Rather than dwelling on the economic downturn, 210,000 attendees came to the Hannover Fair last month to see new-product developments that can foster sustainability, improve energy efficiency, enhance reliability and performance, and lower the cost of industrial equipment.

Perhaps the biggest showstopper was the €100,000 Hermes Prize awarded to Voith Turbo Wind company (www.voithturbo.com) for its new concept in windturbine power generation, the WinDrive system. To feed the power grid through synchronous generators, variable wind speeds need to be converted to a constant output speed. That usually requires a failure-prone frequency converter, say company officials.

WinDrive is the first variable transmission for wind-turbine drivetrains without a frequency converter. It is based on a hydrodynamic converter combined with a superimposing planetary gear stage. The system converts fluctuating turbine-rotor inputs into a constant output speed for generators. Control response takes as little as 20 msec, letting synchronous generators directly feed power grids with electricity having the same characteristics as that from conventional power plants.

Frequency converters in wind turbines have an MTBF of less than two years, according to Voith Turbo. Eliminating converters and step-up transformers simplifies the drive, considerably reduces weight, and increases overall reliability by more than 30%.

Parker Hannifin’s Seal Group (www.parker.com) announced the HL Series, low-friction seals that reduce energy consumption in hydraulic cylinders. The novel HL design uses three progressive sealing lips. At low pressures, only one lip engages the cylinder rod to minimize breakaway friction. The small contact area also generates little friction and heat, permitting high-speed movements. Higher pressures force the other lips into contact with the rod for better sealing. But higher linear forces mean dynamic friction increases only slightly as the contact area enlarges.

Wittenstein alpha (www.wittenstein-us.com) introduced new mechanical-drive sizing software with an environmental twist. The company’s cymex 3 software lets users tailor drivetrain components to an application and then weigh material or power-saving alternatives. One option looks at the possibility of downsizing the complete drive, generating the same performance but with less material, weight, and cost. And a so-called “environmental button” determines energy consumption of the drive in the user’s machine. Costs over the entire service life of the drive can also be included in analyses. It can account for characteristics such as service and maintenance, as well as acquisition and disposal costs, to ensure a complete evaluation.

Engineers can cut electrical use in industrial equipment through efficient components and harvesting braking energy. Lenze’s (www.lenze.com) Drive Solution Designer software shows how to tailor drives from the standpoint of maximizing efficiency. DSD sizes drives based on user-specified process data and speed curves, and determines energy required by individual components and the overall system. The software also identifies potential areas of improvement, letting users lower energy consumption and operating costs. It also calculates the energy that can be exchanged via the dc bus or fed back into the supply system through an energy-recovery module. Overall, it lets users quickly recognize potential improvements regarding mechanical components, kinematic factors, and drives.

To counter a growing problem with counterfeiting and substandard knockoff seals, particularly in critical applications such as aerospace, Simrit (www.simritna.com) announced a new antifraud marking process for seals, diaphragms, and elastomeric components. The laser-marking process, called Secure Adaptive Freudenberg Encryption, clearly identifies products with information that includes part description, model, dimensions, material, date of manufacture, and serial number for traceability and to guard against counterfeiting. Products can be marked with a tiny, rectangular code for flat surfaces, or as distorted product markings for O-rings. The code can be read by a vision system with proprietary software even if 70% of the marking has been destroyed, say through wear. Conventional machine-read codes, such as data-matrix codes, cannot provide enough data to identify seal components, say Simrit officials.

B&R (www.br-automation.com) released an automatic codegeneration tool called Automation Studio Target for Simulink. The product works with B&R’s Automation Studio software, as well as Matlab products from The MathWorks. According to B&R officials, the package significantly speeds system design, development of simulation models, and testing. And with the push of one button, designers can convert design models to control code in a few seconds. With conventional programming, the same process can take weeks. Thus, it significantly reduces development costs. Another benefit is that it is based on time-tested Math- Works, so there is a low risk of coding errors. For OEMs, it improves control-structure quality, such as those for machine sequences and PID or adaptive controllers.

Read more about Hannover Fair 2009 via these links:





Links in robotic arms are typically special, often complicated designs that vary from one manufacturer to the next. igus (igus.com) now offers robot developers a simple, lightweight, maintenance and corrosion-free series of joints for humanoid robots and common light-assembly and handling applications. The simple plastic links permit two-degrees-of-freedom motion, but links can be combined to provide wide-ranging movements and flexibility. The inspiration, according to igus officials, was human muscles, bones, and tendons.

High-tensile, synthetic-fiber wires transmit forces as pure tensile loads. The wires have low thermal expansion, resist chemical attack, need no lubrication, and exhibit almost no wear. The modular units snap together and operate similar to ball joints. The soon-to-be-released modular kit includes molded links, arms in several lengths and styles, wire ropes, connections to drive and control units, and various end effectors such as grippers and vacuum cups.

With acceleration rates of 140 m/sec2, new linear-motor direct drives from Festo (www.festo.com) are built for high-speed, precision applications such as photovoltaics and electronics manufacturing, medical imaging, and assembling small parts. The company reports acceleration is 1.5 to four times that of other typical electric and pneumatic drives, and two to three times faster than electric axes with a spindle or belt drive.

ELGL-LAS linear-motor axes include an air bearing that permits highly dynamic positioning. The air bearing contains permanent magnets that create a strong attraction between carriage and base. Compressed air fed between the magnets and base creates an air cushion as a counterforce to the magnetic attraction. The carriage lifts and moves without dynamic friction. This makes the axis precise and torsionally rigid, but unaffected by dirt. Thus, it resists wear and is virtually maintenance-free. When the air bearing switches off, the magnets act as holding brakes.

TwinCAT Kinematic Transformation software from Beckhoff Automation (www.beckhoff.com) puts PLC, motion control, HMI, and robotic functions on a single industrial PC. This reportedly lets users synchronize control of robots (such as delta kinematic and Scara) with existing motion-control functions. This eliminates a CPU previously needed for robot control. And the company says direct interfaces means higher performance and accuracy, as complex communication between CPUs is no longer required. And it can reduce engineering costs because configuration, setup, and diagnostics are all in one system. TwinCAT supports various parallel and serial kinematics, such as those used for pick-and-place tasks. The software is based on TwinCAT NC I and G-Code (DIN 66025).