Vendors Make News at NMW

Many automation suppliers announced new products, partnerships and other news at the recent National Manufacturing Week trade show.

Although attendance and exhibitor numbers were down this year at the annual National Manufacturing Week trade show and conference Feb. 23-26, in Chicago, many companies had product and news announcements. Here is a sampling.

Bosch Rexroth Corp., Hoffman Estates, Ill., introduced Cartesian Motion System (CMS, see photo) pre-configured Cartesian Robots in 1, 2 or 3 axes. The new offering uses standard compact modules and servo drives from Rexroth, and can be ordered completely pre-assembled or as a ready-to-assemble kit.

The product is designed for payloads up to 25 kg, speeds up to 1.0 m/s, and acceleration rates up to 15 m/s2. Depending on the chosen axis combination and size, the motion system can execute strokes up to 1000 mm in the X-axis, 700 mm in the Y-axis and 800 mm in the Z-axis. According to the vendor, the range of motion provided makes the new system ideal for pick-and-place applications in assembly cells and at transfer stations, as well as for packaging and other handling applications.

The company also introduced IndraControl L, a DIN rail mount controller that combines the advantages of embedded personal computer architecture with the scalable Rexroth Inline input/output (I/O) system. Master and slave communications interfaces for Ethernet, Profibus and RS232 have been integrated into the base modules. Expansion modules can be installed in the controller to provide additional interfaces such as DeviceNet and AS-i. Additional features of this new controller include an integrated display for diagnostic and status messages, an easily accessible CompactFlash module for program and data storage, and a built-in power supply to reduce the required installation space. The range of expansion modules include analog and digital I/O, as well as special function modules such as RTD and counter.

London-based Invensys announced a worldwide Invensys Plant Intelligence Conference, hosted by Invensys’ Wonderware business unit, beginning in North America in March 2004 then moving to Asia-Pacific, European and Latin American regions in April and May 2004.

The conference consists of a series of free half-day sessions for senior-level manufacturing professionals who want to make better use of plant assets through improved efficiency and performance, reduced production costs and improved returns on capital investments. Those invited to attend include senior manufacturing professionals such as plant, quality assurance, operations, information technology, manufacturing and senior line engineering managers.

The conference will highlight real-world performance solutions and examples of companies that have improved plant performance and overall efficiency with Invensys solutions and Wonderware software featuring ArchestrA and Microsoft technology. For more information about the free Invensys Plant Intelligence Conference, visit www.invensys.com/plantintel

Meanwhile, the Avantis unit of Invensys announced its Global Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) solution for delivering critical decision support information across the enterprise. Avantis Release 4.0 enables enhanced asset management capability for enterprises that span multiple locations and geographies by supporting business units that operate both autonomously and collaboratively within the global enterprise.

Avantis Release 4.0 thin client applications are tested through the Microsoft .Net Connected logo program, which identifies software applications and solutions built on the .Net Framework that expose or consume Web Services, and provide the enhanced reliability, scalability, performance and security of Microsoft .Net.

National Instruments, Austin, Texas, announced three new high-performance, channel-to-channel isolated digital I/O and timing devices. The PCI-6528 and CompactPCI/PXI-6528 digital I/O devices feature channel-to-channel isolation, up to 60 VDC range on both inputs and outputs, 5 V logic thresholds and isolated input/output to the PXI trigger bus (RTSI). These devices deliver a high-reliability industrial feature set that includes programmable power-up states, digital I/O watchdogs, change detection and programmable input filters. Engineers can use these features for the safe operation of potentially dangerous actuators such as industrial pumps, valves and motors.

The PCI-6624 counter/timer board also offers channel-to-channel isolation and extended voltage ranges, which make it ideal for connecting directly to high-voltage industrial devices at different ground potentials. The board features a 48 VDC range and 5 V logic thresholds, as well as isolation to protect the electronics from transient voltage spikes.

Each new device offers a fully software-configurable, jumperless setup and works with new NI-DAQmx software technology, which includes automatic code generation for creating applications in NI LabVIEW 7 Express, C and Microsoft Visual Basic .NET and C#.

The company also announced the Motion Hardware Driver Development Kit. Engineers now can create embedded motion systems in varied platforms such as Linux, VxWorks and RTX.

Indus International, an Atlanta-based software developer, announced availability of the next generation of its Web-architected enterprise asset management (EAM) solution, InSite. InSite Extended Edition (EE) is designed for organizations with complex asset management requirements that also desire the accessibility, ease-of-use and collaborative capabilities of a Web-architected solution.

InSite EE combines the features of Indus EMPAC with the Web-based InSite platform architecture. The Web-based platform and services-oriented architecture enables rapid, cost-effective implementation and flexible access across multiple departments, geographies and computing environments. Support for open communications standards facilitates real-time performance management (RPM) and push maintenance strategies—enabling condition monitoring and analysis tools to push real-time asset information to InSite EE so that proactive action can be taken before assets fail.

AutomationDirect showcased its full line of automation components and systems in an interactive booth that included sensors, programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and motor starters and contactors. At the show, the Atlanta-based company unveiled several new products and partnerships. It is partnering with Fuji Electric to carry Fuji’s DUO and Odyssey series of motor contactors, relays, starters and overloads, to provide motor solutions up to 300 horsepower. As well, it has extended its line of sensors in several categories for photo, proximity and ultrasonic sensing. For its Ethernet-enabled PLCs, the company now offers DataWorx software for data collection, storage and “report by exception” logging.

At the Emerson Process Management booth, attendees were treated to demos of the company’s suite of asset management solutions (AMS). Of note was the Machinery Health Manager, the machine diagnostics portion of the AMS Suite of tools, which uses sensor data to gauge machine health. Part of Emerson’s PlantWeb digital architecture, AMS consolidates data and communicates it through a Web portal to operators and managers for asset maintenance and management.

According to Mark Granger, marketing manager of reliability services for Emerson’s CSI division, based in Knoxville, Tenn., “Mechanical failures are the number one contributor to refinery production losses.” Emerson guarantees a two percent productivity improvement to users of its PlantWeb solution. When combined with AMS, Granger cites performance improvements of up to 10 percent for customers in several key industries, including heavy manufacturing, automotive and power.

Executive Manufacturing Technologies (EMT), a London, Ont., Canada supplier of enterprise manufacturing intelligence software, announced at the show that it has changed its company name to Activplant Corp. The company said it will rename its flagship VisualPlant product to Activplant as well.

Both name changes reflect the company’s success as an enterprise software provider, along with evolutionary changes in the market, executives said. During the past year, the VisualPlant product was selected for use by several well-known manufacturers, including Toyota and Gillette. In addition, the release of VisualPlant 4.0 added enterprise scalability and integration, along with the Microsoft .Net framework.

The company has evolved from providing plant-floor data collection, reporting and visualization tools to delivering solutions that drive manufacturing performance, said Activplant President and Chief Executive Officer Dennis Cocco. “It’s not enough to simply show people what’s happening on the plant floor anymore. Today, manufacturers need to know what they can do with that intelligence to generate a competitive advantage,” Cocco observed. “The manufacturing process itself needs to be an active part of the competitive process, and that is what Activplant does.”

SAP AG, the German-based market leader in enterprise resources planning (ERP) software, demonstrated a system at the show based on a soon-to-be-announced partnership with SmartSignal, a Lisle, Ill., provider of software for analyzing large volumes of sensor and equipment data. Under the deal, users of the SAP Service Management module will be enabled to receive data from the SmartSignal software for use in predictive maintenance activities and service.

SAP also announced a partnership with SoftBrands Inc., Minneapolis. Under that deal, SoftBrand’s Fourth Shift Manufacturing Edition ERP software aimed at small to mid-size manufacturers, will be integrated into the SAP Business One offering for small to mid-size enterprises. The Fourth Shift Manufacturing Edition of SAP Business One will provide a powerful solution for small to mid-size manufacturers to replace dated legacy systems and manual processes, the companies said. It will also provide Fourth Shift’s lean enterprise automation capabilities to these manufacturers. The Fourth Shift product line will still be available as a separate system and will continue to be developed, SoftBrands said.

SAP executives at the show were also talking up the capabilities of the SAP Accelerated Implementation Program, an effort that relies on preconfigured, industry tailored ERP solutions and SAP implementation partners to help manufacturers quickly deploy SAP ERP systems. Since the program was first announced at last year’s NMW event, at least nine mid-size manufacturers have completed rapid ERP launches—in one case, in as little as 16 weeks—said Mark Lehew, industry principal for SAP America Inc. The program is aimed at mid-sized manufacturers in the industrial machinery and components, high technology, automotive and aerospace industries that have annual revenues of between $200 million and $2 billion. Companies targeted will typically be larger than those to be served through the SoftBrands agreement, according to Lehew.

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