Digital technologies continue making inroads

DN Staff

February 18, 2004

5 Min Read
Digital technologies continue making inroads

The price of EP2 sensors is trimmed by offering them only over the MTS Website.

Electronic manufactures are addressing all aspects of factory automation, ranging from components such as sensors to complete controllers. At the same time, rapid prototyping is moving forward, providing more versatility.

The show floor will highlight the wide impact of the digital revolution, focusing on ways that electronics can improve efficiency for manufacturers. Whether attendees are looking for complete systems of very specific components, chances are extremely good they'll find what they need in one of the booths.

Though the Worldwide Web isn't considered a primary tool in most factories, its presence will be felt in many ways. One example comes from MTS Systems Corp.'s Sensors Division. The Cary, NC, company is taking a new approach to lower costs and shorten delivery times for the newest member of its Temposonics line (

The EP2 family will only be sold over the Web, an approach designed to improve cost effectiveness. The EP2 position sensor is designed to replace potentiometers, bringing users the benefits of magnetostrictive technology at costs far closer to those of traditional potentiometers. Each sensor has a waveguide sensing element, conditioning electronics for output position data and an external position magnet. The free-floating magnet is affixed to the moving machine to provide exact position, with sensors that come in lengths of four to 60 inches.

Other components and capabilities at the show address the trends towards portability and mass customization. Hall Co., an Urbana, Ohio component supplier that specializes in screen printing such as the overlays for membrane switches, is charging up its product line.

Hall plans to debut a printed thin battery made with polyester materials and chemical compounds. The flexible battery technology, now used in greeting cards and other applications, could be used in a number of different applications in factories and elsewhere. The biodegradable batteries are very thin, so they can be used in very small products.

The theme of Delta's booth is "the best of both worlds," as the company broadens its rapid prototyping line.

There's also plenty of activity at the system level. Delta Computer Systems of Vancouver, WA, rolled out a motion control line early this year, hitting a new price performance level for customers designing one- or two-axis systems ( The RMC70 is aimed at hydraulic, pneumatic and electric servo motion control, has RS232/485 serial communications, interfacing to two types of absolute position transducers, magnetostrictive displacement transducers and synchronous serial interfaces. The line costs under $1,000 per axis. Included are Delta's setup and tuning software, as well as diagnostics. For those who want a deeper understanding of tuning techniques for electronic motion control systems, Delta president Peter Nachtwey is presenting a technical paper Wednesday afternoon. "Tuning techniques for closed loop hydraulic motion control" will examine the benefits of electronics, as well as some of the basics for control.

The PC-based IndraControl L from Bosch Rexroth offers much flexibility.

Addressing another level of control, Bosch Rexroth Corp. of Hoffman Estates, IL is highlighting the IndraControl L, a scalable PLC platform based on the PC architecture ( It offers a high degree of flexibility, with master and slave communication interfaces for Ethernet, Profibus and RS232 integrated into the basic module. DeviceNet and Asi are available as options. Additional expansion modules include analog and digital I/O, counter modules and others.

An integrated display provides many diagnostic and status messages, while a CompactFlash module makes it simple to update programs and access stored data. The new line leverages the IndraLogic software, which includes a standardized function library based on PLCopen. An intuitive user interface facilitates simulation, debugging and other functions.

Before these systems are employed to help build production units, companies often want to see a model or two so they can be sure their designs are indeed what they want to produce. That's becoming easier every year.

A major player in the rapid prototyping field, Stratasys Inc. of Minneapolis, MN, ( has two new products that prompted a redesign of its booth around the marketing theme "the best of both worlds." The two products can be purchased separately, but to live that theme out in the field, the company notes that buying a package ensures users that their projects will be fully covered.

For jobs that require high durability rand the ability to run functional tests, the FDM Vantage line provides a mid-priced solution. The line provides versatility, with a chamber that can be enlarged and a variety of model layer thicknesses. Models can be made with either ABS or polycarbonate materials, with thicknesses of 0.007 to 0.010 inches. The machine, which doesn't require special venting that often limit system placement, has a model chamber measuring 14 x 10 x 10 inches.

Stratasys recently became the U.S. distributor for Objet Geometries Ltd. of Rehovot, Israel, ( which makes a prototyping system for those who want very fine resolution and smooth surface finishes. The Eden333 PolyJet system brings UB plastics into the Stratasys line, providing very high resolution models that can be used for fit and form evaluation. It can produce layers measuring only 16 microns in thickness for extremely precise models.

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