Drives & Controls Magazine June 2024

VIRTUALISATION: How and why Audi is using virtual PLCs at a plant in Germany NETWORKING AND COMMUNICATIONS: Mercedes drives wireless AGV comms to the next level SMART WAREHOUSES: Robotic storage system boosts efficiency by 90% at ABB plant Drives&Controls AUTOMATION FOR MANUFACTURING INSIDE (Re)inventing valve terminals 2024 1989 JUNE 2024

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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 July/August issue of Drives & Controls will contain our annual Buyer’s Guide – the industry “bible” for motion control and power transmission engineers, telling you who makes and sells what in the automation and allied sectors. We will also be looking at developments in the transportation sector, and in robotics and automated manufacturing. UPDATE 14 Comment 15 ABB Back to Basics 44 Gambica Column 45 New Products 48 Design Data and Multimedia 49 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 34 30 28 18 5 48 DRIVES & CONTROLS June 2024 Vol 40 No 6 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 Officer 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. 18 Technology Cutting-edge innovations in motion, power transmission, controls and related technologies. 28 Virtualisation Audi has implemented virtual PLCs at one of its plants, with the aim of reducing the variety and number of hardware devices needed, and converting applications to run in software, thus making production faster, more robust and more flexible. 30 Robots It is well-established that using robots can boost productivity. What’s less well-known is that they can also help companies to improve their workplace environments, and to attract and retain talent, as Volvo Cars has discovered. 32 Communications and Networking Mercedes-Benz has upgraded the wireless system that it uses to communicate with a fleet of more than 70 AGVs at a factory in Germany. As well as improving efficiency and safety, the new system complies with the upcoming EU Machinery Regulation. Plus a look at the implications of the latest Wi-Fi standard – Wi-Fi 7 – for industrial users. 36 Mechanical Power Transmission The biggest electricity-generating waterwheel in Europe has been built on a farm in Dorset. An inline planetary gearbox is used to control the wheel’s output, delivering accurate alignment, high efficiency and low transmission losses, thus maximising the electricity output. 40 Smart Warehouses ABB has transformed the warehouse operation at an instrumentation factory in Italy by converting it to an automated storage and retrieval system that has raised efficiency by 90% and cut assembly times by 30%. Plus a look at the cyberthreats to automated warehouses, and how to prepare for them. 43 Wireless Communications An Italian developer of stone-processing machinery has integrated a wireless IO-Link technology into one of its polishing and calibrating machines, simplifying its complexity compared to the previous slipring communications system, as well as saving time and easing maintenance. 36 Average net circulation January to December 2022 44 45 42 Subscribe for your FREE copy now 21,157

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NEWS n 5 Generative AI is now an industrial tool that can generate PLC code THE FIRST GENERATIVE AI product dedicated to industrial engineering has started to roll out into practical applications. Pilot trials of Siemens’ Industrial Copilot for TIA Portal Engineering are now underway and the software will soon be available to download from its Xcelerator marketplace. The Copilot – developed with Microsoft – can generate code and visualisations for PLCs, and provide help for engineering teams. Siemens says it can handle repetitive tasks and will reduce workloads. It will also make the engineering of complex tasks less error-prone, cutting development times and boosting quality and productivity. The Copilot app generates PLC code in structured control language (SCL). TIA Portal can take code suggestions directly from the AI, eliminating the need to copy-and-paste. The Copilot can explain SCL code blocks, or guide and create machine or plant visualisations in WinCC Unified. Engineers can use the app to search Siemens manuals using natural language, while endusers have the option to access a private instance of Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI Service which doesn’t need customer data to retrain models. One early adopter of the Copilot technology is the German industrial automation specialist Grenzebach, which has been testing how generative AI can save it time and effort, and cut the risk of errors. Based on the company’s experience so far, Grenzebach’s CEO, Dr Steven Althaus, says: “Generative AI is a must-have,” adding that it “will allow us to make the most of the rapidly increasing amount of data available in a factory. And it will take human-machine collaboration to the next level. We can address the skilled labour shortages, boost innovation and significantly increase the productivity of our workforce.” Siemens has also been working with the mechatronics giant Schaeffler to apply the Copilot to production machinery. At the SPS show last November, the partners demonstrated the first production machine to be enhanced using generative AI, and at the recent Hannover Messe they signed a memorandum of understanding covering the joint development of industrial AI applications and digital shopfloor systems. During the Messe, Siemens and Schaeffler demonstrated the Copilot app connected to a production machine from Schaeffler’s Special Machinery business. The AI assistant was generating complex automation codes for the machine using natural spoken words. The Copilot also had access to documentation, guidelines and manuals to help identify potential causes of errors. “With the Siemens Industrial Copilot, we are bringing the capabilities of generative AI to the Schaeffler shopfloor,” says Cedrik Neike, CEO of Siemens’ Digital Industries business. “Together, we are showing how AI is revolutionising production – from the generation of machine code to AI-based maintenance. And that is just the beginning.“ Schaeffler’s COO, Andreas Schick, adds that the collaboration with Siemens proves that AI can already be used in production. “With the Copilot, we are providing our experts on the shopfloor with an innovative digital tool, which simplifies their work and significantly increases their efficiency. We are taking production to a new, digital level in collaboration with Siemens.” Siemens envisages a suite of generative AI-powered industrial Copilots transforming the way that companies design, plan, develop, engineer and work. Working with selected customers and partners, it is applying generative AI in multiple sectors, including automotive, transportation, healthcare and manufacturing. “The Siemens Industrial Copilot is bringing industrial generative AI to the shopfloor and will be an indispensable part of the engineering process in the future,” predicts Rainer Brehm, CEO of factory automation at Siemens Digital Industries. “With the easy and seamless connection to our TIA Portal, we’re the first to offer a generative AI product for engineering to industrial companies worldwide. “Industrial AI is an important lever for combining the real and the digital worlds – with the ultimate goal of addressing major challenges, such as the shortage of skilled workers or making industrial production more efficient and sustainable,” Brehm declares. June 2024 WATT DRIVE Antriebstechnik, the Austrian manufacturer of geared motors and drives which WEG acquired in 2011, has been renamed WEG Gear Systems. The business will be upgraded to a competence centre for gear technology and will be responsible for the WEG Group's global gears and geared motors activities. The Watt business was founded in 1972 as Wustinger Antriebstechnik, initially operating as an engineering office for drive technologies. In 1976, it added its own assembly plant and production machines for small series production, followed in 1983 by its first geared motor. In 1990, the company was renamed Watt Drive Antriebstechnik and opened a new factory in southern Austria, including production of gear components. Following its acquisition by WEG Group in 2011, it was integrated into the Group, which made major investments in ugrading its production halls and warehouses. In 2016, it launched the WG20 series of geared motors. Watt Drive is renamed WEG Gear Systems and takes on key role Schaeffler has demonstrated a production machine whose control codes were generated using AI

n NEWS June 2024 6 A £37.6M DIGITAL CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE is being established in Belfast, aimed at revolutionising how UK industries develop products, services and systems. The UK Digital Twin Centre, led by the Digital Catapult, is being backed by Innovate UK, Belfast Region City Deal and three industrial partners: Thales UK, Spirit AeroSystems and Artemis Technologies. It is due to open later this year. The Centre is expected to contribute 230 new jobs to the manufacturing sector across the UK, and to generate £61m for the local economy in Northern Ireland by 2033. The Centre will run programmes for all levels of industry, from SMEs to large enterprises. It aims to accelerate industry’s adoption of digital twins by providing access to cutting-edge technologies, cutting the costs of producing digital twins, and developing suitable skills. It will also provide a space where industry, academics and the public sector can collaborate. The Centre’s industrial partners will deliver six initial use cases to demonstrate the potential of digital twins to transform the marine, aerospace and defence sectors. “Today’s announcement is a pivotal moment in realising the real-world value of digital twins for the UK,” says Deborah Colville, who has been appointed the Centre’s director. “The Centre will give businesses across the UK access to the expertise, technology and resources necessary to accelerate the adoption of digital twins to reduce design and manufacturing costs, help meet net-zero targets and drive competitive advantage globally.” £15m of the Centre’s funding will come from the Belfast Region City Deal to back core research, and to build skills and capabilities. The investment will support the region’s aim to build innovation and digital capabilities, increase productivity, help reach net-zero targets, and create more and better jobs. “This is an ambitious project that will bring exciting opportunities for collaboration and accelerate the fantastic transformation Belfast’s digital sector is already witnessing,” says Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton-Harris. “The UK Government’s £350m investment into the Belfast Region City Deal will be used to support this project and ensure that we continue to make good progress across the City and Growth Deal programme, bringing even more prosperity to Northern Ireland, and ensuring it is the best place in the world to invest.” Belfast will host £37.6m UK Digital Twin Centre p Hitachi is buying the German robotic and automation technology specialist, MA micro automation for €71.5m and plans to combine it with its US-based systems integrator JR Automation Technologies (which it bought in 2019) to accelerate the expansion of its automation activities. MA, which was originally Siemens’ specialist machine-building business, had a turnover in 2023 of €46.5m, and employs around 200 people. In 2013, MA became part of the Max Automation group, which has now sold the business to Hitachi. p The UK drives-maker Sprint Electric has received a further £1.9m of investment from the Foresight Group private equity firm, in addition to the £2m that it provided in 2023. The new funding will allow Sprint to enhance its business strategy and look for fresh areas for growth, based on its new generation of regenerative AC drives. It will also help to create jobs, including three at PhD level. Sprint has raised a total of £4.7m in the past 12 months. p Battery Ventures, a technologyfocused investment firm, is buying steute Technologies, the German manufacturer of switches, sensors and other products for automation and safety applications, for an undisclosed sum. Family-owned steute, which was founded in 1961, employs around 450 people. It specialises in sensor and switching devices for use in explosive or corrosive environments and extreme temperatures. It also supplies wireless technologies for automation applications, as well as medical-control devices for operating rooms. p The Danish companies, the cobotmaker Universal Robots and the manufacturer of AMRs (autonomous mobile robots), MiR, have opened a joint 20,000m2 headquarters in Odense, Denmark. Both are owned by US-based Teradyne Robotics. p The Swedish maintenance management specialist MaintMaster has bought Irish-based OEEsystems, a pioneer in OEE (overall equipment effectiveness) software. The acquisition brings together businesses with complementary strengths, and will help users to optimise asset performance, enhance productivity, and drive operational efficiency. Combining MaintMaster's CMMS with OEEsystems' software will give maintenance and operation teams a common view of the performance of their work. NEWS BRIEFS PHOENIX CONTACT’S PLCnext Technology open control platform has been given a boost with news that Festo is planning to use PLCnext in future intelligent devices. The first new Festo products based on the platform are expected to be launched at the end of this year. Festo says it has been looking for a partner with an open system approach to provide a suitable operating system. PLCnext’s open architecture will allow Festo to offer tailored automation systems to its customers. “We are convinced that the openness of PLCnext Technology will provide our customers with many advantages,” says the company’s chief IT and digitalisation officer, Gerhard Borho. “The openness of PLCnext Technology opens up the possibility for numerous suppliers to offer flexible, safe and modern automation technology,” adds Ulrich Leidecker, Phoenix Contact’s COO and president of its industry management and automation business. “The technology partnership with Festo represents a milestone for the automation industry. Because the more partners there are in an open automation ecosystem, the more valuable it becomes for each individual participant.” The PLCopen ecosystem now has more than 300 partners. Other users of the platform include Yaskawa, Ixon, CopaData and Codesys. Festo adopts Phoenix Contact’s PLCnext open control platform Digital Twin Centre director Deborah Colville: a pivotal moment

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EVENTS June 2024 8 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 size of the first event, held in 2023. Some exhibitors – Beckhoff, for example – are planning to double the area 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 find 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. EEMODS 2024 3–5 September, 2024 Lucerne, Switzerland The 13th international conference on Energy Efficiency in Motor Driven Systems will take place over three days in Lucerne, Switzerland. It will provide a forum to discuss the latest developments in electric motor systems and their energy consumption, energy efficiency policies and programmes, standards, as well as technological and market progress. PPMA Show 24–26 September, 2024 NEC, Birmingham The UK's largest event for processing equipment, packaging machinery, industrial robots and machine vision systems is expected to attract more than 300 exhibitors. The show, organised by Automate UK, will include demonstrations of labelling, filling, packaging, processing, robotics, automation and industrial vision systems. Advanced Engineering 2024 30–31 October, 2024 NEC, Birmingham Advanced Engineering UK returns to the NEC, showcasing innovation from the UK’s manufacturing and engineering sector. More than 85% of the available floor space has already taken. In 2023, more than 400 companies exhibited at the show, with a further 202 at the co-located Lab Innovations event. n NEWS SIEMENS IS SELLING its Innomotics electric motors and large drives business to the venture capital firm, KPS Capital Partners, for €3.5bn. The sale is expected to close in the first half of fiscal 2025, subject to the foreigninvestment and merger approvals. Innomotics was formed in November 2022, when Siemens combined its large drives and electric motors businesses and set them up as an independent entity. It says that the sale to KPS, “which is beneficial for all parties involved”, offers a fast track to a successful future. Innomotics manufactures low-, medium- and high-voltage motors, medium-voltage drives and other components, as well as offering support services. Headquartered in Nuremberg, Germany, it generates around €3.3bn in annual revenues, employs about 15,000 people. It operates 16 factories across the EMEA, Americas and Asia-Pacific regions. “By selling Innomotics to KPS, I am pleased that we have made further significant progress in optimising our portfolio,” says Siemens’CFO, Ralf P. Thomas. “The search for the best new owner has been successful. “This decision gives customers and the people who work at Innomotics clarity and paves Innomotics’way to extensive opportunities for further successful business development,” he adds. “In the future, Siemens and its shareholders will benefit even more from combining the real and the digital worlds.” KPS operates in the US and Germany. Companies in its portfolio currently generate €2bn in revenues. In Germany alone, it operates nine manufacturing sites with more than 5,200 employees. Since 2020, KPS has acquired 17 European businesses for more than $11.5bn. Its recent acquisitions include Chassis Brakes International from Robert Bosch, Waupaca Foundry from thyssenkrupp, and Sport Group from Equistone Partners. KPS has formed a new affiliate to buy Innomotics. “We are excited to acquire Innomotics and create a thriving independent enterprise, built on the foundation of the company’s 150-year history of unparalleled technological innovation,”says KPS’co-founder and comanaging partner, Michael Psaros. “Innomotics is a global industry leader in electric motors and large drives. In many ways, KPS is investing in the future of the 21st Century through Innomotics. “The company is well-positioned to capitalise on the global megatrends of electrification, energy efficiency, digitalisation, urbanisation and the commercialisation of new energy resources such as hydrogen,”he adds. “We look forward to working with Innomotics’senior management and stakeholders to aggressively accelerate the company’s growth trajectory.” Innomotics’ CEO Michael Reichle, says that “KPS, with its demonstrated track record of manufacturing excellence and its global platform, is the ideal owner for the new Innomotics. The partnership with KPS will support Innomotics in further expanding our track record of successful technological innovation and providing our customers with world-class products, solutions and services.” Siemens sells its Innomotics motors biz to KPS for €3.5bn Siemens is selling its Innomotics business to KPS Capital +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?

NEWS n June 2024 11 THE UK GOVERNMENT is backing a manufacturing research hub that will use robots, automation and AI to create a sustainable circular manufacturing ecosystem. The £34.6m Manufacturing Research Hub in Robotics, Automation & Smart Machine Enabled Sustainable Circular Manufacturing & Materials (RESCu-M2) will be backed by £11m of funding from the UKRI Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), and £23.6m (cash and in-kind) from partner organisations, over a seven-year period. These organisations include five universities, two local authorities and the Manufacturing Technology Centre. The manufacturing hub is one of five new hubs aimed to addressing the commercialisation of early-stage research in key areas of manufacturing, such as semiconductors and medicines. ESPRC is investing a total of £55m in the hubs, with partner contributions bringing the total support to £99.3m. The manufacturing hub, based at the University of Birmingham, will focus on the sustainable use of critical materials, and improving the productivity of Re-X (re-use, repurpose, repair, remanufacture and recycle) manufacturing processes. The goal is to enhance the way we re-use and refurbish technologies such as electric motors, batteries and medical devices. The aim is to increase the re-use of critical components by at least 75%, and to reclaim at least 50% more components. For example, increasing the re-use of rareearth materials from magnets by just 30% could secure the UK’s supply of these critical materials, which come mainly from politically unstable regions including China, and whose production is often environmentally damaging. Re-X processes are currently much more labour-intensive than traditional manufacturing, resulting in many materials being disposed of via landfill or incineration. However, it is estimated that businesses could save up to £23bn per year by making low- or no-cost improvements. The Hub’s director is Professor Samia NeftiMeziani, who is also director of the Birmingham Robotics Institute. “We need to adopt radical new approaches in manufacturing that move away from a focus on producing new products, and then disposing of them when they reach their end of life,” she says. “Instead, we should be focusing on processes that prolong the useful life of products – particularly those including critical materials such as rare-earth elements.” The Hub will bring together an interdisciplinary team, including experts in manufacturing, robotics, AI, automation, materials, chemistry, economics and lifecycle assessments. It will focus initially in four areas: energy, medical devices, electric drives, and large structures. “Manufacturing accounts for almost a tenth of the UK’s economic output,”says science minister, Andrew Griffith, “but for the sector to keep growing and sustaining jobs nationwide, it has to tackle challenges ranging from reducing emissions, to cutting production costs. “These new hubs will support UK researchers with the cutting-edge facilities they need, to help our manufacturers seize the benefits of technologies such as robotics and AI. Harnessing these innovations will cement the UK's position as a global leader in sustainable manufacturing.” £34m manufacturing R&D hub will target sustainability JAPAN’S NIDEC corporation has brought together two of its drives-making subsidiaries – Wales-based Control Techniques and US-based KB Electronics – under a new Nidec Drives brand. The change will not affect any of the products or services offered by CT or KB, which will continue to be sold under their existing brands. There will be some changes to branding on social media, product labels and brochures, but customers are not expected to see other differences. Control Techniques says that the new branding will allow it and KB to harness Nidec’s strength and resources. The rebranding is part of a larger initiative which will see all businesses in Nidec’s $2.9bn Motion & Energy segment uniting under the Nidec brand. The consolidation of the brands is intended to raise the profile of Nidec locally and internationally. As part of the changes, the generator activities of Nidec’s French motors and generators subsidiary Leroy Somer and its US-based generator and alternator manufacturer Kato Engineering, will come together under the new Nidec Power brand. Nidec’s Motion & Energy business covers areas such as drives, medium and large motors, automation, EV chargers and generators. The business is part of Nidec’s larger Appliance, Commercial & Industrial operation, which accounts for 41% of the group’s activities and last year produced sales worth $6.1bn. Control Techniques and KB adopt Nidec Drives brand The manufacturing research hubs will used advanced automation technologies to help make UK industry more sustainable

n NEWS SIEMENS HAS UNVEILED a software-based workstation technology designed to replace traditional hardware PLCs, HMIs and edge devices. The company is hailing its Simatic Workstation as a “breakthrough in the longstanding challenge of closely managing numerous hardware control points throughout the factory”. The technology introduces IT workflows into OT (operational technology) environments, it adds. The car-maker Ford will be the first customer to use the new technology at several of its manufacturing sites. The Workstation can be viewed and managed from a central point, with programming, updates and patches all being deployed to an entire fleet in parallel, ensuring that shopfloors remain in synch. Siemens compares this to the traditional approach based on hardware PLCs scattered across plants, with each one requiring individual programming to keep it current, secure and aligned with the other PLCs. One example of the potential benefits of the new technology will be when a facility needs to ramp production up or down rapidly in response to fluctuating demand. Manufacturers will no longer be tied to shopfloor boxes and will be able to reprogram an installation speedily to match the new demand. The Workstation uses Siemens’ industrial edge technology to deliver high data throughputs with the low latency for running modular applications. This applies not only to traditional automation tasks such as motion control, sequencing and safety, but will also become a platform for future, novel automation tasks incorporating industrial AI-in-the-control-loop – such as visual inspection and robotic grasping. “In times of volatility in demand and supply, manufacturers can no longer be tied to boxes on the floor that need to be updated individually – and manually,” explains Del Costy, president and managing director of Siemens Digital Industries in the US. “Centralised management is the best option for increasing visibility and security for manufacturers managing a high number of automation control points. This makes automation highly scalable and changes the game for how factories can be managed. We are only limited by our imaginations.” The Simatic Workstation is the newest addition to the Siemens Xcelerator platform and will be adapted to serve other industries and customers. Software workstations replace PLCs and HMIs in ‘breakthrough’ Ford will be the first user to deploy the new Simatic Workstation technology THE UK COULD ESTABLISH itself as a leader in electric motor design and production, according to a new report from the Advanced Propulsion Centre UK (APC). It argues that, with the European motors market expected to expand three-fold to more than £27bn over the next decade, there will be “ample opportunities” for UK firms willing to bet on shifting attitudes to e-motor design and production. The 36-page report, e-Motors Value Chain, suggests that focusing on certain types of motor – such as induction-based and electrically-excited synchronous motors (EESMs) – could pay dividends. Although it focuses on e-motors for EVs, it says there are also opportunities in other sectors such as rail, marine and aviation. “A resilient material supply chain for esteel and copper is critical for the e-motor industry,” says Dr Chris Jones, the APC’s strategic trends manager. “While neodymium-based magnets dominate the market, there is innovation in alternative materials to reduce dependence on the rare earth supply chain. Materials such as iron ferrite and iron nitride show promise. “There is also a growing trend to using magnet-free motors,” he adds. “This would allow UK manufacturers to cut the costs associated with motor construction, diversify revenue streams, and establish a robust supply chain. Importantly, it could also lower the carbon impact of producing this vital material, which currently takes an indirect journey across Europe before eventually reaching our shores.” resource/e-motors-value-chain UK ‘could be a leader’ in motor design and production

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A RENAISSANCE FOR ELECTRIC MOTOR MANUFACTURING IN THE UK? The UK was once a volume manufacturer of industrial electric motors with names such as Brook Compton and GEC being known around the world. Over time, most of these large-scale operations moved abroad to locations with lower production costs, were absorbed by multinational players, or disappeared entirely. Today, the UK still has a motor manufacturers, but they tend to be smaller and more specialised, and they are often subsidiaries of overseas players. The Chinese manufacturer Wolong, for example, now owns the Brook Crompton brand, along with Morley and Laurence Scott, while Parvalux is part of the Swiss maxon group. And located, somewhat incongrously, in a gleaming 11,000m2 factory on the outskirts of London, you’ll find Heidenhain’s servo and spindle motor producing subsidiary, SEM. Then there are the niche specialists, such as PMW Dynamics and the Lynch Motor Company, both experts in a topology – the “pancake” motor – which they produce in relatively small numbers, often for bespoke projects. The UK electric motor industry has been given a new lease of life in recent years by companies emerging to serve the potentially lucrative electric vehicle market. Perhaps the best-known of these is Yasa which spun out of Oxford University with an axial-flux technology that so impressed Mercedes-Benz that it bought the business in 2021. Yasa has recently announced that it is moving its 400 staff into new headquarters in Oxfordshire next year. Another developer of EV drivetrains is Norfolk-based Equipmake, founded in 1997, whose systems have been used to power vehicles ranging from hypercars to electric buses. And in Wales, an electric drive developer, DG Innovate, claims to have developed one of the world’s most efficient electric motors (98.5%) and has recently announced plans to establish a joint venture to produce its Pareta drive system with India’s fastest-growing electric truck company, EVage Motors. The vehicle motors market is fiercely competitive and not all contenders survive, as was demonstrated recently when another axial-flux specialist, Saietta, went into administration. But Saietta’s assets and intellectual property have since been acquired by the Japanese-headquartered Exedy group, so its expertise and technologies may yet survive. Against this background, a new report from the Government-backed Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) makes interesting reading (see page 12). It argues that the UK could again have a healthy future as a volume manufacturer of electric motors, provided that it makes the right choices. It suggests that focusing on particular technologies – such as induction-based and electrically excited synchronous motors – could pay dividends and help UK manufacturers to capture a healthy slice of a European market that is predicted to expand to more than £27bn over the coming decade. To do this, will require investments in supply chains for materials such as rare-earths, electrical steels and copper, but it could pay off in the long run, with Britain again being counted among the global leaders in electric motor production. Tony Sacks, Editor n COMMENT MODULAR AN CONTROLLERS I/OS INTEGRA Service e Softwar Hardware STEPPER CLOSED LO STEPLESS™ TECHNO T-IN BRUSHLESS OR STEP AC A PLC / SMART DRIVES 400VAC OR 230V ALL BUIL OPCONTROL OLOGY WITH BRUSHLESS MOTORS LESS M COM NEW 2024 ODER XES Y GEARBOX PLANETARY PRECISION R MOTION CONTROL FOR INDUSTRIAL MPLETE SYSTEMS NEC, BIRMINGHAM BOOTH C26 AND! C TA JUNE 20 COME VISIT , BIRMINGHAM 4 - 6 JUNE 202 6 JUNE 2024 T A OURST BOO OURSTAND! STEPPER WITH ENC STEPLESS In automation, speed is ever systems with turnkey configurat Our solutions are flexible, open The result: high performing mult ything. CMZ e tions reducing the time to market for O to connectivity and customizable upon ti-axis control with unique and special f ftware complete EMs of automatic machines. customer's project. eatures. IN ITALY

Drives&Controls & BACK TO BASICS n SPONSORED BY There is life beyond repair and replace It used to be relatively simple to decide whether to repair or replace an old drive, based on its running hours, cost to repair/replace and running costs. But, says Steve Hughes, strategic marketing and sales manager in ABB’s Motion Service, there are now more options to extend asset lifetimes and maximise return on investment. When we were writing these columns 10 or 20 years ago, there used to be two main options for what to do with a drive when it needed urgent maintenance: repair it or replace it. However, in the years since, maintenance and monitoring techniques have become far more sophisticated, affording a wider range of choices to suit the specific needs of individual assets or facilities. This brings additional factors into play such as lifecycle status and maintenance history. Taking these into consideration can help drives operators to make better choices, minimise disruption, and extract maximum value from their existing assets. For instance, if you have a product that is becoming obsolete in the next five years, then you’re probably going to want to replace it, rather than repairing something that will soon need replacing anyway. However, if you’ve got a drive that is likely to run for the foreseeable future without incident, or if the plant around it is likely to be decommissioned in the near to mid future, then why replace it now when you can get additional years out of your asset, while also potentially improving its performance. Reconditioning (for functioning drives) and “premium repair” (for non-functioning drives) are now options in the UK that weren’t widely available until recently. They involve replacing all ageing components, as well as any others that may need replacing soon, due to the drive’s environment and load characteristics. An additional option may be to retrofit, replacing a complete drive module in a panel. This can be done on site. In the case of retrofitting, internal components can be upgraded, taking the drive out of its classic lifecycle phase and putting it back into an active phase. In ABB’s case, this can mean taking an older ACS800, ACS600 or Sami drive and replacing the drive or module to turn it into a newer ACS880. The shift from reactive to proactive maintenance has opened up new opportunities for assets towards the ends of their lives, with retrofitting and reconditioning now being viable options in addition to repairing and replacing. Your drive manufacturer or approved service provider is here to help. They can tell you what options are available, and find the right one for your drive, depending on its age, condition, operation and lifecycle status, as well as any other relevant factors. For more information about ABB’s maintenance services for drives, visit: l/961052/2023-04-21/4vwyv 3D printing in no time ... for wear-resistant parts Due to the solid lubricants within the iglidur® tribofilaments® and laser sintering materials achieve an up to 50 times longer service life compared to standard 3D printing materials. In 2019, for example, more than 120,000 wear-resistant parts were additively manufactured at igus®. Improving application lifetime and reducing costs throughout. Total failure Standard 3D printing material * Wear test rotating without external lubrication, p = 20MPa, v = 0.01m/s, counter partner 304 SS Self-lubricating iglidur® Plain bearing produced via 3D printing 3D printing service for wear- resistant parts with fast delivery. 01604 677240 motion plastics® /3d Wear test* with AM parts:

New Festo VTUX pneumatic valve terminals squarely aimed at machine builders As you would expect, the technology has transformed during this time. Festo has continuously evolved the format and features of many new valve terminal ranges. As the technology has matured both the mechanical valve mountings and the electrical connectivity have evolved through several iterations. Festo decided to create one of its largest cross-function design teams to look at what machine builders are going to be looking for in the next 5-10 years. Their brief was for a ground-up rethink to create another true step change in valve terminals technology. They were tasked to develop a new product range to be called VTUX standing for Valve Terminal Universal “X”. They knew any radically new terminals needed to address both the mechanics/ pneumatics and the electrical connectivity within a single platform therefore both disciplines were embedded from the start. Pneumatic valve terminals are a key element in the performance of many of today’s automated machines. They interface between the electronics – the software and controls, providing the intelligence, and the actuators and sensors driving the motion and sending feedback. Steve Sands of Festo looks at the scope for improvement even within this mature piece of equipment. Valve terminals have come a long way in the 30 years since Festo introduced them New Valve Terminal Universal “X” To maximise the benefit of the platform approach they focused on creating a design that spanned from high-volume, low-cost, basic functionality to highly featured, technology rich options that addressed future technologies and specialist requirements in sectors previously seen as niches. The “X” in the type description signified the ‘built-in flexibility’ to incorporate many new and innovative features in the coming months and years. The VTUX designers and developers reaped the benefits of long-term investments the company research department has made, building up computer aided design experience and expertise, and developing software tools created by comparing theoretical CAE models with thousands of hours of real life pneumatic lab results to hone the accuracy of the software predictions and to provide developers with a uniquely powerful CAE software tool kit. This enabled the VTUX engineers to optimise production and material costs, CO2 usage during manufacture and balance these against supplying higher flow rates in less space, increase the operating life expectancy and identify ways to improve the electrical (solenoid) energy efficiency. Festo introduced the concept of valve terminals to the automation sector 30 years ago, moving the technology on from purely mechanical/pneumatic sub-bases by integrating electrical connections to the solenoids and feedback signals e.g., cylinder switches. The machine building sector welcomed the time and cost saving innovation with open arms.

Contact Festo Ltd Tel: 0800 626 422 Email: Customer benefits This approach has enabled a rationalisation of components and a customer cost saving. On the latest Festo 10mm wide solenoid valves the limit to the maximum flow rate isn’t now the valve but the fittings and therefore tubing that can fit within the footprint. This meant that one of the obvious cost savings was to offer one valve body size with two different sub-bases, the customer can specify the higher flow option for where they need it – for larger diameter actuators or faster cycle rates. Conversely, they can save on the overall width of the terminal and reduce unnecessary air consumption by using smaller diameter tubing where this is sufficient. Electrically, optimisation on valve terminals is a matter for machine builders of cost, speed of integrating into the control architecture and ease of commissioning and diagnostics. The impact on energy consumption of the individual solenoid valve coils and reaction times of the cylinders is minimal compared with the compressed air passing through the valves but it still made sense to reduce solenoid power drain overall, reducing the size and current capacity of panel mounted power supplies minimising valve actuation times. Therefore, as the VTUX valve terminals were under development, in close co-ordination, the electrical and controls team were developing the electrical connectivity product range called Festo AP, short for Automation Platform. The Festo AP supplies a lower cost but fast and powerful connection way for the last few metres on a machine. It doesn’t compete with the likes of IO-link or Ethernet technologies but seamlessly collaborates with them to provide cross protocol connectivity and transparency. Key here is the user experience for the software and controls engineers that program and commission new machines. The Festo AP addresses key needs of both serial and special purpose machine builders. The system enables machine builders to swap the PLC they are using to meet the specification of their customers whilst keeping up to 90% of the remote IO [RIO] field and cabinet level components common. This makes it easier, and lower cost, to support a range of machines and creates an ideal platform for a range of machines based on common technology and components. The AP system is a hybrid approach, it delivers interconnecting modular and decentralised IOs on a scalable, flexible, and powerful communication backplane. The designers’ brief was to address three key factors – Performance, Flexibility and Cost. They created a modular system of robust digital RIO components that can be field, or cabinet mounted, alone or in combination with industry leading pneumatic valve solutions. The system uses a single field bus node module as a header, which is networked to a broad range of input, output, and pneumatic solenoid valve manifold options. The AP system and its components can be flexibly arranged without topology or space restrictions to fit the machine layout. This comes at a lower cost than using multiple proprietary field bus nodes and yet is still easy to address and completely visible within the PLC controls. Key features CPX-AP Performance: Up to 79 devices with 50m between modules, Real Time Connectivity (200 MBaud data rate, cycle time down to 15 µs), control and data handling, host systems include Profinet, EtherCAT, Ethernet IP, Modbus TCP, TSN and in preparation CC-Link IE Field Basic Flexibility: flexible decentralised/localised modular remote IO, application optimised pneumatics manifolds, Cloud and Edge compatible with MQTT and OPC-UA Cost: reduced component complexity and costs. Standardises control cabinet layouts, smaller footprint reduces cabinet costs and space requirement in compact machine designs. Large individual manifolds The new VTUX valve terminal and the AP connectivity platform provides machine builders with the opportunity to save costs and increase their machines’ performance individually or most powerfully when combined. Seamlessly combining centralised and de-centralised IO and valve terminals

n TECHNOLOGY June 2024 18 PANASONIC INDUSTRY HAS ANNOUNCED A servodrive system that uses AI to achieve precision tuning that, it claims, is better than that performed by human experts. It also says that the Minas A7 servo system delivers the industry's best motion performance with a 27-bit encoder resolution (equivalent to 134,217,728 pulses) and a response frequency with an industry high of 4kHz or more (1.25 times higher than Panasonic’s Minas A6). Panasonic says that conventional automated tuning technologies cannot achieve satisfactory results for applications that require ultra-precise positioning, such as semiconductor manufacturing and surface-mounting. These have therefore needed sophisticated manual tuning of many parameters by expert engineers, sometimes taking several days to complete. The new drive uses the first commercial AIequipped servo tuner (called precAIse Tuning) to cut position settling times – an indicator of performance – by 45% compared to human results, and tuning times by 90% or more. The technology can achieve superior positioning using simple initial settings. The new servodrive’s 27-bit encoder resolution will help to improve positioning and processing accuracy. The servomotor has a top speed of 7,150 rpm, making equipment faster and helping to reduce cycle times. Usually, servomotors require complex control programs running on devices such as PLCs. The direct feedback (displacement control) amplifier in the new system is said to improve responsiveness from the sensor input to the motor output, with the amplifier capturing sensor data directly without needing to going via controllers. Eliminating the need for complex control programs results in precise, high-speed control, according to Panasonic, and will shorten development times. Initially the drives are available in 200W or 400W versions, with others planned. There are single-phase 100V AC and single-phase/three-phase 200V AC versions now, with three-phase 400V AC models in the pipeline. Versions are available for EtherCat or Panasonic’s Rtex (Real-Time Express) communications technologies. There are plans for models that support analogue, pulse train and Modbus comms. In addition to electronics applications, other potential uses include machine tools and industrial robots. In the future, Panasonic says it will offer applicationspecific servo amplifiers, for uses such as precision gantry control and direct sensor feedback (pressure control). ROCKWELL AUTOMATION HAS announced a generative AI software package that converts predictions of equipment failures into detailed, actionable work orders for maintenance teams. Called Fiix Prescriptive Maintenance, the tool is an add-on for Rockwell’s existing Fiix Asset Risk Predictor software, creating what it describes as “the first complete predictive and prescriptive maintenance solution to help manufacturers eliminate unplanned downtime”. The AI tool can be set up in as little as two weeks and then starts to predict asset failures days in advance. The new software generates work orders using asset data, completed work orders and trusted maintenance sources. Teams can review and edit the work orders, and send them to any CMMS (computerised maintenance management system) or EAM (enterprise asset management) tool. The data remains private. “With Fiix Prescriptive Maintenance, you can turn asset data into the predictions and work orders you need to drastically reduce unplanned downtime, boost operational equipment effectiveness (OEE), and make better use of resources,” says Sandy D’Souza, Fiix’s senior director for sales in the Americas region. “It also helps close the maintenance knowledge gap, ensuring everyone has access to detailed asset and work order information, whether they’ve just started their career or have decades of experience at a company.” The Risk Predictor can be used independently from Fiix CMMS. It can also be used with other CMMS or EAM systems. Gen AI tool turns failure predictions into maintenance plans AI-driven servo tuning technology ‘out-performs human experts’ Panasonic says its Minas A7 servo system delivers the industry’s best motion performance The AI-powered tuning system is claimed to cut settling times by 45%