Attendance at Hannover Fair (www.hannovermesse.de), the "world's largest industrial trade fair," declined for a second year in a row to nearly 200,000—20% off its peak in 2000—and fair organizers spoke of the "cautious optimism" of the 6,238 exhibitors (down from nearly 7,000 in 2000). To add to their woes, German industry continues to pressure for change in the exhibition: Robots and machine vision will depart for a new show in Munich next year; the logistics and materials handling section will become an independent CeMAT in 2005; and also beginning that year, factory automation will have to share its limelight in alternating years with process automation.
The fieldbus wars of the recent past have faded, and Ethernet has taken the high ground in industrial automation. But Ethernet on the factory floor requires different hardware from Ethernet in the office, so companies like Hirschmann, Phoenix Contact, and Contemporary Controls were showing ruggedized, extended-temperature-range purpose-built Ethernet switches and hubs. The RJ45 connector may be on its way out. Hirschmann was joined by two other companies—Lumberg and Jetter—to announce they were taking joint action to standardize on the 4-pin M12 plug-in connector for Ethernet applications.
Ethernet for real-time control is beginning to come on the radar screen: ODVA was going out of its way to impress European audiences with the Hannover announcement that EtherNet/IP will adopt the IEEE 1588 clock standard "for Real-Time Control." Meanwhile, two other real-time players were showing their latest versions. B&R demonstrated how its Ethernet Powerlink can not only link but synchronize hundreds of servo drives, while, not far away, Siemens A&D was touting the next version of its PROFInet, which will suffice for "hard" real-time control. But the two were joined by a surprise newcomer—Beckhoff with its EtherCAT, which not only puts Ethernet in a real-time framework, but carries it right down to the I/O level.
"A quantum leap in connection technology" is what WAGO calls the Cage Clamp S, its first major upgrade since 1977. Two years in development, the new Topjob terminal blocks made with Cage Clamp S allow you to simply push in solid conductors. Before you had to open the clamp with a screwdriver, but now you only have to use the screwdriver on multi- and fine-stranded conductors. Weidmüller, which claims to be the inventor of the terminal with plug-in connections, says it is now introducing its "second generation" under the name WeiCoS (Weidmüller Connection System). Using tension clamp technology, WeiCoS combines terminal blocks and plug-in connectors so that they can be connected and disconnected in the field without having to disconnect the wire. "Springtime" was the catchword used by Wieland Electric at Hannover to introduce their new generation of DIN rail terminal blocks with spring connections. Wieland says the product, called fasis WKFN, is the only one on the market that combines four important user specific features—mark, clamp, jump, and test—into one terminal block product.
The biggest PLC launch at Hannover Fair was GE Fanuc's high-end PACsystem (Programmable Automation Controller), which will replace its 90-70 series. Most of the PLC activity in the Siemens A&D stand centered around the mid-level Simatic S7-300 with four new high-end CPUs. Festo's subsidiary Beck is still having fun with its "world's smallest industrial PC," the IPC@CHIP introduced back in 1999. The latest twist: bundling the chip with IEC 61131 software and marketing it as the "world's smallest PLC." Crouzet was showcasing an interesting new take on motor control, a device called the Motomate, a brushless motor combined with a PLC. For those interested in the very high end of PLC performance, Austrian manufacturer SigmaTek was showing its new Power-CPU for its DIAS system that can scan 30 million digital I/O in one second. Meanwhile, Phoenix Contact headed into new territory with a small, very stylish industrial computer called the RTC 1000 that will likely compete on a price level with mid-range PLCs. And this year saw a new entrant into the safety PLC arena: Malmö-based Jokab Safety announced its Pluto built on a platform of 45-mm wide DIN-rail terminal blocks. Each block can have up to 20 I/O, and a total of 32 Plutos can be networked together on the company's proprietary CANbus network for a total of 640 I/O.
Ac drives and motion control
Hannover's biggest splash of new motor drives was in the Siemens A&D stand, where the company was giving a dog-and-pony show for its new Sinamics concept. Sinamics drives are designed to work along with Simatic programmable controllers and the Simotion software introduced last year as part of the company's Totally Integrated Automation program. These drives cover the complete range of applications, from variable speed fans to multi-axis packaging machines.
After acquiring German inverter manufacturer Vectron Electronic, Italian motor maker Bonfiglioli was proudly showing its entrance into the era of mechatronics with a new line of "Active" inverters. The CANbus-based systems have a power range up to 18.5 kW and mount the heat sinks outside the cabinet—the future in inverter design, the company says. And fair visitors stopped to watch the unusual display in the Invertek stand, where a new Optidrive Plus inverter was used to hold a 10 kg weight in steady position. "Full torque at zero speed" is the U.K. manufacturer's new slogan, but R&D Manager David Jones admits that unlike a hydraulic system, the Optidrive Plus can't be expected to hold the weight forever. While it dangles quietly at the end of the line, the drive is furiously calculating and re-calculating tuning parameters to keep it steady as the motor heats up.
For servo drives, visitors at the Bosch Rexroth stand could see »the new IndraDrive servo system, which combines the functions of the previous DIAX and Servodyn drives. A new feature is integrated safety functionality that allows the system to comply with European safety regulations without having to resort to any additional hardware or indirect control solutions. Baldor Electric brought its new low-cost MicroFlex servo drive to Hannover to show how it can squeeze extra performance out of motion machinery and cut costs at the same time. The single axis drive incorporates advanced features such as space vector modulation (SVM) to allow users to run servo motors at typically 15% higher speeds, and synchronous serial interface (SSI) feedback to provide high-resolution absolute position data, enabling tighter control of velocity and positioning. Rossi Motoriduttori was celebrating its 50th anniversary with several types of new integrated motor/driver designs: Its new integrated servogearmotor SM03, which it says is the "first integrated synchronous and asynchronous servogearmotor," and the integrated vector inverter TI02 with a power range up to 7.5 kW. This inverter is mounted on top of the motor. SEW Eurodrive has a new TorqLOC shaft-mounting system that it says makes shaft-mounted gear units a lot easier. Shaft mounting is gaining in popularity because it allows direct mounting onto the input shaft of the driven machine so that the usual transmission elements, couplings, chains, or belts, are not required.