Network Security and Robotics: Both Show Improving Economic Health

There’s still no lack of challenges or innovations for network-and-content security and robotics, but there’s also growth or shifts in it.

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“In 3Q10 (third quarter 2010), the worldwide network security appliance and software market was essentially a flat, seasonally typical quarter, down 0.1 percent sequentially, totaling $1.43 billion,” says Jeff Wilson, principal analyst for security with Infonetics Research, Campbell, Calif. He notes that San Jose, Calif.-based network equipment provider Cisco Systems Inc. lost market share in most network security categories. However, “Cisco posted massive growth in content security revenue in the third quarter (up more than 30 percent from the previous quarter), driving up the content security market.”

Wilson adds, “In general, some of the long-term growth in the larger established network security market is transitioning to the content security market.” Regarding 2010, “the worldwide content security gateway market grew 10 percent from 2Q10 to 3Q10, hitting $715.2 million.” 

Computer viruses such as Stuxnet and Zeus drive the content security market, Wilson observes. “Other viruses have been designed to steal things. But Stuxnet, which is the most sophisticated attack virus, is the first designed to entirely destroy something,” says Eric Byres, co-founder and chief technology officer of Byres Security Inc., in Lantzville, British Columbia, Canada.

Byres’ concern also extends to what copycats will produce. To combat Stuxnet and its offspring, the International Society of Automation (ISA), Research Triangle Park, N.C.—through its committee, ISA99-Industrial Automation and Control System Security—created ISA99 Stuxnet Gap Assessment Work Group 5, Task Group 2. “We’ll be doing an analysis of Stuxnet. We hope to have that finished by March,” says Byres, the group’s leader. He and others will examine the ISA99 two-part standard, “Security for Industrial Automation and Control Systems,” and rethink its sufficiency or deficiency. 

Rethinking change in control automation was the most exciting aspect of robotics in the past year, believes Eric Nieves. With traditional robot offerings from original equipment manufacturers, typically two different pieces of equipment had to be integrated to speak to one another, explains Nieves, technology director for Motoman Robotics, West Carrollton, Ohio, a division of Yaskawa America Inc., Waukegan, Ill. But something had to be done to serve non-traditional markets, such as food plants, that weren’t robot-friendly for technical, staffing and cost reasons.

Adios, controller

So Motoman said goodbye to the robotic controller and built on supplier Rockwell Automation Inc.’s Allen-Bradley ControlLogix with ladder logic programming, which Nieves calls the de facto industrial programming language. “Everybody on your staff knows how to support Rockwell Automation programmable logic controllers (PLCs). We found that we could take your robot’s functionally and put it on the Rockwell PLC backplane,” he observes. Motoman then used an EtherCat connection to its servo drives and created a set of instructions for ControlLogix, he explains. “Thus, an operator brings the robot on line, then uses the ControlLogix language to set the actions.” That precludes integration because robot functionally is now embedded in the PLC language.

Another advancement that excites Nieves regards end-effectors, or grippers: specifically, Robotiq’s three-fingered adaptive gripper. The combination of that St. Nicolas, Quebec, Canada-headquartered company’s adapter and Motoman’s seven-axis SDA10D robot will be demonstrated at Automate 2011, at Chicago’s McCormick Place, in late March, Nieves says.

Other robotics advances come in energy and safety, remarks Joel Galliher, director of mechatronics for Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based supplier Bosch-Rexroth Corp.’s division of linear motion and assemblies technologies, Charlotte, N.C. “Suppliers are being required to take energy concerns into account but also to provide the tools; for instance, using regenerative power.”

In safety, Galliher notes that manufacturers are moving toward having safety built into servo drives instead of external sensors. This allows decreased response time. “You’re compressing something that might’ve been a few hundred milliseconds to something that may be only a couple of milliseconds,” he explains.

Overall, 2010 has been a solid recovery year for the robotics industry in North America, notes Jeff Burnstein, president of the Robotic Industries Association, Ann Arbor, Mich. “What really jumps out at me is that orders placed by non-automotive customers in North America jumped 53 percent and accounted for 52 percent of all orders through September [2010]. Orders to automotive-related customers, the largest robotics market, increased 18 percent, which is still quite healthy, given the downsizing in North American automotive manufacturing operations.”

C. Kenna Amos, ckamosjr@earthlink.net, is an Automation World Contributing Editor.

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