Special Report: driving industriously forward

By Alix Paultre, Editor-in-Chief

One of the criticisms of the term “Internet of Things” is that it is too damn broad. It was expected and predicted that the various application areas involved would become sub-cultures within the IoT, and industrial systems have come out strongly as one of those areas. The spirit behind Industry 4.0 is the cloud, and many of the new functionalities empowering this next industrial revolution are IoT-based. The important thing to remember, however, is that no matter how fancy the factory, if the infrastructure isn’t robust, you will have problems.

Of course, the latest industrial systems must be smart, with state-of-the-art logic-based systems and cloud connectivity. But they also must be able to handle power surges, noise, and a harsh operating environment. The ability to control multiple systems intelligently stumbles when the systems involved are unreliable.

For example, in the article “Powering Industrial Systems: Components, Intelligence, and Efficiency” by Nick Davis, he notes that the manner in which industrial systems are powered is changing dramatically as the demand for power increases. This is balanced by the issues and pressures that come from environmental, commercial, and legislative pressures to reduce energy consumption and increase energy efficiencies.

As a result, industrial systems, such as automobile and automobile components factories, data centers, renewable energy, and energy storage energy, are becoming more efficient and smarter. This confluence of capabilities and issues make up what we recognize today as Industry 4.0, also known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) — the confluence of the physical world with the cyber world.

Mike Bolduc, the Global Marketing Manager for Industrial & Medical Segments over at C&K contributed a piece on how to choose the right switch for the job with “A Guide to Switch Selection in Mission-Critical Devices.” It is becoming readily apparent, as mentioned earlier, that when it comes to the performance of mission-critical devices, accuracy and reliability are key factors. No matter how fancy the functionality, if the gear isn’t reliable, you’re lost before you start. Whether it’s a tank-level sensor in a brewery or a pressure transmitter in a chemical processing plant, lives and fortunes can be at stake if these devices fail to function properly.

In “The long gestation of Industry 4.0,” Steve Ohr starts by taking a look back at the early days of industrial automation when companies like Siemens would run ads in public places just to familiarize business with the new capabilities. It’s amazing how far we have come and how much farther we have to go. Thirty years ago, things were so new that the use of IBM-compatible personal computers was still largely a market experiment.

New products

Vincotech’s latest six-pack modules enable smaller designs
Vincotech, a supplier of module-based solutions for power electronics, announced the release of its new six-pack modules. The latest additions to the company’s flow90 line of innovative housings, the flow90PACK 0 and flow90PACK 1, are well-suited for bookshelf inverters and rack-mounted power applications. These modules make the most of PCB space to minimize the application‘s footprint.

Sensata’s solid-state relay with integrated thermostat protects electronic systems
When it comes to electronic switching in load-control applications, solid-state relays (SSRs) deliver the speed and reliability required. SSRs have no moving parts to affect wear or accuracy, enabling not only predictable operation but also significantly longer operational lifetime. Where electromechanical relays can switch, at most, a couple of hundred cycles, an SSR can easily achieve 2 million cycles in its lifetime. Shock- and vibration-resistant, SSRs can operate in harsh environments, are immune to magnetic noise, and are position-insensitive.

Toshiba’s stepper-motor drivers improve accuracy and efficiency
Toshiba Electronics Europe has introduced two new stepping motor drivers that detect excessive load on a motor and automatically adjust power to the motor to accommodate this load. The new TB67S249FTG and TB67S279FTG enable motors to move with precision at rapid speeds under various loads while minimizing power consumption, heat generation, and system costs. These drivers are ideal for use in robotics, precision manufacturing, and 3D-printing applications that require stable, precise, and high-speed control.

STMicro’s new motion-control IC empowers automation systems
The STSPIN820 IC from STMicroelectronics enables the next generations of stepper-motor-based robots to achieve even greater smoothness and silence with smaller size, greater precision, and lower power consumption. With its high-speed inputs and precise micro-stepping algorithm, it can turn a motor by a fraction of a degree to move a 3D printer’s head at a speed of more than 500 mm/s, with submicron precision to create parts very quickly and with incredible surface finish or control extremely precise movements like sample loading, capping/decapping, and storage/retrieval in next-generation clinical automation systems. Other motor-driven medical equipment such as plate handlers, fluid pumps, blood analyzers, and respirators can be quieter, more compact, and cost-effective.

Allegro’s quad full-bridge PWM motor driver IC can drive two stepper motors or four DC motors
Allegro MicroSystems Europe has introduced a new quad DMOS full-bridge driver capable of driving up to two stepper motors or four DC motors. The AMT49701 was designed specifically for dual axis, point of sale, office automation, security, surveillance, IP cameras, and industrial automation applications.

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