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May 2024 industry news: expansions, partnerships and Automate

May 28, 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 May.

Transcript

Again, we covered some important events in May, starting with Automate, which took place May 6 to 9 in Chicago and is hosted by the Association for Advancing Automation. It was a massive event this year, and they reported nearly 44,000 attendees, which was a huge increase (around 40%) from last year’s event in Detroit. We’ll highlight two important awards that are given away each year at Automate.

Awards

1. The Association for Advancing Automation (A3) announced the winners of the Automate Innovation Awards. AMD, ECM and GrayMatter Robotics were honored for their groundbreaking contributions to industrial automation. These awards recognize innovative products that have significantly improved efficiencies, reduced costs and enhanced safety in automation. The winners were celebrated at a ceremony during Automate 2024 in Chicago.

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) won in the hardware category its Embedded+ Architecture. This first of its kind combines the AMD x86 processor with integrated graphics and programmable hardware for artificial intelligence inferencing and sensor fusion applications.

ECM won in the software category for its PrintStator, an advanced electric motor computer-aided design platform for the design, optimization and manufacture of electric motors.

GrayMatter Robotics won in the systems category for Scan&Grind, a robotics system for grinding operations including automated programming of the robot based on scanned data, customizable process parameters and automatic target recognition.

2. Joe Gemma, chief revenue officer at Wauseon Machine, was honored with the prestigious Joseph F. Engelberger Robotics Award for 2024 for his leadership in the automation industry. Recognized by A3, Gemma's recognition in leadership underscores his profound impact on the automation sector throughout his career. His tenure includes pivotal roles as a board member of the Robotics Industries Association (RIA), currently part of A3, and as the president of the International Federation of Robotics (IFR).

At Wauseon Machine, Gemma has been a pivotal figure since joining in 2022, bringing with him a wealth of experience from his time working for both system integrators and robotics OEMs.

Control Design also attended the Control System Integrators Association event, hosted in Dallas, from April 15 to 19.

3. At the event, the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) announced its 2024 award winners for outstanding contributions to the system-integration industry. Honorees include Karen Griffin, PE, of Hargrove Controls + Automation, for the Charlie Bergman "Remember Me" Award, and DMC of Chicago as the Integrator Member of the Year. Other notable awards went to Exotek as Partner Member of the Year and Autoware for Social Responsibility, reflecting their significant achievements and commitment to the industry. The recipients were honored during the awards dinner at the CSIA Exchange.

Our editor in chief Mike Bacidore covered that event in person and if you’re looking for more information about what he learned; he has a great feature article from April that you can find on our website, celebrating 30 years of conferences for CSIA.

Expansions

1. Beckhoff Automation has opened a new 3,500-square-foot office in Austin, Texas, expanding its presence in the Southwest. In addition to collaborative workspace, the facility will host industry-specific seminars, customer meetings, training and events, supporting the growing local market in industries like medical devices and digital manufacturing. Situated strategically between the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and downtown Austin, this new office complements Beckhoff's existing locations in Houston and Dallas.

Sixto Moralez, regional manager—south at Beckhoff Automation called Austin, Texas a hotbed of innovation. Beckhoff has seen a five-year compound annual growth rate of about 15%, he said, largely due to the area’s focus on disruptive tech. Austin’s rising industries include everything from medical devices and lab automation to EV and battery production, with major activity in process automation and digital manufacturing.

2. Precision Micro has expanded its production facility with a $2 million investment, installing new machinery to meet the global demand for green energy technologies such as hydrogen production and storage, carbon capture, green energy buffering, and electric and hydrogen electric vehicles.

Karl Hollis, Precision Micro’s director of engineering said industry’s focus on carbon neutrality and net zero has increased the demand for complex etched components used in the production, storage, recovery and transfer of green energy. This includes components such as printed circuit heat exchangers, busbar battery interconnects, bipolar plates for fuel cells and electrolyzers used for hydrogen production.

The new etch room at the Precision Micro facility has six new etching and stripping machines and an automatic exposure unit, which can handle larger metal sheets. Automation introduced into the chemical regeneration processes will also increase overall machine effectiveness.

3. Menzel Elektromotoren has inaugurated its new headquarters near Berlin, celebrating the event on the 120th birthday of its founder, Kurt Menzel. The German manufacturer supplies industrial motors and tailor-made drive systems and needed more space for larger, heavier machines. The state-of-the-art facility is equipped for manufacturing large custom electric motors, along with paint shops and test fields to accommodate the largest motor configurations. In the coming years, the workforce at this site can be expanded from about 100 to 150 employees.

4. Millwood continues its expansion with a new 17,000-square-foot addition to its corporate headquarters in Vienna, Ohio. This development follows the opening of several new facilities across the U.S. Millwood provides pallets, unit load technology, custom-engineered material-handling solutions and erosion-control products, as well as services for tracking, retrieval, reuse, recycling and removal of packaging products across the continental United States with 1,800 employees in more than 30 locations.

Partnerships and collaborations

1. Universal Robots (UR) has integrated the Standard Robot Command Interface (SRCI) into its software, enabling seamless connectivity with Siemens PLCs. The SRCI is a new standard for robotics manufacturers that aims to create a single interface between PLCs and robots.

This integration standardizes data definitions and commands, facilitating easier and quicker setup of UR cobots in Siemens-based production lines. Daniel Friedman, global director of strategic partnerships at UR said, the company strives to make cobot integration easier and faster and more accessible to a wider range of industrial applications.

2. Servo motor manufacturer Yaskawa Electric has unveiled the Motoman Next, an industrial robot featuring advanced artificial intelligence capabilities powered by NVidia Jetson Orin and Wind River Linux. This robot is designed to handle challenging tasks in unstructured environments, driving automation into new application areas currently needing human-level perception and judgment capabilities. Motoman Next is designed to execute tasks based on its judgment of changes in the surrounding environment and the system’s status, including accounting for other robots and peripheral devices. Wind River Linux is used in the Motoman Next autonomous control unit, running on NVidia Jetson Orin.

The Nvidia Jetson platform for edge AI, and embedded and robotics applications, along with Wind River Linux, designed to develop, deploy and operate embedded solutions running on a purpose-built Linux operating system, together enable advanced-AI edge applications.

3. Advantech has partnered with Qualcomm Technologies to revolutionize the edge-computing landscape and propel innovation for industrial computing. The strategic collaboration aims to create an edge artificial intelligence ecosystem for AIoT applications, integrating AI, computing and connectivity. By leveraging Qualcomm’s technology, Advantech will develop versatile edge AI platforms.

Jeff Torrance, senior vice president and general manager of Industrial and Embedded IoT at Qualcomm Technologies said that the collaboration between Advantech and Qualcomm Technologies’ marks a significant milestone in the evolution of edge computing. Their combination of expertise in industrial computer and edge technology is posed to reshape the future of embedded systems with the seamless integration of AI-powered solutions at the edge.

4. Fastems and Zoller have joined forces to optimize tool management, reducing setup times and extending tool life for automated manufacturing processes. The partnership is designed to transfer tool information from Zoller’s presetting and measuring products to Fastems’ MMS manufacturing management software (MMS) for a fully automated tool-management operation.

Zoller's tool identification system is designed to allow tool data traditionally stored on RFID chips to be accessed via DataMatrix code when scanned by the company's barcode reader and then  accessed by Fastems MMS software. The automated system digital allows operators to prove out processes prior to running a job by using digital twins to simulate operations within the MMS software.

5. Distributor Mouser Electronics now offers products from Altera, Intel’s newly launched standalone field programmable gate array (FPGA) company. Chief Executive Officer Sandra Rivera and Chief Operating Officer Shannon Poulin unveiled their strategy to expand the company's portfolio, including the FPGA with artificial intelligence (AI) built into the fabric. Altera's FPGAs are designed to be flexible for changing market demands, such as seamlessly integrating critical AI inferencing capabilities and intercepting evolving standards like PCI Express, CXL, Ethernet and 6G wireless.

6. FieldComm Group and FDT Group have announced a strategic initiative to advance integration technology across various protocol topologies in both process and factory automation. This collaboration, pending a definitive agreement, will support existing technologies like Field Device Integration, Field Device Tool/Device Type Manager, Process Automation Device Information Model, HART and Foundation Fieldbus.

As part of the agreement, FieldComm Group will acquire all FDT technology and resources, and an independent strategic integration committee will be established to guide future developments. This move is set to foster alliances with various protocol organizations such as CC-Link Partner Association, EtherCAT Technology Group, FieldComm Group, ODVA, OPC Foundation, Modbus and Profibus/Profinet International.

This initiative promises to streamline the adoption of integration technologies by offering a protocol-agnostic approach, ensuring compatibility and interoperability across different systems and devices.

Acquisitions

1. Motion Industries has announced its acquisition of Allied Circuits, an electrical and automation firm located in Buffalo, New York. The company will join Motion’s business unit, Motion Automation Intelligence (Motion Ai), enhancing its capabilities in electrical and automation solutions. This strategic move expands Motion Ai’s production space and technical expertise, particularly in the western New York and Ontario markets. The acquisition supports Motion’s growth strategy, offering customers expanded access to advanced products and services in automation and electrical engineering.

2. Valin, a subsidiary of Graybar, has acquired Dynamic Solutions, a company that specializes in precision motion control and collaborative robotics. The acquisition will no doubt enhance Valin's motion-control and automation product portfolio. Dynamic Solutions’ experienced technical staff will join Valin to leverage their combined resources for greater innovation in the automation sector.

Vendor and supplier news

1. EtherCAT Technology Group (ETG) has issued its 4,000th vendor ID, a milestone furthering the interoperability and reliability of EtherCAT devices globally. ETG alone assigns EtherCAT vendor ID numbers and provides precise guidelines for their use. Each vendor is also individually verified and tested.

The allocation of an EtherCAT vendor ID is free of charge, as is ETG membership, to support the openness of the technology. ETG members can apply for the vendor ID via the ETG website.

2. Electronics and automation distributor Mouser Electronics is providing engineers with extensive resources to tackle the difficulties of working in harsh environments through its dedicated content hub. The hub offers technical guidance and products like advanced sensors and robust components to withstand extreme temperatures, vibration and other environmental factors. These resources aim to mitigate risks and ensure operational efficiency in extreme conditions.

3. Harnessing the power of a rotary torque transducer, The University College London’s HyperMile Racing Team has developed an innovative powertrain system using Sensor Technology’s TorqSense transducer for the Shell Eco-Marathon 2024. This advanced system maximizes energy efficiency by providing real-time torque measurements, allowing precise adjustments during races for fuel efficiency and endurance.

The Shell Eco-Marathon serves as a proving ground for innovations in energy efficiency, attracting top engineering talent from around the world.

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