ABB's Automation World Conference and Exhibition, held recently in Orlando, FL, gave more than 2,500 attendees a chance to check out the company's latest developments in control systems, drives, motors, robotics and more. Here are some highlights:
Sharp-eyed attendees got to see a North American preview of the company's new ACSM1 drives, which debuted at last year's Hannover Fair. These drives, which cover a power range from 1 to 60 HP, extend the capabilities of the company's line of machinery drives by adding position control to the speed and torque control offered by previous drives. "The M1 is intended for all those applications that need some position control but don't need a full-blown servo amplifier," says Cliff Cole, ABB's marketing director for low-voltage drives. The M1 drives will see a limited roll out in this country later in the year. Until then, you can check more details on the drive on this ABB site in Ireland.
Robotics were another hot topic at the conference. During a round table discussion with ABB executives, Kirk Goins, senior vice president of the robotics division, noted that North America has one of the lowest "robot densities" among industrialized nations. And he pointed out two emerging technologies that promise to drive more growth. One is robotic vision, or using machine vision to help position robots in 3D space. And the other is advanced force control, an ABB technology that gives robots the ability to sense and adjust the forces they exert. Think of these technologies as allowing robots to "see" and "feel," which in turn opens up assembly, machining and finishing applications that previously caused trouble for robots. Robotic vision, for example, lets very precise robots tolerate parts that are inconsistently located or have size variations--and do so without expensive fixtures. And force control got its start as a way to install various geared automotive components--the robot needs to feel when gears mesh. Lately, the biggest use for the technology has been in machining and finishing operations--including the polishing of magnesium laptop housings.
Finally, the show was a good place to get a look at ABB's growing portfolio of wireless technologies. The company brought new wireless adapters compatible with the HART-protocol for field instrument communications. It also showed a prototype line of wireless vibration sensors for rotary equipment. The company also showed off its WISA technology, which not only provide real-time communications wirelessly but also offers a wireless power supply via a 120 kHz magnetic field. Mark Woudenberg, business development manager for wireless I/O, notes that the technology has been around since 2003 as a commercial product, but it hadn't until recently found applications in the U.S. For the past five months, though, WISA enabled sensors have seen use used for die verification in a Ford Motor Company stamping plant, Woudenberg says. Other promising applications include end-of-arm sensors for industrial robots, which can be difficult to cable.
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