Innovations from SPS/IPC/DRIVES 2011

31 January 2012

Suzanne Gill reports on some of the latest innovations that were introduced at the SPS/IPC/DRIVES 2011 event, which evidenced consumer technology moving into the industrial space and multi product combinations continuing to gain momentum.

Beckhoff introduced a range of touchscreen panels that bring multi-touch technology to the industrial sector
Beckhoff introduced a range of touchscreen panels that bring multi-touch technology to the industrial sector

Beckhoff can always be relied on to put on a good ‘show’ and the 2011 SPS/IPC/DRIVES event was no different. The huge stand was, as usual teaming with Beckhoff staff and visitors. The product that really caught my eye was a new range of touchscreen panels designed to bring multi-touch technology to the industrial sector, already popularised in the consumer market by the smart phone, allowing users to zoom, turn, scroll, and flick products. In order to ensure industrial compatibility, Projective Capacitive Touchscreen (PCT) technology has been employed to guarantee accurate and reliable operation, and the use of gloved fingers should not present any problems, I was told.

A panel was demonstrated, by encasing it in a water-drenched perspex box to show its ability to operate in harsh conditions. The top of the range CP3xxx panel, which is designed for mounting arm installation features, all-round IP65 protection which means it is dust tight and that water projected by a nozzle against the panel from any direction should have no harmful effect on it, making it suitable for use in food and beverage and other applications where regular wash-downs are necessary.

The elegant CP2xxx and CP3xxx series aluminium and stainless steel panels are available in a range of sizes and resolutions, including widescreen options. The multi-touch capability is not just a gimmick, I was told. It has been developed to allow designers to produce more innovative visualisation concepts which feature more intuitive end-user operation.

The other highlight for visitors to the Beckhoff stand was the launch of TwinCAT 3, the latest version of the company's PC-based control technology software. This features embedded Microsoft Visual Studio, for more efficient software engineering. Users of TwinCAT 3 should benefit from simplified engineering, as well as the new language options, which include the object-orientation of IEC 61131, C/C++ and Matlab/Simulink for real-time applications.

Sigmatek also seemed to have been exploring new ideas for its touch-screen panels, with the introduction of two new additions to its HMI range. The 8/4in RVT 0853 and the 15in TAE 153 units both now feature a capacitive dual-touch screen which enables functions to be implemented entirely via the touch screen, eliminating the need for additional hardware buttons. Again, the familiar gestures used with many smart phones – such as dragging objects or spreading two fingers for zooming, can be employed by the user.

Power and signal get connected
Molex demonstrated its CHT (Circular Hybrid Technology) connector which offers power and signal connection in a single unit. Andy Vogt, director of engineering for Molex connectivity, explained the reasons for the development of such a unit. “The Brad M12 CHT connector meets a variety of market requirements and trends. The first being miniaturisation. Instead of using two separate M12 connectors to handle the data and the power, we have combined both in one connector. As a result, less space is needed on the outside of the device and the PCBs need less space so can be packed more tighter together. This supports the trend to miniaturisation of terminal devices and also means that there is only a small area left to be sealed for environmental protection.

“Faster and easier assembly was another customer demand that the Brad M12 CHT connector can help with. Only one cable has to be installed on the machine. The same applies to plugging and fastening the connector.”

The connector combines Cat 5e data speed and power supply for high signal integrity. It is based on the Brad Micro-Change M12 threaded connector design, which comprises two shielded twisted pairs cat 5e data lines and either 2 or 4 contacts, capable of carrying up to 10A per contact. It is overmoulded to ensure complete IP67-rated sealing.

Focus on energy
Energy management was high on the list of priorities for many exhibitors at the event. HMS Industrial Networks, which specialises in communication technology for industrial applications, for example, showed a variety of energy management solutions for automation. The company believes that it will take industry some time to adopt the latest energy management standards and to fill this time gap it is offering a range of Anybus gateways which enable the integration of standard RS-232 or Modbus-RTU interfaces into modern fieldbus or industrial Ethernet communication systems. This allows for a transparent flow of information across the plant and gives the ability to switch off automation equipment in a synchronised way at production downtimes.

The company’s recent Netbiter product line, for man-to-machine remote management also helps users to gain an overview of energy consumption of a system from anywhere in the World.

Risk-free data sharing
SCADA company, Afcon, explained more about its VectorIT offering, which provides network protection between the SCADA system and the enterprise. The system consists of two optical modems connected through a single optical fibre with a single wavelength signal. The system acts as an active gateway, supporting a range of protocols and standards and integrated management software, allowing SCADA data to be shared with the enterprise, while physically disabling inbound data flow to the SCADA network.

Drives for the OEM
A new family of compact AC drives, optimised for the needs of the OEM, was launched by Vacon, in addition to power range extensions it is existing Vacon 10 family. The new Vacon 20 family is available in power ratings from 0.25 to 18.5 kW. An interesting Cold Plate version allows designers to create their own cooling solution. The drive features a flat aluminium surface, onto which the majority of its heat losses are concentrated. By attaching this surface to a cooling element, the drive is able to work even under the most demanding circumstances. Because the cooling is via a clear cooling interface, it is possible to use different cooling media depending on the situation. By attaching the drive to a heat sink with large cooling ribs, for example, a fully passively cooled drive can be created. It can also be mounted on a plate, which is cooled by liquid.

The Vacon 20 series also features built-in PLC functionality which conforms to the IEC61131-3 standard. In addition, the functionality can be extended via optional modules such as a wide variety of fieldbus cards, and tools for easy parameter copying from one unit to another.

Siemens Drives Technologies Division used the event to unveil a new name for its electric motor range – Simotics – with the purpose of better integrate its motor offerings. Ralf-Michael Franke, CEO of the Drive Technologies Division, explained: “Simotics motors play a significant role in integrated drive train applications and form part of our TIA portfolio, allowing customers from all industries to efficiently combine the Simotics family with our automation and service technologies.” The Simotics family will also include the company’s synchronous servomotors and DC motors

The company also introduced two frame sizes to its range of built-in torque motors in the lower output power range. These compact new sizes are said to be suited to use in confined spaces and are available with natural ventilation or water cooling.

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