions, while also supporting eorts to improve reporting relating to emissions. Over time, the increasing adoption of EPDs will hopefully encourage manufacturers to take steps to reduce the capital carbon of their products, and to use their inuence where possible to reduce the carbon footprint of their supply chains. motion plastics® igus® Caswell Road Northampton NN4 7PW Tel 01604 677240 email@example.com Change your bearing now Polymer ball bearings from igus® have an extremely long service life. They are also 1. corrosion-free, 2. lubrication- free 3. up to 60% lighter than metal solutions. Calculate your ball bearing life online, precisely! xiros® is the largest standard product range of injection- moulded plastic ball bearings – changing has never been easier. Order your free sample today and try it for yourself. igus.co.uk/ballbearing Reduce lubrication by 100% & costs by 40% 1. 2. 3. Ball bearing change website: igus.co.uk/ballbearing
n TECHNOLOGY February 2024 www.drivesncontrols.com 14 A CONSORTIUM OF German organisations, led by Schae er, is developing techniques that will allow electric motor components to be re-used at the end of the motor’s life, rather than being shredded and recycled. Members of the Reassert project – which is being funded by the EU and the German government – are pursuing various concepts for repairing, remanufacturing and re-using electric motors. The project also aims to develop a prototype electric motor suitable for the circular economy. Electric motors contain valuable raw materials such as copper and electrical steel, as well as rareearths, which cannot be recovered using current recycling methods. Hence, extending the use of the motors is becoming increasingly important. Another factor that applies, in particular, to electric vehicle motors is that their raw materials have larger carbon footprints than those used in combustion engines. At present, materials such as copper and aluminium can be recovered from old motors using manual or automated recycling methods. Traction motors, in particular, can be disassembled, shredded, sorted into individual materials which are then melted down for recycling. However, the recycled materials, which are often contaminated, cannot usually be used in new motors, and the individual components and assemblies are destroyed in the recycling process. According to circular economy principles, raw material recycling should only be chosen as a last resort and replaced instead by strategies that preserve value, such as re-use, repair and remanufacturing. “We want to establish a closed-loop system in which valuable resources are re-used to eliminate dependency on raw material imports and to minimise raw material extraction,” explains Julian Große Erdmann, a scientist at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA, which is a member of the Reassert consortium. “With these strategies, fewer raw materials like rare-earths, copper and others are needed, perhaps only for spare parts,” he adds. For raw material recycling, the project partners want to be able to disassemble motors and sort the materials before shredding. They are using EV motors to analyse and select which strategies to use. The project’s participants aim to build a process chain from inbound inspection to end-of-line testing. Each step of the process will have its own demonstrator and test rig – from initial inspection, disassembly, demagnetisation, cleaning, component diagnosis and remanufacturing, through to reassembly and end-of-line testing, where the motor’s functions will be assessed. One of the challenges will be disassembling and re-using magnetic materials.“A rotor with permanent magnets is dicult to disassemble into its components, even in a manual disassembly process, due to the coating and bonding of the magnets,”Große Erdmann points out. “Here, the goal is to establish nondestructive disassembly methods.” An AI tool being developed as part of the project will help to choose the best value-retention strategy for an application. It will have access to the motor’s product and process data, saved as a digital twin. The knowledge gathered during the project is intended to be used to design new motors. The goal is to develop a prototype motor that can be disassembled easily and to which value-preservation strategies can be applied. As well as Schae er and Fraunhofer, the Reassert project members include the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Bright Testing, iFakt and Riebesam. THE ENGINEERING PLASTICS specialist igus has developed a humanoid hand gripper that allows its ReBeL family of low-cost collaborative robots (cobots) to take on human-like tasks. The hand, made of lubrication-free plastics, has been designed to imitate human hand movements, and costs from £2,668. “With the new low-cost hand, the ReBeL can perform a wide range of simple humanoid tasks and applications, especially in r&d at universities, but also tasks in commercial kitchens or in the entertainment industry,” explains Adam Sanjurgo, igus UK’s manager of low-cost automation. “Since the ReBeL is light and aordable, with a weight of around 8kg and starting from £4,200, it is widely used in applications that humans would normally do,” he adds. “For this reason, we received several customer enquiries for a robotic hand that can be connected easily to the ReBeL via plug-and-play.” The hand is controlled via digital IO at the tool centre point, simplifying integration and adding ¢exibility. Its low price is achieved, in part, by using lubrication-free plastics, including plain bearings in the joints made of iglidur polymers which allow smooth, precise movements of individual £ngers. The hand can be controlled by various interfaces, including USB, TTL (5V) serial and internal scripting. All components, including ¢ange mounts, cables and the control system, are delivered directly from igus. The compact, lightweight ReBeL cobots can be used to sort, pick and move items with the help of cameras and mechanical or vacuum gripping systems. They allow SMEs to enter robotics at a relatively low cost. www.igus.co.uk Low-cost bionic hand gives cobots human-like capabilities Project aims to give a second life to motor components The Reassert project is aiming to develop an electric motor suitable for the circular economy
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n TECHNOLOGY February 2024 www.drivesncontrols.com 16 For moreTechnology News visit www.drivesncontrols.com NSK CLAIMS THAT IT CAN revise the dynamic load rating of many of its rolling bearings to double their rolling contact fatigue life without any changes to their design or materials, following a “breakthrough” in the way bearing lives are calculated – the first significant change to these calculations in more than 60 years, it says. The development will help end-users to improve productivity, cut the frequency with which they need to replace their bearings, and reduce waste. The fundamental formulae used to calculate bearing lives have hardly changed since being defined in a report issued in 1962 by the International Federation of the National Standardizing Associations (ISA) – the forerunner of the current ISO (International Organization for Standardization). Now, more than six decades later, NSK says it has learned more about calculating and predicting bearing lives, making it time to reconsider how we evaluate this critical parameter. The project started around 20 years ago, when NSK noticed a growing gap between bearing lives calculated using the ISO standard and actual lives verified by endurance testing. It embarked on a more detailed study. At that time, NSK found that the lives of its bearings were around 20 times longer than those expected under the ISO standards. Now, in 2024, the lives of its bearings can be more than 50 times longer. Longer bearing lives can improve production efficiency and protect the environment by reducing the frequency with which bearings have to be replaced, and the quantity of waste generated. NSK’s research revealed that, under welllubricated conditions, the composition and the quality of bearing steel is a more accurate indicator of how long a bearing will last. Its engineers realised that an evaluation method based on fracture mechanics might provide more meaningful insights into bearing lives. The company embarked on joint project with Kyushu University to establish a method that could determine which factors influenced the process of crack propagation in the steel materials. By combining the new method with an ultrasonic inspection technique that scans non-metallic inclusions in large volumes of steel, NSK found it could predict bearing lives much more accurately. Using this ultrasonic inspection method – called Micro-UT – it is possible to inspect more than 3,000 times the volume of steel compared with conventional microscopebased methods, in a fifth of the time. NSK is now reviewing the basic dynamic load ratings of its rolling bearings to determine appropriate safety margins. It assures customers that the updating process will be based on a well-researched methodology supported by extensive empirical data. Any uprated values will remain well within the safe range. www.nskeurope.com pIO-Link Wireless is now an international standard, following the publications of IEC 61139-3:2023 Industrial networks – Singledrop digital communication interface – Part 3: Wireless extensions. IO-Link Wireless oers fast, reliable wire-free communications between sensors, actuators and base stations in industrial environments. p The US electric motor design and software company ECM PCB Stator Tech has released its PrintStator Motor CAD SaaS (Software as a Service) which, it asserts, will transform the way electric motors are devised and manufactured. Via a cloudbased interface, PrintStator users can dial in precise performance and dimensional specs to create custom electric motors for a variety of applications. Design les generated using the software can be printed worldwide, facilitating vertical or local manufacturing. p The UK motors and drives developer Equipmake has secured a £715,000 contract from the electric aircraft propulsion rm H55 to develop a 100kW motor and controller for an electric two-seater training aircraft, the BRM Aero Bristell B23 Energic, which is expected to enter production in 2025. The contract follows an initial phase to develop and test Equipmake’s lightweight, power-dense motors for electric aircraft. pMitsubishi Electric is collaborating with a with the US electric motorcycle developer LiveWire (in which Harley-Davidson is the majority shareholder), to provide power semiconductor modules for LiveWire’s S2 bike, which is designed to accelerate from 060mph in three seconds. The bike’s 62kW motor delivers 263Nm of torque. The bike charges in 78 minutes and has a range of 181km. p The German intralogistics specialist IdentPro has developed a digital twin that localises and identies goods using movement tracing of manual and automated oor conveyor vehicles (FCVs) including AMRs (autonomous mobile robots). The Warehouse Execution System software automates the time-consuming process of identifying goods and storage spaces, and monitoring the fullling of transport orders. To achieve this, IdentPro ts forklifts with an IoT kit, allowing them to localise themselves, and to track objects and movements in the warehouse. IdentPro is also using an inductive wireless charging system from Wiferion to charge its AMRs quickly and to ensure 24/7 availability. p The German machine vision specialist Chromasens – formerly part of Siemens – has launched a camera conguration tool that helps select its linescan cameras, lenses and other components. The congurator simplies the specication process, removing the need to search Web pages, and replacing it with a faster, more intuitive experience with higher accuracy. https://chromasens.de/en/ camera-congurator TECHNOLOGY BRIEFS ‘Breakthrough’ in calculations could double bearing fatigue lives Non-metallic inclusions in the inner raceways are a significant factor in the flaking process that shortens bearing lives. Tiny particles of alumina or other materials from the steel manufacturing process produce non-metallic inclusions in the bearing raceways, giving rise to stresses in the steel. Over time, these can lead to changes in the metal’s crystalline structure, causing fatigue cracks to occur, in turn resulting in flaking and, ultimately, in bearing failures. The new ultrasonic testing technique reveals these inclusions and determines their sizes in large volumes of steel, giving a more accurate indication of bearing lives.