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April 2024 industry news: awards, associations and acquisitions

April 29, 2024
A Control Intelligence podcast with managing editor Anna Townshend

In this episode of Control Intelligence, Anna Townshend shares machine builder and system integrator news highlights from the month of April.

Transcript

Awards

We’ll start off with the big event that taking place this week in Germany, which of course is Hannover Messe. More than 4,000 companies attended this annual industrial trade show in Hannover, Germany.

At the ceremonial opening of Hannover Messe, German machine builder Schunk, was awarded the prestigious Hermes Award for its innovative 2D Grasping Kit. The project uses artificial intelligence (AI) software, an industrial PC and an application-specific gripper to automate parts handling and sorting in many diverse conditions. Even under changing light, color or background conditions, the user interface can pick and handle randomly arranged and non-positioned parts from an infeed conveyor belt, tray or preparation table.

The 2024 Hannover theme "Industrial Transformation," highlights mechanical and electrical engineering companies, as well as the energy sector, focusing on Industry 4.0, energy for industry, digitalization, artificial intelligence, machine learning, carbon-neutral production and hydrogen and fuel cells.

The WomenPower career congress has taken place alongside Hannover Messe for 20 years. The renaming of the event this year from WomenPower to FemWorX, that’s F-E-M-W-O-R-X, symbolizes the organization’s continued commitment to empowering women in science, technology, engineering and mathmathics (STEM) professions, with "X" representing the unknown quantity and the X chromosome.

At the FemWorX Career Congress opening ceremony this year, Yvonne Groth was awarded the prestigious Engineer Woman Award for her outstanding contributions to scientific and technical disciplines. FemWorX advisory board member Dr. Kathrin Rüschenschmidt, who is director of innovation process & PMO at Emerson, presented the award to Groth, who works as managing director of Dornier Construction and Service. She was recognized for her dedication and great work in advancing women in the industry, as well as her own engineering contributions.

Danny Murphy, assistant professor at Central Virginia Community College, received the Association for Advancing Automation's Educator of the Year award. He was honored for his innovative teaching methods and industry collaborations in mechatronics. Sponsored by Siemens, the award recognizes Murphy's dedication to real-world, hands-on education in robotics and automation, with prizes including cash and technology bundles valued at more than $250,000 each. Murphy and other top educators will be honored at Automate 2024 Educator Day, providing networking opportunities and hands-on demonstrations for automation education. And Automate is just around the corner, May 6-9 in Chicago.

Sandvik Coromant hosted an open house event called Girls Take Over Tech, aimed at inspiring young women to pursue careers in manufacturing. Held at Sandvik Coromant’s tech facility in North Carolina, the event provided more than 65 students with hands-on experiences, including live machining demonstrations and tours of the advanced manufacturing facility. Accomplished women from Sandvik, including Veronica Messersmith, president of the Americas, shared their insights and experiences in motivating and empowering young women and other students. They also highlighted the many diverse career opportunities available in industry.

The EnVisioneer of the Year competition, which Danfoss has hosted since 2010, celebrates North American original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), engineers, integrators and automation end users who achieve significant energy or environmental savings. Winners exemplify Danfoss values, focusing on engineering solutions, energy efficiency, environmental sustainability and collaborative partnerships.

In 2023, Danfoss expanded the competition to include winners in individual categories, recognizing ThermalWorks, Polar Engineering, Weis Markets, and Canal Marine and Industrial.

Applicants must demonstrate measurable energy savings and reduced carbon footprints, showcasing the use of Danfoss equipment in projects in North America over the past 18 months. Nominations for the 2024 EnVisioneer of the Year program are open until July 19. Interested companies can request a nomination form by emailing [email protected].

Machine builder and system integrator expansions

Precision grinding machine builder Anca has inaugurated its Technology Center in Korea, marking a significant expansion in the Asian market. The new facility also builds on more than 30 years of local sales and service experience at Anca Korea, located near Seoul and its long-standing partnership with SH International in Korea. The demonstration facility will serve as a hub for grinding excellence, innovation and collaboration.

Avid Solutions, a Gold Rockwell Automation System Integrator Partner, has expanded its team by 35 members to meet the rising demand for sustainable energy projects.

In close collaboration with Rockwell, Avid Solutions is focused in decarbonization and green hydrogen services and supports various sectors, including electrolyzer OEMs, hydrogen liquefaction licensors and compressor OEMs. Vice president of operations and technology at Avid Solutions Gordon Bordelon says the emergence of the hydrogen economy opens up exciting avenues in industrial manufacturing, power generation and mobility. The company’s goal is to produce 450 tons of green hydrogen daily by 2025 and 1,000 tons daily by 2030.

American Battery Factory. (ABF) is partnering with system integrator Lead Intelligent Equipment (LEAD) to equip its upcoming lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery cell production. The new gigafactory in Tucson, Arizona will have custom automation machinery, including the slurry system, cathode and anode laser chamber and turkey line equipment to perform everything from mixing and coating to stacking and packaging. The project had a groundbreaking in October 2023 with a targeted completion date in 2025.

Association highlights

CAN in Automation (CiA), re-elected its board of directors and appointed new companies as Technical and Business Committee members, including Bosch, Emotas, ESD, Kvaser, Microcontrol and Murata. The organization supports controller area network (CAN) ecosystem development and technology.

There are three data link layer versions internationally standardized: CAN CC (classic), CAN FD (flexible data-rate) and CAN XL (extended data-field length).

With more than 755 global members, the organization now encompasses many industry domains beyond its original automotive application. New ISO standards are advancing CAN technology and paving the way for applications such as CAN XL ,which can offer extended data field length for certain industries that need higher bit rates.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA) and the FBI issued a joint Secure by Design alert, addressing SQL injection vulnerabilities in software. This was following a recent high-profile exploit impacting numerous organizations. Despite long-standing awareness and available solutions, SQL injection vulnerabilities persist in software. The agencies are prompting a call for technology companies to review and mitigate these risks immediately, and senior executives are urged to prioritize code review and the implementation of mitigations to safeguard against future vulnerabilities.

Vendor and suppliers

Genuine Parts has appointed James F. Howe as president of Motion, its industrial business, leveraging his nearly three decades of experience within the company. Previously serving as EVP and Chief Commercial & Technology Officer, Howe's leadership in areas like ecommerce and strategic pricing has been instrumental. Genuine Parts said Howe's appointment underscores its commitment to driving excellence within its Industrial Parts Group, serving customers across multiple regions since 1928.

SpaceMIRA, a compact surgical robot, underwent remote testing aboard the International Space Station, with surgeons on Earth manipulating it from 250 miles below. Developed by Virtual Incision and the University of Nebraska, this space-focused iteration of the MIRA system aims to bring robotic-assisted surgery to space missions.

Built upon maxon motors, SpaceMIRA and its terrestrial counterpart, MIRA, feature internally mounted motors within their robotic arms. Along with an articulating camera, this allows for the precise movements necessary for surgical procedures. The arms are described as rigid, non-snake-like, which provide the strength and dexterity needed for complicated surgeries. The successful test on the ISS demonstrates the potential for remote surgeries in space, and robotic-assisted surgery has potential benefits for patients as well, including quicker recovery times and smaller scars.

Invertek Drives has celebrated a major milestone with the production of its 3 millionth variable-frequency drive (VFD). Industry is seeing more and more demand for these energy-saving solutions worldwide. The company is also currently undergoing a major expansion, including a 2,750-sq-m facility to boost production capacity to more than 1.5 million drives annually. Investment will also go into its VFD research and development program, including a new Innovation Center and headquarters. Invertek Drives CEO Adrian Ellam says tackling energy waste and emissions is a global priority.

Eaton hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for a clean-energy microgrid project at its Puerto Rico, manufacturing facility, which makes circuit breakers. Partnering with Enel North America for its deployment, this innovative project aims to significantly reduce carbon emissions, enhance energy resilience, and fortify community infrastructure. Enel North America financed the project under an energy-as-a-service model. Eaton provided key technologies for the microgrid system and installation expertise. Harold Jones, chief sustainability officer and executive vice president at Eaton said the company has ambitious goals to reduce carbon emissions for its own operations and its customers.

Partnerships, acquisitions and mergers

Universal Robots (UR) has solidified its collaboration with MathWorks by joining the MathWorks Connections Program. Through this program, UR will support engineers in developing advanced collaborative robot (cobot) applications. This move builds on their existing close relationship, which saw the co-development of a support package for the Robotics System Toolbox. This enables engineers to deploy MATLAB-based cobot applications on UR cobots. Additionally, UR and MathWorks are co-organizing the Autonomous Robot Manipulation (ARM) Challenge in 2024 to support their joint commitment to advancing robotics technology and education.

HMS Networks completed its acquisition of Red Lion Controls, forming a unified entity poised to collaborate on go-to-market strategies and product offerings. With 1,200 employees across 18 countries, the merger promises expanded market presence in North America and Europe. CEO Staffan Dahlström emphasized a seamless integration and pursuit of synergies to enhance customer value and accelerate growth in the North American market.

Mouser Electronics and Edge Impulse have formed a global partnership, merging machine learning with edge devices like low-power microcontroller units (MCUs) and Linux CPUs or central-processing units. This collaboration streamlines access to Edge Impulse's machine learning platform and tools through Mouser's hardware offerings.

This partnership builds upon previous collaborations between Mouser and Edge, initially with BrickML, a standalone system-on-module tool that allows engineers to develop and deploy machine learning at the edge.

Festo is set to integrate PLCnext Technology from Phoenix Contact into its upcoming intelligent pneumatic and electrical devices, with a launch expected by year-end. This move aims to unlock various opportunities for Festo by leveraging the openness and flexibility of PLCnext Technology's open architecture, facilitating device development and system integration.

The collaboration between Festo and Phoenix Contact capitalizes on their synergies, particularly in areas like cybersecurity, to address the evolving requirements stemming from the convergence of information technology (IT) and operations technology (OT) in industry. Both companies emphasize the importance of partnerships and open technology platforms in driving sustainable innovation for industrial automation.

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