Features

Renishaw encoders support motion control with Mitsubishi’s new MELSERVO-J5 servo amplifiers

Renishaw’s RESOLUTE encoders can support Mitsubishi’s MELSERVO-J5 servo amplifiers, so that machine designers can achieve higher machine speeds, better accuracy and lower maintenance costs. This latest development will help motion stage builders to achieve cutting-edge motion control performance with maximised uptime, throughput and safety.

A true absolute system, the RESOLUTE encoder is designed to provide position feedback for the motion control of linear and rotary axes. It consists of three elements: a precision graduated scale, an electro-optical readhead and a serial interface. RESOLUTE encoders are compatible with a wide range of communication protocols, including the Mitsubishi serial protocol.

The MELSERVO-J5 series servo amplifiers feature a 3.5 kHz frequency response, machine resonance suppression filters, rapid communication cycle time, compatibility with CC-Link IE TSN (including multi-network capability), and advanced AI-driven predictive maintenance.

A powerful synergy between Renishaw’s RESOLUTE encoders and Mitsubishi’s MELSERVO-J5 servo amplifiers delivers key performance benefits, like higher axis speeds. MELSERVO-J5 servo amplifiers have high servo bandwidths that enable following accuracies and fast axes with high accelerations and low settling times.

“The unique design of the RESOLUTE absolute encoder enables exceptional measurement resolution down to 1 nm at linear speeds of up to 100 m/s,” explained Tom Ellis, Product Manager at Renishaw. “It ensures the highest possible servo gain levels for maximum stage performance.

“RESOLUTE encoder systems also calculate position on demand and include built-in error checking algorithms that protect against uncontrolled movements and related crash risks,” Ellis continued. “It also eliminates scale miscounting, position drift and count runaway.”

The combined technology also enables diagnostics for preventative maintenance. Mitsubishi’s Maisart software can predict remaining part lifespan and enable preventative maintenance to be scheduled before part failure.

Renishaw’s Advanced Diagnostic Tool ADTa-100 can also assist with encoder installation and test key performance parameters of the RESOLUTE encoder system, like signal strength along the axis length. The ADTa-100 interface can be operated in both standalone mode and in conjunction with a PC, via a standard USB connector, running Renishaw’s ADT View software.

Renishaw RESOLUTE encoder systems have CE approval and are manufactured by Renishaw in-house using strict quality-controlled processes that are certified to ISO 9001:2015. They are backed by a global sales and support network.

DKE goes “beyond expectation” to invest in Plastic Logic display technology

Plastic Logic, a designer and manufacturer of flexible, glass-free electrophoretic displays (EPDs), has announced a significant investment in its business from DKE Displays, a China-based company specialising in the production of e-paper displays.

Photography courtesy of Plastic Logic.

The investment cements DKE’s ambition to move into the growing market for oTFT (organic Thin Film Transistor) displays, the high-resolution, lightweight and ultra-low-power products that Plastic Logic specialises in. These displays are more rugged than standard glass-based TFTs – being thinner and lighter makes them ideal for applications such as wearables.

DKE Displays currently provides customised EPD (Electrophoretic Paper Display) products for applications including ESLs (Electronic Shelf Labels), smart cards, smart clothing and smart homes (Internet of Things).

“There is great synergy with Plastic Logic’s oTFT-based flexible displays – we see them as the future and we really wanted to invest in this exciting technology, which we believe represents significant growth opportunities,” said Zhou Aijun, CEO, DKE Displays. “Our motto is ‘Beyond Expectation’ and we are one of the pioneers in the EPD market, with more than 10 years of experience in development and production. With trends such as e-mobility, IoT and AI, we see a real demand for the innovative flexible e-paper displays that Plastic Logic produces.”

“We are very excited about this external industry insider investment from DKE, which is further validation of the technology we have built over the last 10 years,” said Tim Burne, CEO, Plastic Logic. “DKE’s financial strength will take us one step closer to achieving our business growth objectives. We will be able to tap into DKE’s expertise and assembly facilities in China and explore the opportunities for our products in the Asian market. This is more than just an investment in us – it’s a partnership that will bring both companies long-term benefits.”

To meet the new business growth opportunities for e-paper displays, DKE has doubled its production capacity within a year, with a new facility in Zhejiang, in addition to its headquarters facility in Dalian, China. Plastic Logic’s products were originally made in Dresden, Germany, although production is today is carried out in industry-leading manufacturing facilities globally.

Both Plastic Logic and DKE have attracted investments from E Ink Holdings, the leading innovator of electronic ink technology, further validating the growth opportunities for e- applications such as wearables, which alone represent a market opportunity expected to reach over $150bn annually by 2026.

Chell Instruments welcomes 2021 after 2020 exceeds expectations

Despite an unpredictable 2020, gas measurement and control experts Chell Instruments still achieved their key goals for the year and are now planning for a successful 2021.

Nick Broadly, Chell Instruments

Though the global pandemic caused disruption, the manufacturer has continued to support a growing number of customers and provide precision instrumentation around the world.

“Coronavirus has made 2020 an unusual year! However, despite the challenges, most projects within key industries like F1, energy and even aerospace have continued unabated. I’m proud to say our team has shown exceptional resilience and gone the extra mile to support our clients with the products and expertise they need” says Chell Instrument’s Managing Director, Nick Broadley.

The world-renowned gas measurement and control experts have maintained momentum throughout the year, achieving the targets set for the business. In addition, they have launched a number of new products including an Environmental Flow Test Chamber and a mini pressure scanner with EtherCAT connectivity.

“Even with the challenges, demand looks set to continue to grow in many sectors in 2021. For example, despite the current restrictions on air travel, we’re really excited that our instrumentation is being used in a number of projects working on the electrification of aircraft propulsion” states Nick.

This month also sees Chell Instruments celebrate their first anniversary as part of the SDI Group of scientific and technology manufacturers. The group now owns more than ten companies which produce products for use in imaging, sensing and control applications.

“Being a part of SDI has given us a new thirst for growth and is helping us to invest in the future. We can pool ideas, experience and resources with our sister companies to ensure we continue developing innovative solutions for new and existing customers” Nick continues.

As Chell Instruments export products to countries around the world, they have welcomed the UK’s new trade deal with the EU. “We are pleased the Brexit deal has been agreed. As we sell to Asia and North America, as well as Europe, we have plenty of experience with the custom checks, processes and paperwork necessary. However, the deal means we can go on delivering UK technology to Europe with ease and without extra cost to the customer” concludes Nick.

Established over four decades ago, Chell Instruments produce pressure, vacuum and gas flow measurement and control solutions for use in industries including energy, pharmaceuticals, Formula 1 and aerospace.

The firm’s 2021 plans include continual development of their ultra-compact range of ‘Nano’ pressure measuring devices and a special project to deliver a self-contained mobile testing unit for a leading aircraft engine manufacturer.

To learn more about Chell Instruments visit www.chell.co.uk.

Knowledge platform for topics related to image processing with 2D, 3D and AI

“Knowledge increases when it is shared” – following this maxim, IDS is making its expertise as one of the leading manufacturers of digital industrial cameras free of charge and directly accessible on a new platform.

In addition to online events, useful tools such as calendars and live chats, the IDS Vision Channel also offers a media library with recordings of past events and additional, exclusive content. The online sessions address image processing topics around 2D, 3D and embedded vision as well as artificial intelligence. They are short, focused and build on each other depending on the topic. This makes them interesting for both beginners and experts. Afterwards, questions can be discussed in the group or with the speakers. This makes the IDS Vision Channel ideal for knowledge exchange and knowledge building.

The speakers are from a wide range of disciplines at IDS, from product management to development to management. In addition there will be guests – such as the IDS Solution Partners or start-ups – depending on the subject. The experts are available to answer questions during and after the online sessions. Each event will be offered at least twice so that people from every time zone can participate live. The channel language is English. An overview of all upcoming dates can be found in the IDS Vision Channel calendar, which allows the various events to be easily filtered, booked and managed.

“We bring our specialists to you – conveniently on the screen. Participants can choose suitable events from a wide range of topics and receive tips and tricks for their own applications,” summarises IDS Managing Director Jan Hartmann. As travel restrictions continue due to the pandemic, the IDS Vision Channel is intended to serve as a digital meeting place and to foster exchange within the international machine vision community. The launch event will take place on 28th of January. Interested parties are cordially invited to take a look at the opportunities and challenges of machine vision with the experts at IDS and to learn more about the future-oriented developments of the company. Registration is open and free of charge via www.ids-vision-channel.tech.

Titan Enterprises implements Post Brexit support package for EU customers

Titan Enterprises has implemented a package of measures to ensure price stability, competitive delivery times and provision of supporting paperwork to ensure trouble-free supply of its high-quality flow meter and flow measurement systems to European Union (EU) customers.

Following the UK vote to leave the European Union in 2015, on 24 December 2020 the negotiators from the EU and the UK reached an agreement on a new trading partnership. As of 1 January 2021, customs formalities, like those applied on the movement of goods between the EU and any other third country, will apply to all goods being imported by an EU Member State from the UK.

Kate Thomas, Office Manager for Titan Enterprises commented “As European sales represent an important market to us, we have been preparing for some time to ensure our EU customers can continue to order and receive products from our extensive flow meter range as easily as before BREXIT.”

To smooth the transition to the new trading arrangement Titan will do all the required paperwork, including Customs Invoices that include proof of origin and Titan’s EORI number for shipping to EU, which is already logged with couriers and noted on all invoices.

Kate Thomas confirmed “Beneficially our flow meters are not categorised as controlled goods and tariff charges are not changing. If a certificate of conformity is required, we can supply this on request too. All couriers we use have preferred border service which limits any delays at borders. We will work closely with our customers to resolve any issues that come to light and ensure a robust and straightforward distribution system is maintained. In addition, we are guaranteeing that our prices are fixed until at least April 2021″.

Drawing upon over 40-years of flowmeter innovation – Titan Enterprises Ltd is a manufacturer of high-performance solutions including the Atrato ultrasonic flowmeter, Oval Gear flowmeters, low flow Turbine flow meters and a flow instrument range. Titan’s company philosophy of “pushing the envelope by trying to do things a little different and better” has resulted in sales of over 500,000 products into 50 countries worldwide and a repeat purchase percentage of 95%. All flowmeters produced by Titan Enterprises are designed and manufactured to ISO9001 and calibrated to an uncertainty of ±0.25%.

NI and Konrad Technologies to accelerate autonomous vehicle test

NI and Konrad Technologies (KT) have entered into a strategic agreement to develop test systems and solutions for autonomous driving software and hardware validation. Together, the companies plan to deliver new technologies to help automotive Tier 1 suppliers and OEMs leverage real-world road data and simulation, to help improve vehicle and passenger safety and bring the promise of autonomous driving (AD) to the roads faster.

AD requires a complex mix of rapidly evolving technologies such as machine learning, LiDAR and imaging radar to come to life. It involves a challenging process that forces test systems to adapt in tandem to efficiently validate the complex embedded software required to operate autonomous vehicles (AVs) safely in real-world scenarios. By combining NI’s software-connected test solutions with KT’s expertise in system integration and solution delivery for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) test, the two companies expect to streamline validation to accelerate the shift to self-driving cars. While the plan is that the test solutions will scale across fleet management, data utilisation and sensor test, initial solutions will focus on high bandwidth data recording and hardware-in-the-loop test systems for testing ADAS and AD software algorithms.

“AVs are among the most complex systems being tested today, and no one company can tackle the challenge of getting these vehicles to market alone,” said Chad Chesney, general manager of NI’s Transportation business unit. “Our strategic agreement and a seat on the KT board will deepen our long-standing partnership with KT and give customers the system-level capabilities they need to quickly and efficiently test the complex embedded software found within today’s AVs —helping them ensure that test is not a bottleneck but a competitive advantage on the road to autonomy.”

“Connecting NI’s open instrumentation to our system integration expertise will allow us to build turnkey solutions that help customers shorten their time to market,” said Michael Konrad, CEO of Konrad Technologies. “This partnership with NI is expected to provide a consistent tool chain that will help customers rectify multiple challenges efficiently in all stages of the ADAS and AD system product cycle.”

Keeping tabs on vaccines is vital in battle against COVID-19

How do you monitor millions of doses of vaccines that are being rolled out across the world to ensure that they are in the required condition before being administered to patients in the battle against Covid-19?

Hanwell Solutions says its ShockWatch monitoring solutions are ideal for the storage temperature of Covid-19 vaccines, which must be maintained at the correct temperature during both transport and when they reach their destination.

Coronavirus jabs being produced by Oxford University/AstraZeneca, which requires temperature monitoring of between -2 to +8°C, Moderna and the Valneva candidate, which is undergoing clinical trials in Scotland, don’t require a super cold environment, but still need to be stored in medical freezers or fridges or else the vaccine is rendered ineffective.

Multi-award-winning Hanwell recommends the use of Shockwatch’s WarmMark monitoring system, a single-use, ascending time-temperature indicator which alerts users of exposure to unacceptable temperature conditions through a coloured window system on a single card tab. The UK’s leading manufacturer of wireless environmental monitoring equipment says WarmMark is a better option than data loggers because it’s a cost-effective solution that continues to look after vaccines over a sustained period of time, verifying at the point of use that temperatures have or haven’t been breached.

Data loggers have to be manually read or downloaded for analysis, but that is an after-the-fact discovery of temperature excursions. WarmMark allows quick and easy-to-view real-time monitoring and reporting of conditions gone astray, enabling quick response and correction – preventing loss of product and ultimately protecting patients from being administered a vaccine that has breached the integrity of the cold chain.

In addition to WarmMark, Hanwell also supplies its renowned IceSpy system for providing cost-effective solutions for wireless temperature monitoring within fridges and freezers, while its robust iSense product is an innovative self-contained unit enabling remote environmental monitoring of buildings, machinery, infrastructure or vehicles.

Derek Richardson, Hanwell’s International Sales Director, said the WarmMark solution is another safeguard for maintaining the effectiveness of vaccines during transport and when in cold storage facilities, needed during these critical times.

He explained: “Transport could be a weak link in terms of safety procedures due to inconsistent environmental conditions, but the WarmMark system will clearly show up red if vaccines – or indeed any other pharmaceutical products – have been compromised by a temperature breach. This could be a Godsend for the UK’s inoculation program which is likely to make use of completely new and untried non-medical facilities to store and administer the vaccines.

“Recent reports have shown that £5.8million worth of vaccines were wasted in 2019, mostly through breaching correct storage temperatures. Having WarmMark monitoring in place should encourage all those who are responsible for the safety of these precious jabs to do their utmost to safeguard them under proper conditions.”

For more information visit www.hanwell.com or https://www.shockwatchuk.com

Farnell expands test and measurement range through global agreement with NI

Farnell has been appointed as an NI Authorised Distributor, expanding its product portfolio to include NI software-connected test and measurement solutions for customers of all sizes.

NI is a leading manufacturer of automated test systems used in production and validation testing. The addition of NI’s suite of products to Farnell’s leading Test portfolio will enable engineers to test faster, more accurately and with greater efficiency, leaving more time to focus on tests that require manual input. Farnell is NI’s first distribution partner to offer direct sales and technical support globally and now offers the largest and most complete Test portfolio in the High Service Distribution market.

James McGregor, Global Head of Test & Tools, Farnell says: “We are delighted that NI has chosen Farnell as a global distribution partner and look forward to a long and successful relationship. Farnell’s global reach and long history of expertise in distributing test and measurement equipment, as well as our broad customer base and on-hand technical support staff ensure that our customers will be fully supported in all their test needs. This new agreement, with one of the world’s foremost Test product manufacturers, will equip our customers with the very best custom tools and systems. The addition of NI to our portfolio expands and improves an already leading test and measurement range. Farnell is committed to delivering the very best in test systems and equipment to our customers around the world, and access to NI’s suite of products will enable engineers to carry out their testing with safety, precision and efficiency.”

Engineers and enterprises continue to face the challenge of bringing high performing and efficient products to market within more compressed timelines. To keep pace, customers need faster, more efficient ways to obtain critical automated test and measurement equipment based on their unique technical, financial, service, and regional requirements. Together, NI and Farnell are providing engineers and enterprises with the flexibility, speed, and support they need to help them meet the demands of their business and customers.

“Connecting our customers to the right technologies and services helps them accelerate their pace of innovation and better serve their organisations and end customers,” said Jim Ramsey, vice president of the Global Partner program at NI. “Our relationship with Farnell will help us expand our reach into new markets and equip more engineers with the tools and technologies they need to take on their next big opportunity.”

Future thoughts about pharmaceutical manufacturing: Shifting from systems to a service-oriented architecture

When the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 as a pandemic in March 2020, the pharmaceutical sector burst into action. By May, there were over 1,000 clinical trials ongoing and by August, 167 vaccine projects were underway. By nature, the pharmaceutical industry is driven by development. Yet, pharmaceutical engineering has not always kept pace. Here, Giuseppe Menin, Industry Manager for Pharmaceuticals at COPA-DATA, along with his colleagues from the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE) 4.0 Plug & Produce working group, explains why digital integration in pharmaceutical manufacturing must evolve.

Despite its advances in medicine, pharmaceutical’s plant architecture has remained relatively unchanged in the last few decades. These sites typically operate with legacy equipment and often use traditional automation architectures.

This architecture uses separate levels of automation for different types of system. For instance, business applications like enterprise resource planning (ERP) and product lifecycle management (PLM) will operate in one silo, while MES or processing monitoring applications, like SCADA software, will remain in another.

However, as connectivity and integration become ubiquitous in other manufacturing environments, there is an opportunity for pharmaceutical to follow suit. So, why, in an industry so heavily associated with advancement, is there hesitation?

Traditional architectures

With its complex regulatory requirements and heavy reputational consequences should something go wrong, the pharmaceutical industry is certainly more risk-adverse than other sectors.

While traditional automation architecture may be tried-and-tested, it does not provide an optimal way to use data in modern facilities. Let’s say a plant operative wants to remove inefficiencies from the manufacturing process. To determine areas for improvement, the operative would need to extract subsets of data from different systems, such as the manufacturing execution system (MES), Laboratory Instruments Management System (LIMS), ERP and SCADA.

In this example, an operator would need to take multiple steps between laboratories, production and enterprise space to gather all of this information – that’s not to mention the difficulties they may face when attempting to collect data from unfamiliar systems.

In an ideal world this data would be integrated into a harmonized, easy-to-understand interface, providing the operative with a ready-made method to spot inefficiencies. There are already technologies that enable some integration for pharmaceutical manufacturers, but this software integration by dedicated interfaces tends to come at a high cost and doesn’t provide the full data harmonisation required to meet today’s needs.

In truth, the industry needs a complete shift from this architecture type and a move to a services-oriented structure where integration is the rule, not the exception.

Service-oriented structures

A service-oriented architecture will operate as a grid of modular micro services. As opposed to a collection of hard-wired systems, this architecture model will allow more flexibility and agility by giving users easy access to a wider pool of data.

Consider it like making a meal in a kitchen. While you may know exactly where to find your ingredients and equipment, the process of collecting these items from separate areas of the kitchen is far more longwinded than having access to a pre-laid buffet. That’s not to mention the painstaking task of cooking — or in this case, analysing the data — when you’ve retrieved your items.

By choosing a buffet of data, as enabled by the service-oriented approach, pharmaceutical manufacturers can reap considerable benefits. The model allows for more flexibility, by enabling the quick assembly and disassembly of systems in the architecture. It also enables better scalability than previous models by ensuring that the data can be reorganised and presented in a way that’s beneficial to whoever is looking at it.

Returning to our earlier example, an operator will no longer need to investigate what system each dataset resides on. Instead, the data can be distributed in various services and accessed from a single interface, regardless of where it is located.

Most importantly for the pharmaceutical industry though, this architecture model can also be achieved while maintaining necessary cybersecurity and Data Integrity compliance requirements by automating configuration and validation processes.

Time to switch pace

At the time of writing this article, more than 170 teams of researchers are in the process of developing a COVID-19 vaccine — twelve of which are already in phase three efficacy trials. As the pandemic has demonstrated, the pharmaceutical industry moves fast, and the technologies used in pharmaceutical manufacturing should be advancing too.

The ISPE Pharma 4.0 initiative is working to ensure this happens. The group is designing new architectures to accompany the pharmaceutical sector towards more flexible, interoperable and sustainable production. Pharmaceutical manufacturers must embrace a paradigm shift in how automation architectures are traditionally constructed to keep pace with the industry’s product development, moving away from a system-oriented world into a services-oriented architecture.

Level and pressure specialist VEGA invests in training centre and UK HQ

After a year-long build, VEGA Controls have opened their own purpose-built training and seminar centre and UK head office at ‘Metior House’, Maresfield, in the heart of Sussex.

Figure 1 New customer training centre and offices for VEGA UK in Sussex

The facility benefits from almost 10,000 square feet of training and meeting facilities for VEGA customers and stakeholders to use. These include: over 15 working, hands-on equipment and application models of level and pressure technologies, sited in their own networked demonstration area; state of the art Av amenities; full sets of operational training equipment and interconnected desks to help train people to the highest standards. It also boasts a spacious cafe/dining room, with access to an outdoor seating and breakout area adjacent to  woodland.

Managing Director Ray Tregale said “Along with our exciting new product portfolio, this is our vision and investment for the long term. Purchasing the land and carefully designing the building we need, was not just for now, but for decades to come.” He added “It’s a statement of intent and shows our commitment to support product users and engineers across all industries, as well as our staff of course, and to demonstrate our confidence in the future of UK business”

Figure 2 Just one of the flexible training rooms with state of the art AV and equipment available for customers to use

The location is around a 40 minute drive from Gatwick airport and 20 minutes from mainline railway stations connecting to London. Ample parking with EV charging is also available. The carbon-neutral building also houses offices and service workshops to provide staff with generous space to work in, to provide support and service for customers.

Ray concluded “When the situation allows, our doors will be open and we will look to encourage  visitors for in-person product education and application training, and even for them to use just as a meeting place.  It’s available to all our customers and stakeholders with an interest in the UK instrumentation and process automation sectors, as well as others beyond. We can’t wait to see you!”