One of the great things about Hannover Fair is that it is one of the few trade shows each year where company executives tend to make an appearance. This year, I had an opportunity to meet with Dr. Karl Tragl, president and CEO of Bosch Rexroth.
When asked what trends are driving product development design decisions at Bosch Rexroth, he noted four trends in particular.
- Customers have increasingly become global, but tend to work primarily with local suppliers;
- Equipment cost, lifecycle issues;
- Man-machine interaction (for operation and commissioning) and safety; and
- Customers’ need for more end-to-end systems solutions — rather than individual products — due to less available full-time resources and higher technology demands.
On the system solution issue, Dr. Tragl pointed in particular to the company’s focus on hybrid pneumatic-electric drive products to address the issue.
“Demand for hybrid systems is being driven mostly by energy consciousness,” said Tragl. For OEMs who primarily use fluid power, the incorporation of electric drives is all about energy on demand — otherwise fluid power systems tend to waste more energy staying pressurized when they’re not required for actuation. For electric drive systems, the higher pressure delivered with less energy by fluid power is the benefit gained from hybrid systems.
Hybrid systems are also very quiet, which reduces noise abatement issues for OEMs and in production facilities.
The video link below shows a hybrid electric-pneumatic robotic system developed using Bosch Rexroth’s Easy Handling system. The company is quick to point out that Easy Handling is not just a modular set of mechanical components, but is rather what it calls a comprehensive system solution combining drive and control technologies, standardized interfaces and a new commissioning assistant.
In terms of industry affects on automation product development, Dr. Tragl noted that the energy and food/beverage industries are the biggest drivers of recent innovation in automation technology.
“In the west, the automation demands from food and beverage companies are driven by a need for greater product customization, which requires more flexible systems changeovers and packaging handling capabilities,” said Dr. Tragl. “In developing areas the need is more for higher speed machines rather than changeover and flexibility issues.”
The biggest overall driver for Bosch recently has been the acceleration of systems development, particularly around machine safety and energy efficiency.
“OEMs are being forced to address the safety issue in Europe this year based on new regulations which makes OEMs responsible for machine safety rather than end users,” said Dr. Tragl.
When it comes to energy efficiency, Dr. Tragl says the technology acceleration pressure comes from several areas, which vary depending on the region. The main issues are: reduced energy resource availability, energy prices and government pressures.