Automation Technology Events Let You Kick the Tires

Online search and electronic shopping carts have affected the way everyone finds and buys things, and that’s no less true for those in search of automation technology.

Sure, you can Google your way to new machines and components, but sometimes you just want to kick the tires and run your hands over the metal. With the fall tradeshow season here, the editors of Automation World have seen many of you at shows and conferences doing all that and more.

We’ve seen you discussing the details of industrial network switches at events by Moxa (Moxa, http://www.moxa.com) and Belden (Belden, http://www.newark.com/belden). We’ve seen you peer into HMI screens at events by Inductive Automation (Inductive Automation, https://inductiveautomation.com) and Schneider Electric/Invensys (Schneider Electric, http://www.schneider-electric.com). We’ve heard your questions about controllers and software in the exhibit areas of Emerson (Emerson, http://www.emerson.com), GE (General Electric, http://www.ge.com/) and Yokogawa (Yokogawa America, http://www.yokogawa.com/us/) conferences. And we’ve seen you watch the demos, gather the literature and kick more than a few metaphorical tires at mega events like the International Machine Tool Show/ Industrial Automation North America Show.

That was just in September and October. November brings an important show for those in the industrial machinery, food, beverage, consumer packaged goods (CPG), and related industries: Pack Expo/Pharma Expo, Nov. 2-5 in Chicago.

Given the time warp of magazine print cycles, I’m writing this long before you are reading it and before Pack Expo/ Pharma Expo has occurred. Regardless, here are some planned announcements and events worth knowing about. Actual experience may vary.

Beckhoff Automation (Beckhoff Automation, http://www.beckhoff.com) is featuring a Google Glass (Google, https://www.google.com/glass/start/) technology study in partnership with Matrix Packaging Machinery, part of the Pro Mach (Pro Mach, http://www.promachinc.com) companies, said Joe Martin, packaging and converting sales manager for Beckhoff. From its booth, Beckhoff will connect a person wearing Google Glass glasses to a vertical form/fill/seal machine in the Matrix booth.

“These exciting demos highlight Google Glass as an enabling concept for packaging machine operation in an Industry 4.0 framework. It also illustrates the openness of Beckhoff PC-based control hardware and TwinCAT automation software,” said Martin. “The augmented reality glasses, primarily developed for the consumer market, integrate a heads-up display for information as well as a digital camera, among numerous other features. As demonstrated by Beckhoff and Matrix Packaging Machinery, Google Glass can also be used in industrial environments as a wearable HMI for packaging machine operation and plant production observation.”

The Industry 4.0 concept is being talked about and explained in numerous parts of the show. “Beckhoff’s PC-based control technology represents a feature-filled toolbox to implement Industry 4.0 automation solutions in packaging applications,” Martin said. “These include the Internet of Things (IoT), Cloud computing, highly centralized packaging automation systems, and ever-more connected devices via open technologies such as EtherCAT and OPC UA.” PC-based control technology is a set of flexible tools and a framework to implement such big ideas in the packaging industry, he added.

B&R Industrial Automation (B&R, http://www.br-automation.com/en-us/) plans to show its I/O solutions, multi-touch HMIs, drive systems and panel PCs for packaging machines. “Pack Expo and Pharma Expo attendees can also learn about B&R’s reAction technology solution that can deliver unprecedented I/O response rates as fast as 1 μs by executing directly in the intelligent IP20- and IP67-rated I/O modules, instead of up in the PLC,” said John Kowal, director of business development for B&R. “Packaging applications include more compact design and precise actuation for reject stations, cutting and seal bars, print mark detection and collation.”

Kowal also promised to “de-hype the Internet of Things” in his Pharma Expo conference session titled, “Convergence: The Connected Machine.”

Pack Expo’s Center for Trends and Technology (CTT) area, free to all attendees, plans a range of educational displays and informative sessions on cutting-edge technologies from proven automation leaders. The CTT is sponsored
by Rockwell Automation (Rockwell Automation, http://www.rockwellautomation.com/) and includes a presentation by systems integrator Stone Technologies (Stone Technologies, Inc, http://www.stonetek.com/). Stone’s director, Dan Englehard, will show how his company implemented systems for real customers and “enabled them to turn plant floor data into actionable information.”

If you’re there, ask hard questions and kick the tires on the implementation details. We will, too.

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