At Pack Expo West in Las Vegas next month, WAGO plans to unveil its latest product offering—a FireWire fieldbus coupler that Senior Support Engineer Mike Metzer says will help automation engineers achieve speed (in the way of high data transmission rates) without sacrificing distance in their designs. "We think this coupler has the potential to make a serious impact on system design because it doesn't force engineers to make the classic trade-off," says Metzer, who will be supporting the product here in the U.S. "Economics could be another selling point." He says that a scanner card for Profibus could run as much as $1,500 to $2,000, compared to a "couple hundred bucks" for FireWire. A fieldbus system developed as a fast communications network for PC and consumer apps, FireWire is beginning to grab a foothold in the industrial automation area. Ormec, for example, joined Aerotech with its recent announcement of a new motion controller with FireWire capabilities—presumably engineers there will be delighted with WAGO's impending announcement. National Instruments has also been dabbling in the technology for its test and instrumentation products. Metzer acknowledges, though, that FireWire is still in its infancy, and it likely will take time for it to gain any significant traction. Though he expects the time frame for the first FireWire applications for WAGO's fieldbus to be as short as six months, he says what FireWire will really need to take off is greater support on the vendor side. For more info on FireWire initiatives, go to www.1394automation.org/.
Siemens and Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology have achieved a faster production process based on selective laser melting for speeding up the prototyping of big, complex metal parts in gas turbine engines.
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