Drives & Controls May 2024

MOTORS: Take-off for UK-designed solar aircraft and its special motors LINEAR MOTION: How electric linear actuators are replacing fluid power devices SCIENTIFIC AND MEDICAL: Fast-moving telescope is set to capture cataclysmic events Drives&Controls MAY 2024 AUTOMATION FOR MANUFACTURING INSIDE Register now for a free pass visit PA

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 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 June issue of Drives & Controls will contain a look at what’s happening in the world of communications, networking and security, and reports on developments in mechanical power transmission, and in smart warehouses. UPDATE 14 Comment 15 ABB Back to Basics 52 Gambica Column 53 New Products 56 Design Data and Multimedia 56 Appointments 57 Products & Services IN DEPTH Follow us on X @DrivesnControls Drives Magazine Web site Follow us on LinkedIn @ Drives & Controls Join us on Facebook Drives & Controls Drives& Controls REGULARS DfAmedia group 38 34 28 16 5 56 DRIVES & CONTROLS May 2024 Vol 40 No 5 Editor Tony Sacks t: 01732 465367 e: Consultant Editor Andy Pye t: 07808 137312 e: Production Manager Sarah Blake t: 01233 770781 e: Operations Manager Emma Godden-Wood t: 01732 370340 e: Marketing Manager Hope Jepson t: 01732 370340 e: Financial Finance Department t: 01732 370340 e: ADVERTISING Sales Director Damien Oxlee t: 01732 370342 m: 07951 103754 e: Sales Manager Sara Gordon t: 01732 370341 m: 07505867211 e: DFA Direct Ian Atkinson t: 01732 370340 e: Italy Oliver & Diego Casiraghi e: t: +39 031 261407 f: +39 031 261380 Managing Director Ryan Fuller t: 01732 370344 e: Chief Executive O•cer Ian Atkinson t: 01732 370346 e: Reader/Circulation Enquiries Perception-MPS Ltd t: 01825 701520 e: HEAD OFFICE DFA Media Group 192 High Street, Tonbridge, Kent TN9 1BE t: 01732 370340 f: 01732 360034 e: 5 News A round-up of the latest business and industry developments from around the world. 16 Technology Cutting-edge innovations in motion, power transmission, controls and related technologies. 23 Motors In a special 10-page supplement, we report on how a British-developed solar-powered aircraft has been able to ‰y at an altitude of 20km, propelled by special motors that were designed and built in the UK. Plus, how a 2MW motor is powering an advanced dynamometer in Nottingham that is exploring new possibilities for electriŽed propulsion. 34 Linear Motion Electric linear actuators are increasingly taking over applications that previously relied on hydraulic or pneumatic technologies. The electrically powered devices o‘er many attractions including intelligence, compactness, e’ciency, cleanliness, safety and durability. 38 Scientific and Medical A new automated telescope is using an extremely fast motion system to allow it to track rapidly-evolving astronomical events such as supernovae and gamma-ray bursts. Plus how a Greek pharmaceutical manufacturer has installed eight robots to operate a sterilisation line around the clock, boosting throughput and cutting production costs. 42 Smart Manufacturing and Engineering Week A wide-ranging series of events and exhibitions, include the Drives & Controls Show, are planned for the Smart Manufacturing & Engineering Week which is taking place at the Birmingham NEC in June. Visitors will be able to explore the latest developments in drives, IIoT, maintenance, AI, compressed air, ‰uid power and digital transformation, among many other topics. 52 Average net circulation January to December 2022 54 55 53 Subscribe for your FREE copy now 21,157 42

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NEWS n 5 Automation is biggest challenge for 81% of UK industrial users MORE THAN FOUR IN FIVE industrial technology users in the UK (81%) regard adopting automation successfully as their biggest challenge, according to a new survey published by Automate UK – the automation and packaging trade organisation formerly known as PPMA. Particular factors that they cite include: the challenge of automating bespoke products; the level of skilled labour needed to support automation; and the di‰culty of keeping abreast of developments such as AI and cobots. Automate UK says that while there is “a real appetite for greater adoption of automation in the UK,” it adds that “there are challenges to overcome”. Many manufacturers – SMEs, in particular – believe that the high costs of automation put it out of reach for them. There is also “a cultural issue” concerning the speed at which automation investments should pay for themselves, according to Automate UK, which suggests that the potential for oŽsetting costs through improved e‰ciencies is not being considered. The survey – based on feedback from 165 of the organisation’s members, industry experts and users of automation technology – reveals that the cost of investment is the biggest barrier to adopting more automation for 73% of the respondents, while 32.6% cite unrealistic expectations, followed by a lack of knowledge of what’s available (30.5%). Other restraining factors include di‰culties in ™nding the right suppliers (23%), fear of failure (20.9%) and an inability to source ™nance (15.8%). According to the report, the various challenges that emerged during the Covid pandemic worsened during 2023. Supply chain issues have been having the biggest impact for 73% of endusers, with the žow of vital components being disrupted and costs being driven up. Contributing factors have included rising geopolitical tensions, cybersecurity breaches, the costs of raw materials, and a lack of both skilled and unskilled labour following Brexit. Automate UK’s members have found it di‰cult to source the automation components needed to build specialpurpose machines. This is delaying the completion of projects and preventing suppliers from being paid. Automate UK reports that there has been a slight decline in pay increases (excluding bonuses), but recorded a 7.7% increase – the biggest annual growth since records began in 2001. The survey’s ™nding have been published in Automate UK's 2024 Industry Report. This year is widely expected to be a positive year for the automation sector, with 67% of respondents saying that they feel optimistic or very optimistic about the coming months. Automate UK expects this con™dence to translate into increased capital expenditure, the wider adoption of AI technologies, and transformative growth. “As well as demonstrating the desire of end-user companies for the greater adoption of automation, this report also sets out some of the perceived challenges and barriers to success,” says Automate UK CEO, Peter Williamson. “By identifying these challenges, we are helping our members to work more collaboratively with their customers to break down these perceived barriers for mutual bene™t.” The report is available as a free download from: industry-insights-2023-2024 May 2024 THE WELSH DRIVES-MAKER Invertek Drives has produced its three millionth VSD (variable-speed drive), just three years after hitting the two-million mark. The company, part of Sumitomo Heavy Industries, recorded a record turnover of £96.5m in 2023 – a 27% increase on the £76.3m it achieved the previous year. Invertek is currently undergoing a major expansion, including a new 2,750m2 facility in Welshpool to boost its production capacity to more than 1.5 million drives a year. With a workforce exceeding 460 employees, the company recently announced plans for a multi-million pound investment in R&D, including a new Innovation Centre and headquarters. The US and Americas markets have become the company's biggest sales region, with Invertek Drives USA generating a turnover of more than £24m in 2023. “We are incredibly proud to celebrate our record-breaking year and the signi™cant contribution of our US operations,” says Invertek CEO, Adrian Ellam. “We are committed to continued investment in our global headquarters in Wales, creating new jobs and further solidifying our position as a leading innovator in the VFD industry. “We are expanding our Innovation team signi™cantly to create nextgeneration VFD products as more and more industries and sectors adopt such technologies to increase e‰ciencies in systems and reduce energy consumption, leading to improved pro™tability,”he adds. Invertek attributes its strong 2023 results to a variety of factors, including its continuous innovation and investment in VSD technologies, strategic investments in global expansion, and focus on easy-to-use and reliable products. Another factor is its specialised product lines, such as its recentlaunched Optidrive Elevator Core VSD, and its Optidrive Coolvert VSDs for heat pump and refrigeration systems. This range has been key in securing large OEM contracts in the expanding heat pump market. “Our commitment to innovation has fuelled our success,” says sales and marketing director, Rhydian Welson. “Our signi™cant and continued investment in innovation over the past 25 years has positioned us as a leader in the development of VFD technology. We have a large and dedicated customer base who recognise the ease of use and durability of our drives in a wide range of applications – often in demanding environments.” Invertek builds three millionth VSD and raises sales by 27% Automate UK CEO Peter Williamson: breaking down perceived barriers for mutual benefit

n NEWS May 2024 6 PEOPLE WORKING ON EQUIPMENT such as motor starters and power distribution panels will soon be able to be guided and taught via Apple’s recently launched Vision Pro “spatial computer” headset, which provides ultra-highde„nition 3D images that merge the real and digital worlds and can be controlled by natural inputs such as a user’s eyes, hand gestures or voice. Visitors to this year’s Hannover Messe were shown the technology delivering step-by-step instructions for installing Siemens motor starters and power distribution panels. Siemens has teamed up with a US software developer, Bilt, which specialises in 3D apps for the Vision Pro and handheld devices. Bilt’s guided learning on the Vision Pro allows people to use their eyes, hands and voice to interact with each element of a product, enlarge or shrink parts, and see animated step-by-step assembly instructions on the photorealistic display. Unlike static manuals, the spatial computing app provides step-by-step 3D instructions that can viewed alongside the real equipment. Users can access current information in their work environments, leading to faster task completion, fewer errors and less reliance on technical support. The recently-launched Vision Pro spatial computer blends digital content with the physical world and allows users to interact with apps simply by looking at them. Physically, the Vision Pro consists of a headset containing a ultra-highresolution display that provides users with a photorealistic digital twin that combines the real and the digital worlds. The 3D images can be controlled by inputs such as tapping a „nger to select, ‘icking a wrist to scroll, or using a virtual keyboard or dictation to enter text. At the launch of the $3,499 Vision Pro in February, Apple CEO Tim Cook described it as “the most advanced consumer electronics device ever created. Its revolutionary and magical user interface will rede„ne how we connect, create, and explore. The era of spatial computing has arrived.” Siemens’ „rst assembly and installation guides for the Vision Pro are for its Class 14 Nema motor starters and P5 power distribution panels. Both of these are aimed at the North American market and other countries that use UL standards. At present, the Vision Pro is available only in the US. Siemens is planning to ošer Bilt support for other products, including its smart InHab home energy management portfolio. Bilt is joining Siemens’ Xcelerator Ecosystem and its apps will be available via the Marketplace. Apple’s Vision Pro shows you to how to install motor starters pThe Swedish warehouse automation specialist MotionTech has acquired Nottingham-based LAC Conveyors & Automation and Telford-based Holloway Control Systems as part of its strategy“to build an automation powerhouse”. LAC is a systems integrator which supplies conveyor, automation and robotic systems. Holloway is a family business with two branches, that develops controls and software. In 2022, MotionTech acquired AMH Material Handling, based in Stoke-on-Trent. pigus has acquired a majority stake in the Portuguese sensing specialist Atronia Tailored Sensing for an undisclosed sum. For Šve years, they have collaborated on “smart”plastics products such as bearings, energy chains and cables equipped with sensors, for use in applications such as predictive maintenance. By taking control of Atronia, igus aims to expand the market for networked plastic components and to make them accessible to SMEs. pThe global market for servomotors was worth $12.5bn in 2022 and will reach $21.3bn by 2032 – a CAGR of 5.5% – according to Allied Market Research. Demand is expected to increase as industries seek to improve productivity, quality and e™ciency. AC servomotors have a larger market share than DC servomotors, while rotary applications outstrip linear applications. Robotics is the biggest application sector, accounting for more than half of servomotor revenues. pSomerset-based electromechanical services provider, Rotamec Engineering Solutions, has acquired the gearbox repairs Šrm Nottingham Electrical Transmissions (NET), for an undisclosed sum. Rotamec describes this as“a pivotal moment”in its strategy to extend its reach and reŠne it service oœerings. It adds that NET aligns with its vision of establishing a network of branches. The integration “promises more e™cient and prompt services”. pThe AEMT has updated its Ex Repair training course for people involved in repairing electromechanical equipment used in potentially explosive atmospheres. Responding to feedback, the organisation has introduced online access and refreshed the course, which is in line with IEC BS EN 60079-19:2019. NEWS BRIEFS QUANTUM POWER TRANSFORMATION (QPT), the UK power semiconductor specialist developing a high-e¡ciency motor control technology based on gallium nitride (GaN), has raised more than £1.2m in a crowdfunding drive – more than double its original target of £600,000. The funds will be used to scale up production and staš and to „le 12 global patents to protect the company’s technologies. QPT, founded in Cambridge in 2019, has a contract with ABB to develop a next-generation motor drive based on GaN transistors. GaN devices can switch at much faster speeds than silicon or SiC (silicon carbide), but can sušer radio frequency and thermal issues if driven above 100kHz. QPT claims to have solved these issues, resulting in a technology that is about 23 times faster than current SiC-based alternatives and could deliver “unprecedented” power savings. The company is developing a facility to produce up to a million GaN modules annually, backed by outsourcing. It also expects to generate revenues from licensing its IP and selling chips. “QPT has a perfect combination of an amazing technology that can cut the power consumption of electric motors by 10% – thereby providing a way to actively help reduce climate change – and a management team of veterans of the GaN industry,” says Rupert Baines, a semiconductor industry stalwart who has recently been appointed the company’s CEO. “QPT’s GaN technology is a unique solution for the issues of overheating and RF interference that currently limit the speeds that GaN can be driven at,” he adds. “Now GaN transistors can be run at much higher speeds that any other rival technology – 20 times faster than SiC, for example. The higher the speed, the less power is wasted in the motor control, which can be very signi„cant, and the power savings rapidly add up.” UK GaN drive pioneer doubles crowdfunding target Siemens says that Apple’s Vision Pro spatial computing technology oœers a safe, low-cost way of installing equipment and learning about it +44 1604 499 777 Costly downtime due to faulty electronics? UNIS Group #1 in Industrial Electronics. Quickly up and running. We offer specialist services such as risk analysis, spare parts management, inventory and evaluation, on-site service, sales and repair of industrial electronics. No long downtime. With our extensive stock of electronic modules and specialist repair service, you will be up and running again in no time. We help you minimise breakdowns and extend the service life of existing electronic modules. Want to know more?

May 2024 8 CWIEME Berlin 14-16 May, 2024, Berlin, Germany The world’s largest show dedicated to motor manufacturing, coil winding, transformers, generators and e-mobility, expects to welcome more than 6,000 attendees and 600 exhibitors over its three days. More than 50 speakers have been lined up for the event, o€ering more than 25 hours of content. There will be a new zone dedicated to start-ups in areas including high-performance motors, sensors and power electronics. 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. 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, Air-Tech, 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. Automation UK 2024 18-19 June, 2024, CBS Arena, Coventry The two-day robotics and automation show will return for its second appearance with the organiser, Bara (the British Automation & Robot Association) planning to double the space of the ›rst event, held in 2023. Some exhibitors – Beckho€, for example – are planning to double the size of their stands. Other exhibitors include ABB, Fanuc, Pilz, Yaskawa, Kuka, CKF, Festo and RARUK Automation. Machine Vision Conference 2024 18-19 June, 2024, CBS Arena, Coventry Now in its eighth year, the Machine Vision Conference and exhibition aims to promote the use of image-processing technologies, educating visitors about new processes, and helping them to ›nd technologies that can improve their processes and cut costs. The event is organised by UKIVA (the UK Industrial Vision Association). Hillhead 2024 25-27 June, 2024, Hillhead Quarry, Buxton The three-day event located in a quarry includes more than 60 live demonstrations of plant and equipment, as well as more than 600 exhibitors and thousands of products for the quarrying, construction and recycling industries. Around 20,000 visitors are expected to attend. n NEWS OMRON ROBOTICS & SAFETY TECHNOLOGIES HAS formed a strategic partnership with Neura Robotics, a German pioneer of cognitive robotics, with the aim of revolutionising manufacturing by introducing AI-based cognitive robots designed to enhance eƒciency, „exibility and safety. Unlike traditional industrial robots, cognitive robots can learn from their environment, make decisions autonomously, and adapt to dynamic production environments. This opens up new applications including intricate assembly tasks, detailed quality inspections, and adaptive material-handling processes. “We see Neura's cognitive technologies as a compelling growth opportunity for industrial robotics,” says Omron Robotics & Safety Technologies president and CEO, Olivier Welker. “By combining Neura’s innovative solutions with Omron’s global reach and automation portfolio, we will provide customers new ways to increase safety, productivity, and „exibility in their operations.” For Neura’s founder, David Reger, the connection with Omron is “a milestone in the history of industrial automation. It brings us a signi“cant step closer to our goal of revolutionising the global robotics market. By pooling our sensor and AI technologies and expertise into an ultimate platform approach, we will signi“cantly shape the future of the manufacturing industry and set new standards." Neura Robotics was founded in southern Germany in 2019 with the aim of establishing the era of cognitive robots, which can see, hear and have a sense of touch. They act autonomously and learn from experience. The company combines all of the robot’s components and sensors as well as AI into one device and o™ers a platform to develop apps for a wide range of specialist applications. It claims to o™er “unmatched „exibility and cost eƒciency in automation”. Neura says it is also planning to bring the “rst multi-purpose humanoid robot to the market At present, most of Neura’s manufacturing is done in China, but it is ramping up production in Germany with the aim of relocating its manufacturing from China to Metzingen in Germany by the end of 2024. The company is also establishing an engineering hub in Munich focusing on AI, combined with a global sales coordinating centre. “Despite the high energy prices and other challenges, we are moving production to Germany in order to demonstrate our con“dence in Germany as a business location,” says Reger. Last year, Neura secured $55m of funding from European investors, followed by a further $16m from the US private equity “rm, InterAlpen Partners. Omron joins Neura to ‘revolutionise’ manufacturing using cognitive robots Neura Robotics is planning to transfer production of its cognitive robots from China to Germany by the end of 2024

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n NEWS May 2024 10 FOUR OF THE LARGEST industrial robots ever ordered in the UK are to be used in a £80m aerospace R&D project which includes a facility at the University of She€eld’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) that will help solve composites manufacturing challenges to achieve lighter commercial aircraft and to help the aviation industry reach net-zero. The four Fanuc M-2000iA/1700L robots – claimed to be the world’s most powerful long-reach robot – have been ordered by a consortium that includes Boeing, Loop Technology, Spirit AeroSystems and the AMRC. Three of the six-axis machines will be delivered to the AMRC innovation facility, which is part of the larger Project Compass (Composites at Speed and Scale) initiative. Two other FANUC M-2000iA robots – 1200L and 900L models – will also be installed as part of this project. In a separate project, Loop Technology has ordered another 1700L model, as well as an 900L machine, for a high-rate composite preforming cell for a North American aerospace customer. The She€eld AMRC facility aims to de-risk and develop structures, potentially cutting the time needed to process large composite components from around 40 hours to about four. The facility is expected to be operational by the end of 2024. It will house a raft of advanced equipment secured through a £29.5m grant from the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) programme to support new technologies and processes to cut costs, waste, production time and carbon emissions. The Ÿve Fanuc M-2000iA industrial robots at the AMRC facility will form part of Loop’s FibreLine high-rate deposition cell. This highrate preform manufacturing system can pick composite sheets (plies) and form them into complex 3D double-curvature proŸles, before placing them onto a tool, inspecting them and heat staking them ready for the next stage of the production process, at a rate of up to 200kg an hour. Traditional methods typically handle 40kg/h. The National Composites Centre is using a di¢erent conŸguration of FibreLine that, it says, could handle 350kg/h. The two robots that Loop has ordered for the North American customer will form part of 20m-long FibreLine system being used for R&D. The system will centre around a 3D double-curvature preforming gripper that weighs more than a tonne, making heavyduty industrial robots with high payload capacities and long reaches essential. The M2000iA/1700L robots have a 1.7-tonne payload capacity and 6.2m strokes and can lift entire car bodies. UK’s four largest robots ordered for £80m aerospace R&D project A NEW AI-POWERED digital marketplace could save UK manufacturers up to £20,000 in just 20 minutes, according to its founders. The Manufacturing Connections Hub is an online platform that connects manufacturers to suppliers, customers, investors, partners, academics and the government. By registering for free, manufacturers of all sizes can access AIpowered tools that will help them to improve productivity, streamline operations, and foster sustainable practices. The Hub will provide access to resources such as Compliance AI, a Ÿnancial portal facilitating access to funding, knowledge exchange, networking, and a supply chain matching service, as well as an “AI Brain” said to save time and money in areas such as recruitment, customer service, regulation compliance and operational e€ciency. “We know, for example, that recruiting for a new role can cost manufacturing businesses up to £20,000 when you factor in time and recruitment fees,” say the co-founders, David Lomas and Michael Caselberg. “In just 20 minutes, using an AI solution like our BizWise AI tool, can create a job speciŸcation, advert, and deliver candidates to you for interview.” Online hub ‘could save manufacturers £20,000’ Four of the world’s most powerful robots will play key roles in the composite innovation facility being built at the University of Sheffield’s AMRC

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n NEWS ALMOST FOUR IN FIVE (79%) of UK manufacturers are expecting to use generative AI in their operations this year and believe this will help them to improve their businesses, according to a major new survey of manufacturers in 17 countries from Rockwell Automation. Feedback from the survey’s 1,567 respondents reveals that 94% of UK manufacturers are expecting to use AI and ML (machine learning) in advanced analytics – the highest percentage of any country surveyed. The global average is 91%. According to Rockwell’s State of Smart Manufacturing Report – the ninth in an annual series – automation and optimisation through AI and ML are the main reasons for investing in smart manufacturing in the UK. Some 88% of UK respondents have already invested in AI and ML, or are planning to do so in the coming 12 months. This is higher than the European “gure of 84% and is highest among the European countries surveyed, matching the “gure from the US. The four main applications where the UK manufacturers are using these technologies are: quality control (38%), cybersecurity (37%), logistics (34%) and customer service (32%). A third (33%) of the UK manufacturers report that a lack of skills is the most signi“cant barrier to them implementing smart manufacturing technologies – the highest percentage of all European countries surveyed. But only a quarter of the UK manufacturers believe that they lack the skilled workforce to outpace the competition – signi“cantly lower than Germany's 41% and France’s 40%. To address the labour shortage and skills gap, 38% of UK companies say they are using remote working to access a wider talent pool for remote-capable jobs. Another “nding is that 73% of UK companies invest 21–50% of their budgets in technology – the highest level in Europe. The survey reveals a diœerence in priorities between manufacturers in the UK and those elsewhere in Europe. In the UK, quality is the top objective (cited by 42%), followed by improving the company's “nancial position, and improving decision-making with data (both on 35%). Costs, eŸciency and quality as are the top three priorities for their European counterparts. “The “ndings of this year's State of Smart Manufacturing Report underscore a pivotal moment for the industry, as UK manufacturers lead the charge in integrating AI and ML technologies,” says Asa Arvidsson, vice-president of sales for Rockwell’s north region. “This strategic embrace is not merely about technological adoption, but signi“es a broader transformation towards smarter, more resilient manufacturing ecosystems. By leveraging AI to enhance data-driven decision-making and operational eŸciency, UK manufacturers are setting new benchmarks for innovation and competitiveness on the global stage.” According to the survey, manufacturers around the world want to harness AI to tackle roles they are struggling to “ll, rather than using it to replace roles. This report analyses feedback from respondents with roles from managers to the C-suite, and was conducted in association with Sapio Research and Plex Systems. It covered companies with revenues from less than $10m to more than $10bn. The report can be downloaded from 79% of UK manufacturers are putting their faith in AI Manufacturers are using AI and ML to empower their workforces and build resiliency

In today's commercial environment, energy e ciency is more than a buzzword – it's a nancial imperative. Businesses are looking for every possible way to streamline operations, reduce energy consumption, and ultimately, increase pro tability. One key technology making this possible is the variable frequency drive (VFD). Invertek Drives, a leader in the design and manufacture of VFDs over the past quarter century, understands the power of precise motor control and the bene ts it creates in a wide range of electric motor controlled applications. Its Optidrive range is speci cally engineered to help businesses maximise process eciency, cut costs, and achieve the critical balance between productivity and energy conservation. VFDs intelligently manage the speed and torque of AC electric motors, matching output to the precise needs of the application. This optimised control delivers signi cant advantages in a wide range of industries. These range from material handling, such as in in conveyor systems, where VFDs ensure smooth, energy-ecient operation, even under varying loads. This reduces wear and extends equipment lifespan. In ventilation and HVAC, VFDs modulate fan or blower speed, contributing to optimal air quality and temperature control while minimising wasted energy. In other areas, such as pumping, VFDs can match pump output to real-time demand. This not only saves energy but also reduces system stress. Invertek’s Opti ow technology also allows intelligent control of complex pumping systems, understanding when demand is high or low and adjusting the ow and number of pumps and water required appropriately. In refrigeration, precision temperature control is made possible with the use of VFDs, translating to less wasted energy and helps protect valuable product inventory. The Optidrive Coolvert is designed to work with BLDC compressors, heat pumps, and CDUs. The advantages of using VFDs extend far beyond nancial gains. By precisely regulating electric motors, VFDs promote equipment longevity, leading to reduced maintenance requirements and decreased downtime. Additionally, the reduction in energy consumption enabled by VFDs plays a critical role in supporting sustainability initiatives and lowering global carbon emissions. With the recent production of its three millionth VFD, Invertek Drives is demonstrating its commitment to providing advanced motor control solutions for a demanding market. Recognising the growing need for ecient motor control, the company is also investing in an expanded production and warehouse facility opening this summer. This increased capacity will directly enhance customers' ability to access cutting-edge VFD technologies. Crucially, Invertek Drives also aligns with the global push toward sustainability. Its VFDs are helping reduce carbon footprints worldwide by enabling businesses to do more with less energy. As businesses seek to increase pro tability and act as responsible stewards of energy resources, VFD adoption is becoming an industry standard. Invertek Drives, with its Optidrive range and commitment to expansion, is positioned to be a leading partner in this energy-smart transformation. The Smart Way to Save - How Variable Frequency Drives Boost Efficiency and Profitability Invertek Drives COVERSTORY A conveyor and crusher using an Optidrive P2 high-performance VFD Find out more at Water pumping in remote or o grid locations can utilise VFDs such as Invertek's Optidrive P2 Solar to power electric pumps using photovoltaic technology.

IS THE SKILLS CRISIS EASING? For many years now, UK manufacturers and engineering business have been complaining that they cannot find the staff that they need to run their operations effectively. The problem has intensified since the UK left the EU with its steady stream of young, qualified people keen to work in the UK. The skills shortage has meant that the UK has not been to realise its full potential as a manufacturing nation. But there are now signs that the situation may be easing. In its latest quarterly HR bulletin*, Make UK says that manufacturers are reporting that recruitment pressures are easing and that they are managing to fill more vacancies than at any point in the past two years. Two thirds (67%) of the companies quizzed now say they are filling most of their vacancies – up from 43% in the previous quarter. However, Britain’s manufacturers are still facing the long-term skills challenges that have held their businesses back for the past few years. Just over 65% of the companies surveyed reported that they could not find candidates with the right technical skills, while 31.9% of those questioned said they were struggling to find people with the right qualifications. Make UK suggests that the brighter recruitment landscape is the result of a combination of factors, with companies citing better staff retention, and older workers returning to the workforce, as contributory factors. In addition, sickness absence has fallen. The companies surveyed also report that pressure from pay demands has decreased, although a third of businesses have increased their pay levels to comply with the new national living wage. A similar number (31%) say they have increased pay to the rest of their workforces to maintain differentials. More companies than ever are reporting that they have embraced flexible working patterns which is helping them to keep staff. For a third of the companies, employment now accounts for between a quarter and half of their total business expenditure. Jamie Cater, Make UK’s employment policy lead, points out: “While manufacturers report an easing of immediate labour shortages, long-term skills challenges remain. The Government has made welcome improvements to the apprenticeship system in recent months – not least additional funding to support high-value manufacturing and reduce barriers faced by SMEs. “However, there remains further to go, and a full review of the apprenticeship system – with the goal of restoring the number of manufacturing apprentices to its pre-levy high and further reducing the number of vacancies in the sector – must be a priority.” Perhaps the most encouraging statistic from the Make UK survey is that 83% of the manufacturers surveyed had attempted to recruit new staff during the past quarter. Viewed postively, this could mean that they are optimistic enough about the future to want to expand their workforces. Tony Sacks, Editor * The bulletin can be downloaded from: n COMMENT 6RIWZDUH IRU (O 6SHFLDOLVWV LQ 'HV HFWURPDJ VLJQDQG JQHWLFV $QDO\VLV O H HU 6LPFHQWHUŒ 0$*1( *HQHUDO SXUSRVH ' ' GH I DQDO\VLV VRIWZDUH IRU DOO HOHFWURPHFKDQLFDO G ,QFOXGHV WKHUPDO HOHFW PDJQHWLF ILHOGV SOXV RSWLP (7Œ HVLJQDQG W\SHV RI HYLFHV WULF DQG LVDWLRQ 6LPFHQWHU ( 'HV 7HPSODWH EDVHG PRWRU JHQHUD LQWHJUDWHG 7KHUP 9 LW W &:,(0( 0 OHFWULF 0DFKLQH VLJQŒ G GHVLJQ WRROV IRU WRU GHVLJQ ZLWK PDO DQDO\VLV 7UDQVI ZLWK D DOORZL FKDUD L 7UDIR6ROYH IRUPHU WHPSODWH GHVLJQ WRR DQ HDV\ DQG ORJLFDO LQWHUIDFH I QJ XVHUV WR LQSXW WUDQVIRUPH FWHULVWLFV TXLFNO\ 0 J S S ÐÕÍÖÓÖÎÐÊ ËÌÚÐÎÕ ÐÕÊÌ ¯´²³ 0HVVH %HUOLQ 6WDQG $ LVLW XV DW &:,(0( 0D\ ,QIRORJLF 'HVLJQ /WG _HQTXLULHV#LQIRORJLF GHVLJQ ZZZ LQIRORJLF GHVLJQ

Drives&Controls & BACK TO BASICS n SPONSORED BY Repair, replace or refurbish? If your drives or motors are in need of a service, there are three main options: repair, replace, or refurbish. Liam Blackshaw, ABB’s UK product manager for LV drives, discusses some of the pros and cons of each of these options. In January’s Back to Basics column we talked about the importance of carrying out a “winter health check” on your drives to make sure they are ghting t for the colder months. If you’ve carried out such an inspection, then you may well have uncovered some hidden issues lurking that could potentially contribute to future failures to your drive and/or motor assets. If that’s the case, then it’s now decision time. For both drives and motors, there are typically three options: repair, replace, or recondition (for drives) and refurbish (for motors). Repairing, by its nature, is always going to be a reactive undertaking, often carried out after a failure has occurred. For critical equipment, merely having a plan in place for what to do in the event of a failure is already a good start, and better than having no plan at all. This will entail considering the likely impact of any failure, what the route to repairing the device is, how long it will take, and the location and condition of any on-site spare inventory. If you’ve got a manufacturer-approved service provider on the doorstep, then simply knowing who to call and how long they’ll take to get there can save valuable time in the event of an unexpected failure. Proactive servicing is also an option for drives or motors that are still operating normally, but run the risk of developing issues in the near future, based on their age, condition or operating environment. This can be carried out by any accredited service provider, and can be thought of as similar to a car’s MOT. Getting a clearer idea of how many parts need to be replaced, what they are, and when, can inform the discussion when it comes to deciding whether to repair or replace. Replacing a motor or drive is the best option to make it as up-todate, eˆcient and reliable as it can be, but it will come at a cost. In addition, there’s also a circularity argument – as a general rule, upgrading to higher eˆciency levels is a good thing, and can pay for itself rapidly in lower energy costs. However, the manufacture of a new asset, and disposal of an old one, can have implications for carbon and sustainability targets – particularly if there is no established disposal and/or recycling procedure. For motors, there’s an additional option in the form of refurbishment – including rewinding. In terms of cost, this option generally occupies the middle ground between repairing and replacing, extending a motor’s useful lifespan. On the upside, this can return your motor back to its original condition or better. However, even a refurbished IE2 motor is still an IE2 motor, and so the equation may change based on its condition, age, criticality, and expected remaining lifetime. For more information about ABB’s maintenance services for drives, visit: 961052/2023-04-21/4vwyv & Drives equipment? engineering and motion transmission power automation, to source Looking Control e s website Buyer’s Guide Interactive

n TECHNOLOGY May 2024 16 MITSUBISHI ELECTRIC HAS partnered with the Reading-based robotic software specialist Extend Robotics to allow robots to be controlled remotely using o-the-shelf consumer virtual reality (VR) hardware, thus slashing set-up and training costs compared to bespoke systems. Extend’s Advanced Mechanics Assistance System (Amas) platform is now compatible with Mitsubishi’s Melfa industrial robots. Amas uses cloud-connected extended reality technology to allow non-robotic experts to operate robots safely and eectively from remote locations. The human-robot interface renders the workspace in 3D, providing authentic depth perception during teleoperation, while allowing fast gesture inputs to control robots with low latency, even when operating on low communications bandwidths. Mitsubishi and Extend say that their partnership will help manufacturers to upskill employees faster, while also enabling robots to perform non-uniform tasks in real time, even if the operators are in a dierent location. Extend Robotics believes the technology could solve several challenges associated with singlepurpose manufacturing set-ups, such as pick-and-place, machine-tending and general assembly tasks. These include: n remote error recovery, allowing operators to log in rapidly and use VR to pick up items that have been dropped; n rapid reprogramming using gestures to pick dierent items or to tend to new machines; and n allowing technicians to perform nonroutine tasks across several sites remotely. “While industrial robots have been used at manufacturing sites for decades, they have always relied on heavy operator involvement to complete nonuniform tasks or support error recovery,” explains Extend Robotics’ business development director, Azmat Hossain. “Through our Amas platform, we hope to help industrial robot users to unlock much greater functionality from their existing asset base. “For example, if a robot fails to complete its pre-programmed task, a remote operator can simply connect to the unit and restart the process, without the need for a physical on-site presence,” he adds. “As a result, one operator can conceivably oversee multiple lines or sites from a single location.” “Extend Robotics’ Amas platform is an incredibly exciting development which can help manufacturers not only to achieve more ’exibility and productivity from their industrial robots, but also enable operators to be trained and upskilled at a much faster pace,” says Barry Weller, Mitsubishi UK’s mechatronics product manager. “With the manufacturing skills crisis showing no sign of relenting, intuitive technology such as the Amas platform with have an important role to play going forward.” ducts/rbt/robot AT THE RECENT HANNOVER MESSE, Siemens launched the –rst new generation of its Simatic S7-1200 PLCs for ten years. The new models are designed to help bridge the worlds of OT (operational technology) and IT (information technology), with high communications performance and eœcient data-processing, thus boosting output. By connecting the controllers to IT systems, it is also possible to perform advanced data analysis in the cloud, for example. The new S7-1200 G2 PLCs will allow machine-builders to control multiple coordinated axes and simple kinematics. They are said to oer improved processing power, larger memories and dedicated communications, as well as Near Field Communications (NFC) to provide access to diagnostic, operational, and device data via an app. Plain-text diagnostic information about the PLC will cut downtime and give users quick access to data. The new controllers – which will be available from the winter of 2024 – are part of Siemens’ Xcelerator platform, allowing users to bene–t from TIA Portal’s standardised approach to engineering. They will support eœcient motion control and ’exible machine safety, along with other smart functions. Siemens says it oers full scalability across its Simatic controllers, ensuring the right controller is available for each application. Siemens unveils rst new generation of its S7-1200 PLCs in ten years Low-cost VR technology allows robots to be controlled remotely Extend Robotics’VR technology allows operators to control robots remotely The new generation of Siemens’ S7-1200 G2 PLCs bridges the worlds of OT and IT

Demystifying Digitalisation and Growth Ian Clarke - InControl Systems Daniel Smalley - Siemens The Importance of Sustainable Manufacturing Martyn Williams - COPA DATA Patrick Dion-Fehily - Mitsubishi Electric How does the Skills Gap Affect the Future Technology Sector Sam Tilley - Omron Carl Diver - Manchester Metropolitan Uni Industrial Automation Trends, Past Present and Future David Barret Hague - Schneider Grant Coffin - Rockwell Automation PARTOF Register your FREE pass at or scan this code at this code TOP SESSIONS AT DRIVES & CONTROLS 2024: Crucial networking 100+ exhibitors Insightful content

n TECHNOLOGY May 2024 18 BOSTON DYNAMICS, THE DEVELOPER of the pioneering Atlas humanoid robot which has starred in many YouTube videos, has retired the original hydraulically-powered version and replaced it with a new electricallypowered successor. The electric version of Atlas will be stronger, with a broader range of movements. For example, the lastgeneration hydraulic Atlas (called HD Atlas) could already lift and manoeuvre a variety of heavy, irregular objects. The new version will build on those capabilities and Boston Dynamics is exploring several new gripper variations to meet a diverse set of manipulation needs. A video marking the retirement of the hydraulic humanoid reveals some of the robot’s mishaps over the years. Several of these show hydraulic fluid gushing out after an accident – one of the drawbacks of the fluid-powered version. Boston Dynamics is working with the Korean car-maker Hyundai, which has owned it since 2021 and is continuing to invest in the US robot-maker. Hyundai is building a new generation of automotive manufacturing capabilities, which BD says “will serve as a perfect testing ground for new Atlas applications. In the months and years ahead, we’re excited to show what the world’s most dynamic humanoid robot can really do – in the lab, in the factory, and in our lives.” Boston Dynamics’ CEO Robert Playter has told IEEE Spectrum that BD is planning proof-of-technology testing in Hyundai factories next year. Hyundai, he adds, “is really excited about this venture – they want to transform their manufacturing and they see Atlas as a big part of that.” In a similar way to the commercial rollout of Boston’s box-shifting Stretch robot, the company says it will be partnering with a small group of customers, starting with Hyundai, to test and iterate Atlas applications over the next few years. The company believes that humanoids will be most effective if they are deployed using in-depth models of facilities with lots of data about how they operate. It is equipping the robots with new AI and machine-learning tools, such as reinforcement learning and computer vision, to ensure that they can operate and adapt efficiently to complex real-world situations. BD has focused on designing robots with legs because it wanted to build machines that could balance and move dynamically, and could navigate unstructured, unknown, or antagonistic terrains with ease. The humanoid form factor, it points out, is useful for robots working in a world designed for people. Boston Dynamics says that the current humanoid form factor doesn’t limit its vision of how bipedal robots can move, what tools they need to succeed, and how they can help people to do more. The electric version of Atlas has been designed to be more powerful, dextrous and agile. The new Atlas may resemble a human form factor, but it is being equipped to move in the most efficient way possible to complete a task, rather than being constrained by a human range of movements. BD says that the electric Atlas will move in ways that exceed human capabilities, adding it is confident that it can deliver a robot uniquely capable of tackling dull, dirty, and dangerous tasks in real applications.  Boston Dynamics has revealed that Spot, it’s robotic “dog”, has now been deployed in more than 1,500 applications, teaching hundreds of companies how to work alongside autonomous mobile robots. The company’s recent Orbit software for managing robot fleets and site maps, is currently available only for Spot, but Stretch and Atlas will be added in future. THE KOREAN ROBOT developer Rainbow Robotics, has announced a two-armed robot manipulator that moves around on wheels. The company argues that the RB-Y1 mobile robot overcomes some of the limitations of existing industrial robots. The 1.4m-tall, 131kg humanoid robot can travel at speeds of up to 2.5m/s and perform high-speed acceleration and turning operations. Excluding its three wheels, it has 22 axes, allowing complex movements. Each arm has a two-finger gripper and can carry 2kg. The arms’ seven degrees of freedom allow the RB-Y1 to perform complex tasks naturally. The robot’s “body” can move more than 50cm vertically, allowing it to perform tasks at various heights. The main support “leg” has six degrees of freedom while driving, allowing its centre of gravity to be controlled safely. The main components have already been used in existing cobots (collaborative robots) and AMRs (autonomous mobile robots), ensuring a high level of reliability and performance, according to Rainbow. The robot can be taught as a slave by linking to a master data arm. Users can set self-collision areas for both arms to prevent them from hitting each other. An AI-based simulation environment is available. The robot is powered by a 48V, 50Ah battery. Rainbow Robotics recently agreed with Schaeœer and the Korea Electronics Technology Institute to co-develop AIpowered mobile dual-arm robots for autonomous manufacturing applications. The jointly developed robots will be deployed at production sites in Germany and Korea. Schaeœer will develop components such as gearboxes for the mobile dual-arm robots, while Rainbow will oversee the production of the robots and develop AI-based robot operating technologies. Keti will support the application of AI technology for manufacturing processes. Boston retires hydraulic humanoid, and reveals its electric successor Wheeled dual-arm robot manipulator rolls into view Boston Dynamics’ electrically powered Atlas humanoid robot is stronger and more agile than its hydraulic predecessor