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Encoders: Why they are used and how to make your selection

Encoders provide feedback for accurate motor control relating to speed and positioning. Chris Schaefer, applications engineer at Portescap, looks at the technologies involved and explains how to choose the encoder for your application.

Drug delivery systems require precise amounts of medication to be dispensed at a specified rate and the encoder confirms that the exact dose is delivered.

To ensure that an exacting volume of insulin is delivered with each pump of a medical infusion device, or that a robotic arm used in manufacturing assembly moves to a precise point at the right time, an electric motor has to be combined with an encoder. A rotary or shaft encoder is an electro-mechanical device which provides information on the position, count, speed and direction of a motor, and is connected to an application with a controlling device, such as a programable logic controller (PLC). The PLC uses the encoder’s information, commonly known as ‘feedback’, to ensure precise accuracy of motor control.

Encoder technologies

The two main types of encoder are known as incremental and absolute. Incremental encoders identify real-time feedback and track precise motion relating to changes in position and direction, rather than referencing a specific point. They achieve this by providing feedback on the relative movement between positions with continuous high and low feedback pulses. Absolute encoders show exact position however their increased complexity makes them more expensive and means that incremental encoders are more cost effective for most applications. Adding an incremental encoder interface, such as an Application-specific Integration Circuit (ASIC), can also add exact position reference capability.

An encoder’s sensor usually operates on an optical or magnetic principle. Optical encoders pass infrared light emitted from an LED through a metal code wheel, comprising clear and opaque segments, which create distinct light signals received by optoelectronic sensors. This technology means that optical encoders are able to create highly accurate, precise positioning. In addition to its high accuracy, the measurement of an optical encoder, such as Portescap’s E9, is unaffected by potential magnetic interference.

The E9 optical encoder from Portescap is able to create highly accurate, precise positioning and is unaffected by potential magnetic interference.

Meanwhile, a magnetic encoder comprises a magnetised disc with a number of poles surrounding the circumference. When the disc rotates, sensors detect the change in magnetic field, such as those measured by Hall effect devices, which monitor the change in voltage. Magnetic encoders, like the Portescap MR2, are ideal for use in demanding applications which could include the potential for impact or ingress. The MR2 magnetic encoder, for example, is insensitive to temperature and has low sensitivity to unwanted external fields.

How an encoder works

As the encoder rotates, it generates two square wave outputs, A and B, which are normally 90 degrees out of phase with one another. By measuring the phase shift of the A and B outputs, the encoder’s direction can be determined. To measure its distance of travel or speed, the encoder’s resolution must also be taken into account. Resolution is the number of points of measurement within one 360 degree revolution of the shaft, also known as the duty cycle or period. Generally, the greater the number of points, which are termed Lines per Revolution (LPR) or Pulses per Revolution (PPR), the greater the measuring accuracy. For example, Portescap’s M-Sense magnetic encoder has up to 1,024 lines per revolution in a compact design.

Each output, A and B, switches between high and low. The two bits of information thereby create four times the counts for each line or pulse and this is known as quadrature decoding. Thereby, quadrature decoding can increase resolution by up to four times, for example turning the Portescap MR2 encoder’s 512 lines into 2048 counts or angular steps. In addition to the two A and B output channels, a third channel, Z, is sometimes included which can be used to determine the reference position.

The M-sense is a magnetic encoder. This is a single-chip technology that provides three channels of feedback and has an integrated RS422 line driver.

Where encoders are used

Understanding how encoders provide feedback for motor control, we can see how their use is crucial across various applications. Taking our original example of insulin administration, a drug delivery system requires a precise amount of medication dispensed at a specified rate and the encoder is used to confirm that the exacting dose is delivered. This example also shows how the greater number of lines for increased encoder resolution can help ensure precision to the most exacting rate of flow.

A robotic gripper can be used for example in manufacturing to handle relatively delicate components. It’s key to ensure that the right amount pressure and speed is used to correctly handle the component to avoid damaging it. Thanks to an encoder, the robotic gripper’s function is optimised by the motion control of its motor’s speed and position, specific to each component it handles. Similarly, pick and place applications used in the assembly of electronic equipment require high speed motion control to quickly and repeatedly detect the size and weight of PCB components, placing them with precision. Encoders enable this high speed, high accuracy control to ensure productivity and quality of manufacture.

Smart parcel shipping without waste

LivingPackets uses Sensirion’s humidity and temperature sensors in its revolutionary and sustainable packaging solution. Through the use of innovations such as “THE BOX”, packaging waste will be greatly reduced in over 100 billion deliveries annually.

It is well known that human being’s high consumption and the associated plastic and waste production are a burden on the planet. More than eight million tons of plastic land in the oceans every year, among other things due to filling material from packaging. In addition, more than 700 million trees are felled to produce cardboard packaging for online trade. The company LivingPackets wants to address this problem and is taking the path to a more ecological future with a reusable and smart box.

“THE BOX” consists of extremely resistant material. It can be recycled without limit and can survive up to 1,000 transport trips before it has to be reprocessed. In addition, the packaging offers tracking possibilities and the transport can easily be tracked via an app. This functionality is especially useful for high-quality goods.

The climatic conditions of the goods are also reliably monitored. Two SHT3x humidity and temperature sensors from Sensirion are used for this purpose. Thanks to the sensors’ small size of only 2.5 × 2.5 × 0.9 mm3, the humidity and temperature sensors are easily integrated into the inside and outside boxes. The high-precision and reliable sensors ensure that optimum humidity and constant temperature can be guaranteed even when transporting sensitive and valuable goods.

“By integrating Sensirion’s SHT3x digital sensor, we are able to offer a service that was previously not possible with package deliveries. We can now monitor temperature and humidity throughout the entire delivery period and inform the sender and receiver about it,” says Fabian Kliem, Co-CEO of LivingPackets. “This is particularly interesting when shipping sensitive contents such as laboratory preparations. The next generation of THE BOX will also be equipped with the latest humidity and temperature sensor SHT4x from Sensirion.”

“We are convinced that sustainable and innovative companies like LivingPackets can improve the ecological balance with their products. For this reason, we are happy to support products like “THE BOX” with our innovative sensor solutions,” says Stephan Richter, Director Sales at Sensirion. “As innovation pioneers in the field of sensor technology, we want to solve existing problems in applications. LivingPackets also has this approach, which makes them an ideal partner.”

More information about Sensirion’s humidity and temperature sensors: www.sensirion.com/humidity

More information about LivingPackets: www.livingpackets.com

Raising the standard of iron measurement in water quality analysis

Maintaining water quality standards is essential to the effective operation of many processes, especially in the food and beverage sector. There are numerous parameters that need to be monitored and accuracy as well as repeatability are crucial for operators’ confidence. Bürkert’s compact, modular water quality analysis solution offers an automated process that delivers precision monitoring for a wide variety of applications.

Water is a vital resource, not only for basic living, but also in industrial settings, where it is used for manufacturing, power generation and throughout the food and beverage market. As such, the quality of the water can directly affect product quality, so regular sampling and testing is essential to ensure any remedial actions are taken promptly.

Water quality monitoring can take many forms, from the most basic manual sampling and testing to large-scale automated systems, but in every case, accuracy and repeatability are crucial. Improvements can be achieved by increasing the frequency of testing, calibrating sensors regularly and benchmarking results.

Modular simplicity

Bürkert’s Type 8905 Online Water Analysis System offers a modular format for analysing water quality, allowing operators to select exactly the parameters they need for each application. Capable of measuring turbidity, iron, chlorine, conductivity, oxidation reduction potential (ORP) and pH, using the same base unit, the 8905 offers simple operation and precision measurement.

A single 8905 unit can handle a multitude of different sample lines, which makes it ideal for monitoring a variety of processes, such as filtration, and identifying any anomalies. For simple operation, each sensor cube can be removed for maintenance without affecting the analysis process for the other parameters, minimising downtime.

Of particular interest is the MS06 iron sensor, which is compatible with any type 8905 system. It features three bottled fluids, reagent, calibrating and cleaning solutions. Beneath every bottle is a load cell, which measures the volume of liquid in each container and these values can be sent to the central control point in the same way as the water quality data.

Precision monitoring

Testing for iron content can present several challenges, especially when it is only present in small quantities. Manual tests can deliver variable results, especially when they are carried out by different staff. However, the MS06 iron sensor can complete a test every 30 minutes and provide accurate results down to 0.03 ppm by volume.

Furthermore, whereas some iron analysis equipment can require extensive maintenance interventions to keep it operational, the 8905 has almost no need for external support.

The Type 8905, equipped with the MS06 iron sensor, offers the opportunity to monitor water quality automatically in both open and closed loop applications and ensure chemical dosing and filtration processes are operating as required. The accuracy and repeatability of this monitoring solution can help to identify process failings, minimise operational costs and offer peace of mind for the quality of the wider production process.

Teledyne to acquire FLIR Systems

Teledyne is set to acquire FLIR in a cash and stock transaction valued at approximately $8.0 billion.

“At the core of both our companies is proprietary sensor technologies.  Our business models are also similar: we each provide sensors, cameras and sensor systems to our customers.  However, our technologies and products are uniquely complementary with minimal overlap, having imaging sensors based on different semiconductor technologies for different wavelengths,” said Robert Mehrabian, Executive Chairman of Teledyne.  “For two decades, Teledyne has demonstrated its ability to compound earnings and cash flow consistently and predictably.  Together with FLIR and an optimised capital structure, I am confident we shall continue delivering superior returns to our stockholders.”

“FLIR’s commitment to innovation spanning multiple sensing technologies has allowed our company to grow into the multi-billion-dollar company it is today,” said Earl Lewis, Chairman of FLIR.  “With our new partner’s platform of complementary technologies, we will be able to continue this trajectory, providing our employees, customers and stockholders even more exciting momentum for growth.  Our Board fully supports this transaction, which delivers immediate value and the opportunity to participate in the upside potential of the combined company.”

Jim Cannon, President and Chief Executive Officer of FLIR, said, “We could not be more excited to join forces with Teledyne through this value-creating transaction.  Together, we will offer a uniquely complementary end-to-end portfolio of sensory technologies for all key domains and applications across a well-balanced, global customer base.  We are pleased to be partnering with an organisation that shares our focus on continuous innovation and operational excellence, and we look forward to working closely with the Teledyne team as we bring our two companies together to capitalise on the important opportunities ahead.”

TÜV SÜD NEL to build UK’s first mobile facility for testing dispensed quantity at hydrogen refuelling stations

TÜV SÜD National Engineering Laboratory has secured Government funding to build the UK’s first mobile primary standard facility for testing hydrogen refuelling stations (HRS) to ensure they deliver the correct amount of fuel.

Funded by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), through the National Measurement System mechanism, the mobile facility will ensure accurate and consistent measurement of the dispensed quantity of fuel at HRS. This will assure drivers of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) that financial transactions are correct and ensure accurate fiscal measurements for future taxation purposes.

Dr Martin Hanton, Technical Director at TÜV SÜD National Engineering Laboratory, said: “The design of petrol and diesel refuelling stations is highly standardised and if hydrogen FCEVs are to become a viable transport choice, then establishing a standardised refuelling infrastructure is crucial. Ensuring the consumer gets what they pay for at the refuelling station necessitates accuracy at the nozzle, not the meter. We must therefore bring the calibration facility to the refuelling station and that is precisely what we will do with our new mobile primary standard,” concluded Hanton.

The international accuracy requirements for HRS fuel dispensers are mandated as ±2% for new installations. However, current ranges can be anywhere between ±1 – 10%. Furthermore, if a consumer disputes the dispensed volume, Trading Standards cannot investigate at present as the UK currently has no traceability chain that is linked to a physical primary standard for hydrogen, or the equipment and skills to test fuel dispensers. TÜV SÜD National Engineering Laboratory’s new mobile facility will provide this measurement traceability for the UK and the only practical, traceable capability to test hydrogen refuelling stations for dispensed quantity at the nozzle in the country.

Marc MacDonald, Head of Clean Fuels at TÜV SÜD National Engineering Laboratory, said: “From our involvement in EU projects such as MetroHyVe, it is clear that the dispensed quantity performance of HRS can be variable, in part due to inconsistency in design. We have seen that compliance with the prevailing regulation (OIML R-139) is possible, but not always achieved, especially if less than a full tank fill is delivered. We will use our new mobile facility to work with industry and test HRS for compliance with the regulations, which is essential to ensure public support for FCEVs use.”

TÜV SÜD National Engineering Laboratory has selected Edinburgh-based hydrogen technology specialist Logan Energy to construct the mobile test facility. Chosen for their proven track-record in delivering integrated hydrogen technologies, the company has successfully supported the development and deployment of zero emission technologies throughout the UK and Europe.

Bill Ireland, CEO of Logan Energy, said: “This is an exciting collaboration between two Scotland-based teams and is fantastic recognition of our expertise and experience in delivering hydrogen systems and refuelling stations. This project is all about accuracy in a process that has proved difficult to control. We will be setting industry standards to ensure accuracy when it comes to refuelling vehicles.”

Once completed, the new mobile primary standard facility will also be used to conduct a research campaign, which will be used to update industry guidance for the design, construction, modification and maintenance of HRS. This latest project supports TÜV SÜD National Engineering Laboratory’s ongoing work as part of the European Metrology Programme for Innovation and Research (EMPIR) Metrology for Hydrogen Vehicles programme, which is part of the world’s first large-scale research project to tackle hydrogen fuel measurement inaccuracy challenges.

Contrinex smart inductives ensure safe tool changes on compact machine-tool spindles

CNC machining centres use automatic tool-changing spindles to rapidly switch between different tools with characteristic suited to different materials, workpieces and cutting speeds.

To ensure that a new tool engages completely and to prevent damage to the tool, the workpiece or the spindle, designers specified Contrinex’s NEW SMART inductive sensors. Embedded within the body of the spindle, the sensor monitors the position of the tool during changes, so that any non-compliant measurements stop the process, triggering an alarm.

Application

Modern machine-tool spindles offer CNC machine designers huge flexibility, enabling individual machining centres to cope with ranges of materials, batch sizes, work-pieces, tools and cutting speeds that might previously have needed several different machines. Successive cuts often call for different tool characteristics, spindles with automatic tool-changing are key to optimising throughput.

A spring-loaded collet, actuated by a central drawbar that runs the length of the spindle, retains the tool in position. Once the tool to be changed is moved to its designated position in the machine’s tool-storage magazine, an actuator pushes the drawbar forward along its axis until the collet disengages, releasing the tool. The spindle then moves to the location of the new tool in the magazine and the process is reversed.

From time to time, the collet may fail to retract fully, preventing the new tool from engaging completely. Failing to detect and rectify the problem leads to expensive damage to the tool, the workpiece and possibly the spindle. Spindle manufacturers require a robust, fail-safe method of detecting incomplete tool engagement in what is already a tightly packed assembly.

Solution

Designers specified rugged inductive sensors from the Contrinex Smart Sensor portfolio; a single metal-cased sensor, embedded radially in the body of the spindle immediately adjacent to the rear of the drawbar, performs the required tasks. All Contrinex Smart Sensors feature IO-Link connectivity, providing a single, industry-standard interface to the machine control system.

The sensor operates as a high-precision distance-measurement device; its target is a longitudinally inclined face on the circumference of the drawbar. As the drawbar moves forward, the distance to the inclined faces changes in direct proportion to the distance moved. With a sensing distance of up to 6 mm and a dynamic resolution of ±5.5 micrometres, the sensor delivers a highly accurate 16-bit digital output, enabling the drawbar position to be determined in real-time.

At the time of initial calibration, the drawbar positions corresponding to the two extremes of travel are recorded in the sensor’s local data store. Thereafter, the sensor operates in two distinct modes: During tool changes, the drawbar position is monitored in real-time, ensuring that its motion follows the expected pattern; once the extreme of travel is reached in either direction, the sensor de-energises the actuator and initiates the next stage of the process. Any non-compliant measurements stop the process and trigger an alarm.

Contrinex inductive Smart Sensors are designed with the needs of OEMs and system integrators in mind and provide an unobtrusive fit-and-forget solution. On-board data storage holds cumulative operating data for user-specified purposes, including predictive maintenance. These highly versatile sensors meet designers’ needs for a reliable, cost-effective and compact solution that delivers ultimate peace of mind.

PLUS Automation aims to help you #MAKESENSEOFSENSORS, helping solve applications, improve machine performance and reliability, and reduce costs using Contrinex’s exceptional choice of sensors. Find more information and read other application examples go to www.PLUSAx.co.uk

£12.6M tech investment set to create 750 North West manufacturing jobs

Manufacturers supported by Made Smarter, the movement helping SMEs join the Industry 4.0 revolution, are forecasting the creation of more than 750 new jobs from £12.6M of technology investment.

Since launching two years ago, the North West technology adoption pilot has engaged with 1,131 businesses to help them introduce digital tools and technologies to help boost productivity and growth, and navigate the impact of Covid-19.

542 manufacturers have received intensive support including expert, impartial technology advice, digital transformation workshops to help manufacturers take their first steps to transform their business, a leadership programme, and funded digital technology internships.

126 businesses have secured £3.2M matched funding for 155 projects which are worth £12.6M after private sector investment.

These technology adoption projects are forecast to deliver an additional £118.9M in gross value added (GVA) for the North West economy over the next three years, create 761 new jobs, and upskill 1,585 existing roles.

Some manufacturers are developing projects using technologies which enable them to integrate systems, capture and analyse data, and even create simulations of their plants and processes. Others are using 3D-printing, automation, and robotics to solve business challenges and meet increased demand.

Over 80% of SMEs working with Made Smarter to adopt cutting-edge technologies have seen a boost in productivity, and more than 25% reduced their carbon emissions. Businesses will also benefit from increased revenue, profits and exports, and lower energy bills.

Among the latest wave of manufacturers to secure funding for technology projects are: Daedalian Glass, (Poulton-le-Fylde); Eluceda (Burnley); Energy Ace (Chorley); Fairbrother & Grimshaw Engineering (Blackburn); Tool Management Services (Accrington); Sandstone Wirral (Heswall); Generation Juice (Birkenhead); Brainboxes (Liverpool); Shand Higson and Co. (Knowsley); The Uniform Factory (Liverpool); Forest Sofa (Salford); Garton Ltd (Wigan); Norlin Compounding Services (Bolton); Northwest Crankshaft & Machine Ltd (Wigan); Pilot Group Infrastructure (Manchester); Crystal Doors (Rochdale); Rotite Technologies (Stretford); Visual Architects (Hyde); Effective CNC Solutions Ltd (Crewe); Garnett Farms Engineering (Knutsford); Technoprint (Winsford); and Wireco (Congleton).

Lefteris Angelidis, Managing Director of Visual Architects, a designer and manufacturer of event interiors based in Hyde, said: “Made Smarter has been rocket fuel for our company. With the programme’s support we have not only analysed where we are now but looked well into the future and mapped out a real solid direction.

“Made Smarter has also enabled us to invest into robotics, new machinery and a digital technology intern to assist us in advancing our company to the next level.

“Made smarter has been one of the most valuable assets a company could ask for.”

Matthew Harte, Managing Director of Eluceda, a detection technology business in Burnley, said: “With the support of Made Smarter, we have accelerated our development of a next generation solution to meet the demand for cheaper and simpler rapid testing and screening.

“Successful delivery of the project will have a significant transformational impact on the business, increasing revenues, accelerating growth, creating jobs and developing new markets.”

Meanwhile, several manufacturers who have experienced the benefits of Made Smarter support, are

taking the next step in their digitalisation journey including: Inscape Interiors (Chorley); Panaz (Burnley); Pendle Doors (Blackburn); The Protein Lab (Blackpool); Nutree Life (Preston); Openhouse Products (Birkenhead); Organica (UK) Ltd; (Wallasey); Beverston Engineering (Knowsley); Parity Medical (Birkenhead); Astropol (Wigan); Fabricon Design (Ashton-under-Lyne); Manchester Manufacturing Group (Denton); The Bury Black Pudding Co (Bury); Contactless Check Solutions (Maryport); and Storth (Holme).

Chris Wright, Managing Director of Astropol, a colour masterbatch and additive specialist based in Wigan, said: “With the support and advice of Made Smarter we have been able to invest in data and systems integration projects which will connect our entire business, helping us achieve complete digitalisation.

“This will transform our business, giving us complete visualisation, transparency and access to real time data, which we can use to improve productivity, find efficiencies, achieve manufacturing excellence, and drive sales in home and export markets.”

Richard Morris, Production Director for the Bury Black Pudding Company, a food manufacturer, said: “We have identified a pathway to achieving that ambition which starts with data and systems integration, then analytics, and automation. Working with the team at Made Smarter has accelerated our plan by years.”

Juergen Maier CBE, Chair of Made Smarter, said: “I am delighted to see the positive impact that Made Smarter’s adoption pilot is having on individuals, businesses, the environment, and the UK economy.

“In the tumultuous times we face, it can be tempting to simply cut costs rather than invest. Yet, in the long term, this approach runs the risk of businesses getting left behind. For the UK manufacturing sector to thrive and become a world leader, we need to find ways to encourage innovation and the adoption of digital technologies.”

As well as technology, Made Smarter has supported manufacturers to develop digital strategies and new skills.

91 manufacturers are targeting growth through innovation using Made Smarter’s digital transformation workshop process, a rapid and bespoke process designed to accelerate manufacturing growth by identifying digital tools and technologies that can maximise operational processes and enhance business growth.

64 of the region’s business leaders are now equipped with the vision and the skills to pursue smarter manufacturing through the Made Smarter Leadership programme, in partnership with Lancaster University and now also delivered by the University of Liverpool and Manchester Metropolitan University.

31 manufacturers have benefited from Made Smarter’s digital technology internships which offer students and graduates paid placements to work on live technology projects. Some have even secured jobs following their placement.

Donna Edwards, North West Pilot Programme Director at Made Smarter, said: “Over the last two years the pilot has proven the value technology can bring to the manufacturing sector.

“We have helped hundreds of North West makers start their digital journey by providing them with specialist advice to help them select the right approach, level of investment and tools for their business.

“We have seen huge success with Made Smarter-supported businesses reporting growth, productivity and efficiency gains, job creation and high-value jobs. We’re also playing a crucial role in helping the UK reach its ambitious aim of net-zero greenhouse gases by 2050.

“Reaching 155 funded projects which will support 126 businesses create over 750 new jobs and the upskill almost 1,600 existing roles is a tremendous achievement.

“We are determined to continue reaching out to the region’s SME manufacturers to connect them to the tools that will make an everyday difference to their businesses. I would encourage manufacturers to contact Made Smarter to ensure they don’t miss out.”

Inspekto provides quick solution for new QA need

A manufacturer based in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, recently installed the only Autonomous Machine Vision system on the market, the INSPEKTO S70, for the quality inspection of FFP2 face masks. The results are positive — the system ensures that masks are made to specifications and that the manufacturing line is not damaged in the process.

To help in the fight against COVID-19, Inspekto, the German-Israeli pioneer of Autonomous Machine Vision, has made its signature product available to Univent Medical GmbH, a face mask manufacturer based in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, who recently established a new production line to respond to the pressing market demand for emergency supplies.

The INSPEKTO S70 is the first self-contained, out-of-the-box vision inspection system for industrial quality assurance. Unlike traditional machine vision solutions, which are custom-built and require a complex, long and time-consuming integration process, the INSPEKTO S70 is a fully configured device which comes ready to use, only requiring final integration on the production line.

This makes the product ideal for manufacturers who need reliable quality assurance fast, eliminating the need to wait for the lead times of traditional machine vision projects, which require several weeks or even months to be developed and integrated.

The INSPEKTO S70 has recently been installed for the quality inspection of FFP2 face masks. In particular, the system is expected to detect defects in the masks’ ultrasonic soldering, metal nose holder, company and CE-logo, and straps soldering. Inspection of the metal nose holder is of critical importance, as defective metal strips could permanently damage the cutting machine on the production line.

The last few weeks showed that the results of the installation are very positive, as the system was able to perform accurate and reliable quality assurance, flagging up masks that presented defects in the designated areas, as well as metal strips that could damage equipment.

“Manual inspection carries a very high error rate, and we can’t allow that to happen when producing critical emergency supplies, such as face masks,” stated Jürgen Eichinger, operations manager at Univent Medical GmbH. “Quality is at the core of all our operations, which is why we needed a flexible machine vision solution that would be quick to set up and easy to operate. We found the ideal partner in Inspekto.”

“We are very proud to be part of the effort to meet the huge demand for high quality masks in these turbulent times. One of Inspekto’s goals is to allow all manufacturers, small or large, to deploy top notch automated quality assurance,” declared Ofer Nir, CEO of the company. “We realised early on that manufacturers need a flexible and cost-effective option to inspect their products, and that this need would become critical at some point. Now the moment has come and we are ready to help.”

Vanessa Pfau, Manager for Germany at Inspekto, remarked that the flexibility of Inspekto’s systems will be essential to support manufacturers in the post-pandemic scene.

“The INSPEKTO S70 is not product-specific. It autonomously learns the characteristics of any new product in about an hour, from just 20 good samples, then flags up any abnormalities during inspection. This means that it can be used to inspect a huge variety of different items,” she explained.

“The face mask production line didn’t even exist until a couple of months ago,” she continued. “It has been developed through funds from the German Government to help manufacturers adapt their production lines to produce emergency supplies. The INSPEKTO S70 quickly learned the characteristics of FFP2 masks, but if the plant managers decide to switch production again in the future, they can use the exact same system to inspect a completely different product.”

The INSPEKTO S70 could soon reach the plants of other medical equipment manufacturer to support them during the pandemic and beyond. To learn more about Autonomous Machine Vision, www.inspekto.com.

Ansible Motion picks up two awards in recognition of manufacturing and growth in 2020

Acknowledging its manufacturing excellence and growth, Norfolk-based Ansible Motion, a trusted specialist in Driver-in-the-Loop (DIL) vehicle simulation technology, has been awarded with two Broadland & South Norfolk Business Awards for Advanced Manufacturing and International Business Growth in 2020.

Based in Norfolk’s Hethel Innovation Centre for over ten years, Ansible Motion creates Driver-in-the-Loop (DIL) simulators aimed to increase efficiencies, safety and realise OEM and Tier One vehicle objectives. Ansible Motion does this by delivering reliable testing for a range of vehicle engineers by placing them in a virtual world. Its DIL simulators are used to test a range of vehicles, from road cars to racing cars, special and low-volume ground transportation, and has the main aim of being an engineering assistance tool, delivering class-leading dynamics, immersion and motion, created by Ansible Motion’s team of leading mechatronic engineers in Norfolk.

Ansible Motion has three series within its range, the Delta series, which offers full-size dynamic DIL for objective and subjective vehicle evaluations, the Sigma series that offers full-size static DIL for virtual test driving and Human Machine Interface (HMI) experiments and finally the Theta series, which provides engineers with compact static DIL simulators for real-time vehicle physics modelling.

Picking up two awards at the virtual South Norfolk Business Awards ceremony yesterday, Gavin Farmer, commercial manager, Ansible Motion said, “We are very grateful to South Norfolk Council for having the tenacity to run these awards despite the challenges posed by 2020. This region provides everything we have needed as a young and hungry business supplying some of the biggest names in both the motorsport and the automotive industries. To secure two awards in a single year is particularly a proud moment in our 11-year history.”

Delivering DIL simulation that creates interactive and informative connections between people and sophisticated simulations to a range of advanced automotive-focused engineering teams around the world, Ansible Motion was awarded with the Excellence in Advanced Manufacturing award due to its focus and investment into the future of the transportation sector as well as the management team’s awareness of its competitors’ offering and constantly striving to better or equal it in terms of consistently innovative virtual testing systems.

Commenting on the Excellence in Advanced Manufacturing award, Gavin Farmer said, “We are delighted to be recognised for the 2020 Excellence in Advanced Manufacturing Award. Ansible Motion chose Norfolk as the preferred place to produce its advanced driving simulators simply because the manufacturing, engineering and contract manufacturing infrastructure and expertise was all available within a 30-mile range of Hethel. It provides the best location for us to create the high-fidelity products that our customers need to develop and validate new vehicles.”

The second Broadland & South Norfolk Business Awards win for Ansible Motion was for International Business Growth. Focusing on its talent and client offering, the judges were impressed with Ansible Motion’s investment in growing its workforce in line with its solid increase in sales, as well as its focus on innovative product design to provide Ansible Motion with further growth over the next five years.

Gavin Farmer concluded and said, “Ansible Motion is very proud to have secured the International Business Growth award. Customers from Japan, USA, Australia and mainland Europe have chosen our high-fidelity simulators in this period and we are very proud that we continue to be recognised in the global automotive market as a world leader in simulation. With new products, rising demand and a growing reputation, we look forward to further growth.”

2020 has been a successful year for Ansible Motion as it secures sales with BMW Group, Michelin, Japanese OEMs, continues to work with General Motors, Ford, as well as hiring six new engineering and design talents to the growing Norfolk-based team.

New Horizons for research through adventurous projects

More than 100 transformative projects have been funded through a ground-breaking new programme designed to support adventurous, high-risk research.

Projects funded through the New Horizons programme include:

  • mathematical models to determine the best way to save the Amazon rainforest
  • the tools that tiny robots need to detect bowel lesions that could be signs of cancer
  • and systems of electromagnetic mirrors to protect electronic devices such as smartphones from threats.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), has allocated almost £25.5 million of funding to 126 adventurous projects in the mathematical and physical sciences through this pilot programme.

Adventurous, high-risk research

New Horizons forms part of UKRI’s wider Reforming our Business agenda to simplify and streamline processes and practice across the organisation.

Applicants applied for New Horizons through a streamlined application process and a review process focused on the transformational potential of the research.

Projects funded through New Horizons are as follows:

  • Dr Jan Sieber and Dr Bert Wuyts at the University of Exeter will use advanced mathematical models to develop new strategies for reforestation and preventing the Amazonian rainforest from collapse.
  • Dr Gabriele Gradoni at the University of Nottingham intends to design a system of electromagnetic mirrors that can be used to protect electronic devices such as smartphones or computers from threats such as attack by electromagnetic pulse or data theft
  • Dr Georgina Klemencic at Cardiff University aims to develop super-thin superconducting diamond structures, tens of times narrower than a human hair, with properties that will be crucial to the development of new quantum technologies.
  • Professor Catherine Powell at The University of Manchester intends to develop new algorithms for forward uncertainty quantification, which allows us to understand how uncertain inputs in mathematical models affects predictions of outcomes of interest. This could have a transformative effect on a wide range of engineering applications involving physics-based models.
  • Dr Yuval Elani at Imperial College London aims to create a molecular assembly line to create compartmentalised soft-matter nanoparticles. This could help to create particles that can be programmed to respond to certain stimuli, and lead to more effective drugs and vaccines.
  • Dr Yang Liu at the University of Exeter intends to develop the mathematical tools required to allow micro-robots to detect hard-to-visualise bowel lesions within the human body, that could identify conditions such as cancer.

Simplified and streamlined process

Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: “It is critical we give the UK’s best researchers the resources to drive forward their revolutionary ideas so they can focus on identifying solutions to some of the world’s greatest challenges, such as climate change.

“This government funding will allow some of our brightest mathematicians and physicists to channel all their creative ingenuity into achieving potentially life-changing scientific breakthroughs – from mathematics informing how we save our rainforests to robotics that will help track cancer faster.”

Applications were invited up to a value of £200,000, for a duration of two years, without costing required in the application.

The proposal paperwork submission consisted of an anonymous four-page case for support, with a further two pages outlining the team’s ability to deliver, with the successful projects providing detailed costings after a decision was made.

Promoting excellence

EPSRC’s 2019 Delivery Plan highlighted the desire to continue promoting excellence in research by investing in new approaches to delivery that are optimised to the specific researcher base and research outputs desired.

EPSRC Executive Chair, Professor Dame Lynn Gladden, said: “New Horizons reflects EPSRC’s commitment to funding creative, transformative and ambitious new ideas across our portfolio. In this pilot, we have funded more than 100 projects in the mathematical and physical sciences.

“The scheme also piloted a new, simplified applications process designed to minimise the administrative burden of submitting grant applications, thereby enabling researchers to focus on developing their research ideas.

“The call for proposals attracted a very positive response in terms of both the number and quality of applications and we look forward to exploring how to include the approaches taken through New Horizons in further areas of our portfolio.”

EPSRC will now evaluate the pilot and the outcomes of New Horizons in line with the wider UKRI Reforming our Business programme and consider how the approaches taken through New Horizons can be included in future activities.