Features

FLIR machine vision cameras capture high-definition footage of NASA’s Perseverance Rover landing on Mars

On February 18th, NASA successfully landed the Perseverance Rover on Mars. This isn’t the first Mars mission, but it was the first time that the entry, descent, and landing of a spacecraft was filmed and broadcasted live for the public to watch and virtually participate in. Six FLIR machine vision cameras captured the event from multiple angles, documenting all stages of the thrilling touchdown. While only a few minutes long, the footage has already helped engineers evaluate how well their work performed in space, and inspired millions of viewers around the world.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL) of the rover may only be a few minutes long, but there’s a lot going on in those few minutes. Here’s a breakdown of what you’re seeing and from what angle.

After entering the Martian atmosphere, the parachute deploys about 7 miles (11 kilometers) from the surface. Just before this point, three up-looking cameras began recording, capturing footage of the supersonic deployment of the most massive parachute ever sent to space:

Five miles off the ground, the heat shield (used to protect the rover during entry into the Martian atmosphere) drops off and exposes the rover down-look camera, showing some of the rover’s intense ride to Mars’ Jezero Crater:

Then the rover drops away from the back shell (and parachute). From there its descent is managed by a rocket-powered descent stage called the “SkyCrane.” Here’s a view of the rover captured by a down-looking camera on the SkyCrane:

Then it’s touchdown! Here’s a view (from a camera on the rover) of the SkyCrane being swept away as the rover touches down on the surface of Mars to begin its mission:

The cameras that captured this footage are FLIR RGB machine vision cameras, and include five 1.3-megapixel cameras and one 3.1-megapixel USB camera. “Our cameras are designed for operation on Earth, and not built to operate in outer space,” said Sadiq Panjwani, VP of the Integrated Imaging Solutions (IIS) division at FLIR. “So we were quite thrilled that NASA put them to the test.”

NASA began contacting FLIR in 2015 to investigate suitable cameras for the EDL (Entry, Descent Landing) system. Engineers were looking for commercial off the shelf (COTS) hardware with an emphasis on low cost and ease of system integration.
This is the first time that FLIR machine vision cameras have been subjected to the extreme temperatures or high gravity forces experienced during the Mars landing. Everyone involved in engineering and manufacture of cameras at FLIR is thrilled about this testament to their durability and performance. And of course, ecstatic to say that their work has made it to Mars!

Four excuses not to take your enclosure cooling maintenance seriously

There is an adage that time is money, this is particularly true when it comes to production downtime. Hold ups in production could result in lost money- a lot of lost money!

Losses of up to £480,000 have been suggested that one of the UK’s largest automotive manufacturers could lose EACH HOUR; when they experience downtime on their paint plant. Your overheads may not be as substantial as the above example, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that the old adage you hear in every corner of business and production is true:

Regardless of your industry and the product you manufacture, production downtime is a crucial performance indicator to monitor because of the direct impact it can have on your bottom line. More downtime equals increased spares/maintenance costs, taken directly from your profit. This could have been invested to meet more pertinent business objectives, purchasing new machinery etc..
Do you ever hear (or even make) any of the following excuses as reason not to tackle climate control provision and maintenance in your production and automation facilities?

1) “I will just fix a problem when it occurs”

In the past, the approach of reactive maintenance was seen as acceptable for most businesses. However, times have changed. The key goals of any sized business are now becoming “increased throughput”, “Cost Efficiency”, “Continuous Improvement”. Potential roadblocks to output targets need to be nipped in the bud and nobody wants to be the one in the morning meeting explaining why yesterday’s targets weren’t met!

The implementation of a semi-regular maintenance schedule doesn’t have to be massively time-consuming. Even something as simple as a weekly visual check of cooling equipment filter mats or any system alarms can alert you in good time to call in the experts, who can then perform a more detailed review for you.

2) “We just open the enclosure door for a while”

This is treating the symptoms rather than the illness. If you are having to resort to a tactic such as using large fans to blow ambient air into an open enclosure you could be doing more harm than good. Not to mention that this is a massively dangerous solution from a health and safety standpoint.

An enclosure’s purpose is to create an environment in which electrical equipment is protected from ambient contaminants. Having the door open allows a constant stream of dirty air to be pulled into the enclosure. This will then gather in switchgear/connection points and can cause short circuits or block on-board fans which will result in damage to componentry, reduced life and possible critical component failure.

If this course of action is required it can point to the fact that the cooling equipment currently employed is not adequate for the installation, or it requires some level of maintenance to bring it back into working order.

A RiAssure FREE Cooling Review from Rittal is perfect in this instance as your local Climate Control expert will perform a short appraisal of your existing equipment, give you honest feedback as to whether the equipment is adequate, and also provide details/quotations for a service contract to suit your ongoing needs.

3) “My equipment is currently operating, and I haven’t serviced it in months/years”

The problem may be “out of sight, out of mind” for now but the longer your cooling equipment is left unchecked, the higher the risk.

For example, if a fan unit is in a dusty environment and the filter mat becomes clogged, this will reduce its effectiveness to cool the electrical equipment within due to a reduced level of air throughput.

This in turn can increase the enclosure internal temperature. As a rule of thumb, for every 10°C you increase your internal temperature, you halve the life of the equipment within and increase the likelihood of an unexpected failure.

4) “I don’t have the manpower/we have a company who does that work for us”

Many companies I visit tell me that they outsource their servicing to a third party, however I tend to question what checks they are performing, given that I have been called onto site because an enclosure is overheating!

On one occasion, I asked the customer to speak with his current service provider to understand what checks were being undertaken, because his cooling units were in quite a state of disrepair. It became clear after a short discussion that they serviced “Air Conditioning” in the offices and didn’t even look in the factory…

Obviously, this is not the case for all service providers out there, however climate control equipment becoming increasingly efficient, while new, sophisticated, cutting-edge technology is launched every year. The only guarantee of the highest level of checks and service will come from engineers who have been trained by the manufacturers about the technology and its detailed workings.

Rittal has been manufacturing industry-leading climate control equipment for 30 years and all of our service staff are highly trained on the whole portfolio to ensure they can remedy your issues.

Take the introductory example again and turn the spotlight onto your business. Everyone has budgets and savings targets to hit, so ask yourself, can you afford NOT to have correct maintenance in place?

For more information go to www.rittal.co.uk or www.friedhelm-loh-group.com

KROHNE celebrates its 100th anniversary

KROHNE is celebrating its 100th anniversary under the main message “THE SPIRIT OF CREATIVITY”.  The start of the digital fair “KROHNE Insights” on June 7 marks the anniversary kick-off.

At a press conference on April 28, 2021, Michael Rademacher-Dubbick, Chairman of the Advisory Board and spokesman for the owner family, and Dr Attila Michael Bilgic, CEO and Spokesman of the Executive Board of the KROHNE Group, explained the core values that have accompanied the company’s success story from its foundation in 1921 to today, and how it will remain true to them in the future.

With the main message “THE SPIRIT OF CREATIVITY”, the anniversary highlights the sides of the company that go beyond measuring technology: “KROHNE is a multi-layered combination of values. Our goal is to offer added value with our products, solutions and services. We can achieve this only by knowing or even anticipating the wishes of our customers from various industries and their applications,” explains Dr Attila Michael Bilgic. “Meeting them requires creative ideas that equally drive technical innovation and organisational development, and continue to help KROHNE to accomplish pioneering achievements.”

“The foundation for this is our family-oriented and appreciative corporate culture and KROHNE’s special connection to art” adds Michael Rademacher-Dubbick. “THE SPIRIT OF CREATIVITY” stands for an open approach to unconventional ideas and shows that 100 years of KROHNE have been all about creativity and the company’s innovative strength.

The anniversary kicks off with the start of “KROHNE Insights”: the digital fair offers an overview of trends and industry topics in the form of industry-specific exhibition rooms with video messages as well as live presentations. At the same time, visitors have the opportunity to learn more about the “spirit” of the company and the anniversary in a 100 year KROHNE showroom. “KROHNE Insights” will be accessible worldwide and in 12 languages from June 7 at insights.krohne.com (https://insights.krohne.com/ ).

Parallel to the opening of “KROHNE Insights,” KROHNE is also going live with the anniversary website krohne.com/100years (https://krohne.com/100years ) It bundles all information on the anniversary that will include many different activities to which KROHNE will to invite and involve customers, partners and employees alike.

Major order for HENSOLDT Optronics

Sensor solutions provider HENSOLDT has received an order from Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) worth nearly 75 million euros to equip the Royal Netherlands Army’s “Fennek” armoured reconnaissance vehicles with visual systems. The scope of the order includes 188 BAA II NL observation and reconnaissance systems as well as a number of spare parts.

The BAA II sight system deployed on the German Army’s JFST Fenneks in Afghanistan. Photo: HENSOLDT/Carl Schulze.

“Our optronic solutions combine sensors from different technologies to provide armoured vehicle crews with an excellent situational awareness,” said Andreas Hülle, CEO of HENSOLDT Optronics. “In the field, this capability is essential to fulfil the mission and ensure the protection of the crews.”

The BAA II NL is the logical further development of the BAA II JFST, which is already in use in the Joint Fire Support Team (JFST) of the German Armed Forces. The external dimensions have remained the same and the use and menu navigation have also been left unchanged in order to keep the training effort for the crew as low as possible.

The scope of the contract also includes adjustments to the YellowKite camera, which will be optimised to become a day-vision/near-infrared (NIR) camera with colour vision and will receive a near-infrared cut filter. In addition, HENSOLDT provides a digital outlet.

HENSOLDT will deliver the observation and reconnaissance systems to Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW), which will handle the integration of the BAA II NL and its command and control system into the Fennek reconnaissance vehicles. Deliveries to KMW will begin in autumn 2022 with the qualification systems. Series delivery will start in 2023 and is scheduled to be completed by 2027.

Ansible Motion awarded The Queen’s Award for Enterprise

Ansible Motion, the pioneering specialist in Driver-in-the-Loop (DIL) vehicle simulation technology, has been awarded The Queen’s Award for Enterprise. The Norwich-based company is one of 205 to receive the award on the grounds of remarkable success in international trade.

Now in its 55th year, The Queen’s Award recognises British businesses who excel at international trade, innovation, sustainable development or promoting opportunity through social mobility. It is the highest official UK award for business.

Ansible Motion has been granted The Queen’s Award after proving it had achieved outstanding growth in overseas earnings relative to its business size and sector, as well year-on-year growth in overseas sales in the last three years.

This award comes at the end of a successful six-month period for the Norwich-based company, which expanded its team in September 2020 due to the rise in demand for simulation technology during COVID across vehicle manufacturing and motorsport sectors.

Kia Cammaerts, founder and director of Ansible Motion said: “We’re so honoured to have been awarded The Queen’s Award for Enterprise. This success would not have been possible without our strong, skilled and ambitious team, who are always working to ensure we can develop the best possible simulation technology for the fast-evolving needs of a market that includes OEMS, Tier 1s and motorsport constructors.

It has been an incredibly difficult year for business, but we are proud of the way we have risen to, and proved resilient against, the challenges of a changing world. This award is recognition of that, and all the hard work in the years proceeding it. It serves to further our ambition to continue developing the world’s most advanced simulation technology for human-related aspects of vehicle dynamics and advanced assistive systems on the road to full autonomy.”

 

New ‘Augmented Reality’ deal to help steel industry protect vital skills and move towards net zero

The power of Augmented Reality (AR) is set to be used to optimise processes in the steel and metals industry and retain crucial skills that could be lost forever as an ageing workforce retires.

PTC, one of the world’s leading authorities on Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), has joined forces with the Materials Processing Institute, a research and innovation centre serving global steel and materials organisations, to explore the potential of AR at its Normanton Plant in Teesside.

The project will initially use Vuforia Studio technology to overlay live data – taken from the ThingWorx industrial platform – to various points of the facility, so that operators moving around will be able to make informed decisions on changes to casting and melting lines or troubleshoot issues before they happen.

It is anticipated that Augmented Reality will make it easier for staff to have the right information at exactly the right point they need it, whilst the use of HoloLens and RealWear glasses will mean the individual has both hands free to complete tasks.

This project will contribute to the sector’s longer-term desire to move towards a net zero steel works by 2050 and is part of the £22m PRISM steel and metals sector research and innovation programme being delivered by the Materials Processing Institute with funding provided through Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation.

“The successful implementation of digital technologies has the potential to save tens of £millions every year,” explained Chris Oswin, Group Manager of Digital Technologies at the Materials Processing Institute.

“We are taking responsibility for exploring IIoT platforms and AR and working out how we can get the most out of them in a live steel plant, learning from testing and trials to identify best use cases.”

He continued: “This means we absorb a lot of the time and remove the initial expenditure that could act as a barrier to entry for companies in our industry, hopefully encouraging digital adoption as we will have proved it works and how it can be applied to businesses.

“PRISM is guided by a team of industry leaders on our Industrial Advisory Board, including the Aluminium Federation, British Manufacturing Plant Constructors’ Association, British Steel, Celsa Steel, Liberty Steel, Outokumpu Stainless Steel, Sheffield Forgemasters, Swansea University, Tata Steel and the UK Metals Council.”

The Materials Processing Institute has a long-term relationship with PTC, with the latest project following on from the introduction of ThingWorx as part of the £10m programme to explore how digital technologies can be implemented in brownfield manufacturing sites.

In addition to optimising processes and introducing new efficiency improvements, Augmented Reality will also be used to capture some of the traditional skills in the sector that could be lost if the knowledge of older workers is not retained before they retire.

This will be achieved by using PTC’s Vuforia software, with Vuforia Expert Capture allowing operators and technicians to film their daily tasks in step-by-step instructions, in situ of when and where they do their work.

This will be uploaded to ‘the Cloud’, which can then be accessed by new starters or people switching roles, using HoloLens or RealWear to get a real hands-on experience, or other devices such as mobiles, tablets or on desktop computers.

Furthermore, for problem resolution and live ‘on the job’ support, there is Vuforia Chalk. Using mobile devices, digital eyewear or seated at a desk – experts can connect with on and off-site employees and customers and collaborate in real-time. It combines live video, audio and the ability for remote and local participants to annotate their live shared view and mark-up the real-world environment.

“If we don’t act soon, we stand to lose so much knowledge from the industry and AR gives us a cost effective and easy way to retain skills and experience in a virtual library for generations to come,” added Chris.

“Working closely with PTC’s experts, we can tailor how we capture information, footage and skills in what is a very demanding and intense environment. We believe we’ve got the initial framework to start the roll-out and will continue to adapt the processes as we understand more about how digital technologies can play a role.”

David Grammer, general manager for UKI for PTC, went on to add: “Covid-19 has definitely thrust the digital thread into the spotlight, but there is still a resistance to adoption due to a lack of awareness of how it will deliver a genuine business benefit.

“This project with the Materials Processing Institute gives an entire sector the opportunity to explore how AR can be applied and developed in a real live steel plant without the potential disruption and cost of trying it in their own facilities.

“Businesses will be involved in the roll-out and informing some of the test cases and our team will be on hand to support experts at the Institute to get the most out of our technology and software.

“The end goal is that we will have proven business cases on how steel and metals companies can optimise processes using Augmented Reality and live data, not to mention protecting vital skills for the steel workers of the future.”

PTC, which has bases in the UK and Ireland, provides a host of technology solutions to help industrial companies create value for themselves and the rest of the world.

This is achieved through a combination of Augmented Reality, Industrial IoT, Product Lifecycle Management and CAD solutions.

Silixa wins Queen’s Award for Enterprise

Silixa, a driving force in fibre-powered data solutions, has won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise: Innovation 2021 for the commercialisation of its ground-breaking Carina Sensing System. The system takes the high-density coverage of distributed sensors beyond that which can be achieved by point sensors, redefining the possibility for such systems across the energy, infrastructure, mining, and environmental sectors. This allows actionable insight for the refinement of existing processes and the development of new applications to improve sustainability, reduce costs, and enhance operational safety.

The Queens Award for Enterprise recognises innovation coupled with commercial success. In 2018-20, Silixa reported record compound annual growth of over 40% giving sales of £22.42m in 2020.

Glynn Williams, CEO, Silixa, said, “With the launch of the Carina Sensing System in 2019, we doubled down on our diversification strategy, entering underserved sectors that required accurate monitoring solutions. The remarkable growth resulting from this strategy reflects the benefits that the technology delivers in applications, particularly within the mining sector. The system can cost-effectively monitor the integrity of tailings storage facilities at a higher spatial resolution compared to conventional technologies, thus preventing the failure of dams which can cause immense social and economic damage.

The Carina Sensing System, Silixa’s precision engineered distributed fibre optic acoustic sensor (DAS) utilising the family of engineered Constellation fibres, provides sensitivity one hundred times greater than that of standard fibres. The higher sensitivity addresses rapidly emerging critical measurement challenges and paves the way for affordable continuous monitoring in Silixa’s markets.

Mahmoud Farhadiroushan, Founder and Executive Director Silixa added, “This is an exciting time for our company, and we are delighted to have received this internationally recognised prestigious award which is a reflection of a great Silixa team effort across all our international operating centres. The Carina Sensing System was developed with support from our investors Chevron Technology Ventures, Lime Rock Partners and Equinor Ventures and has been used by many of the major oil companies. Going forward, we believe that the system’s passive monitoring capabilities will create huge potential across a multitude of emerging sectors and applications”.

The Carina Sensing System is enabling the development of new digital solutions that were previously impossible, helping mine operators meet their environmental, social and governance goals.

How to make the most out of your machine vision system

Eighty per cent of all human learning occurs through vision. When you consider how much information we gain through sight, it’s unsurprising that industrial robots also need to see to be effective. In this article, Nigel Smith, managing director of industrial robot supplier TM Robotics, explains the best practices for robotic machine vision.

Invented in the 1950s and gaining popularity in the 1980s, robotic machine vision isn’t a new phenomenon. That said, advances in vision systems have made them a lucrative tool for manufacturers looking to streamline production and quality checking.

In its simplest form, a machine vision system consists of a camera or sensors, lighting, a processor, software to extract useful information, and the output device — usually a robotic arm.

Robots without a machine vision system — blind robots — can complete simple, repeatable actions, but cannot compete with  machine vision’s ability to allow robots to react to their surroundings intuitively. But, what makes a machine vision system most effective?

Lights, camera, action

Flipping through old photographs is a good example of why lighting is key when capturing images — you need to see what or who, you’re taking a picture of. Lighting is also fundamental for a machine vision system. Poor image capture results in a loss of information, and for a robot, this could result in an inability to conduct the process in question.

Another thing to consider is where to place the camera or sensor. The imaging device can either be positioned on the robot hand itself, known as the end-of-arm tooling (EOAT) configuration, or mounted above the robot. In this instance, the camera would be looking down at the workspace in fixed configuration.

Fixed configuration is usually the preferred method — the camera has a larger field of view and can take pictures while the robot is moving, reducing cycle time. What’s more, because the camera’s position is always the same, you don’t need to account for slight variance in the robot’s movements.

However, there are applications where EOAT configuration is most effective. This configuration is ideal for inspecting complex parts from all angles, or areas that are difficult to access. This does slow cycle time considerably, as the camera cannot capture images while the robot is in motion. An experienced automation consultant can provide advice for the most appropriate configuration.

2D, or not 2D?

The required location of the camera or sensors can also depend on what kind of machine vision is deployed — and choosing 2D or 3D vision can depend on your application.

2D vision works well in situations where colour or texture of the target object is important. This has traditionally been used for inspection tasks like barcode reading or presence detection. The limitations of 2D vision include the inability to perceive depth. Any task where shape or position are important, like bin picking, is better served by 3D machine vision.

In 3D vision, multiple cameras are used to create a 3D model of the target object.  Shibaura Machine’s TSVision3D system operates in this way and, as a result, doesn’t require complex CAD data to recognise objects.

Using two integrated, high-speed stereo cameras to capture continuous, real-time 3D images, the software can recognise any object that’s positioned in its field of vision. Using this technology, TSVision3D enables automated bin-picking, even for non-uniform products — think bananas or mangos, as an example.

When choosing a vision system, it is crucial for manufacturers to consider what kind of objects the robot will be interacting with. For bin picking systems and unusual shaped products, 3D vision will be essential.

Speak to the experts

Technology often mimics nature, and machine vision systems are no exception. Being able to see means robots can respond to changes in their workspace, target objects of different shapes and sizes, and makes them more flexible, productive and capable than their blind predecessors.

NI joins NYU Wireless Industrial Affiliates Program to advance 6G research and innovation

NI and NYU Wireless have announced that NI has joined the university research centre at NYU Tandon School of Engineering as an Industrial Affiliate member. Together, the organisations will work to solve industry-defined problems to help make the next generation of wireless research possible.

NI and NYU Wireless successfully collaborated on 5G technology in 2012. Now, they’re working together again, alongside Industrial Affiliate members, to conduct wireless research. One of the goals of 6G is to further expand total network capacity and as an Industrial Affiliate member, NI’s primary involvement will be focused on research into terahertz (THz) frequencies — exploring under-utilised spectrum, solving problems associated with it, and helping 6G communication come to fruition. Additionally, NI will gain instant access to extensive research results as well as faculty and graduate students who are pushing the boundaries of the spectrum frontier.

NYU Wireless’ Industrial Affiliates program provides an important avenue for industry-academia collaboration, enhancing the advancement of precompetitive research that builds the foundation of future wireless communication networks.

“Because of our successful collaboration with NYU Wireless in 5G we’re excited to work together once again to accelerate the next generation of wireless,” said Charles Schroeder, technology fellow at NI. “THz and sub-THz frequencies remain a critical technology for 6G, one that we’re eager to research and explore. And with that, we look forward to delivering prototyping and test solutions that will help enable our customers to innovate and turn 6G ideas into reality.”

NYU Wireless is one of the world’s leading research centres in the field of telecommunications, with a strong track record of important advances that are the bedrock of all global 5G wireless networks. NYU Wireless provides its Industrial Affiliate members with access to internationally recognised research, a high-quality pipeline of engineering talent, and members-only seminars and events.

“The support and feedback of our Industrial Affiliate members is crucial to helping us conduct next-generation wireless research,” said Thomas Marzetta, professor and director of NYU Wireless. “NI has been a trusted member in the past, and we are grateful for their renewed support.”

NI is committed to the advancement of the next generation of wireless standards and is actively engaged in research for topics such as joint communication sensing, artificial intelligence and machine learning, terahertz/sub-THz and extreme MIMO. NYU Wireless is one of several research collaborators NI is working with to drive the next generation of wireless technology forward and advance hardware and software for wireless testing. In doing so, NI continues its mission to Engineer Ambitiously, driving 6G research before 6G standards are officially defined.

Contactless and Non-Destructive Stress Analysis with Thermography

Would you like to know more about the advantages of thermography for thermo-elastic stress analysis? Join a free online event with Quantum Design UK & Ireland‘s partners at InfraTec.

At a glance, the webinar, taking place on 19 May 2021 from 2.00 pm to 3.00 pm, will cover:

  • Theoretical Background – Mechanical Force, Stress and Temperature • Methods for Analysis
  • Examples from Practice with Application Samples – Elastic Periodical Load Test and Fatigue Test
  • Short Overview about InfraTec Products for this Application

Register for the webinar now.

Speakers:

  • Sven-A. Wode, OhD | Manager Business Development International | InfraTec
  • Prof. Vincent Le Saux | Professor in Mechanics | ENSTA Bretagne / École Nationale Supérieure de Techniques Avancées Bretagne

Special topic from guest speaker, Vincent Le Saux

“Some illustrations of the contribution of quantitative infrared thermography in mechanical engineering: Application to Cyclic Loading”

Register for the webinar now.