One company consistently sending news is ABB. PR on the process side has moved to Europe, but robotic and related PR is still handled locally. I find it interesting that the major European suppliers have moved marketing out of the US, while some US-based suppliers have just pulled back. Not sure what they know about US manufacturing that I should know.

Technology additions to Ethernet have become interesting. They’ve existed a while, but products and momentum are growing. One is 2-wire Ethernet; but this news relates to power over Ethernet. ABB has released a flowmeter. The other news relates to a hot topic—electric vehicle (EV) battery manufacturing. This will remain a focus for quite some time.

ABB launches world’s first Power over Ethernet flowmeters

ABB has incorporated power supply through Ethernet connectivity on board the latest edition of its electromagnetic flowmeter ProcessMaster* and mass flowmeter CoriolisMaster, opening a new chapter in instrumentation and industrial communication.

Power over Ethernet (PoE) offers several benefits for process engineers, as it omits the need for a separate DC power infrastructure, providing power and communications via the same cable. This brings new agility as flowmeters can be installed wherever needed. In addition, ABB 4-wire Ethernet combines classic outputs with future communication protocols. Offering a modular design allows the combination of both worlds and ensures that devices are futureproof, increasing the longevity of the flowmeters.

Furthermore, flowmeters with Ethernet connectivity increase simplicity, flexibility and reliability to operations in process automation, while enhancing real-time visibility of data. Previously hidden data in field devices, such as measurement values on density, conductivity or concentration of the medium, can be unlocked. This in turn will help customers across all industries identify redundant measurement points in their plants to achieve savings along the way.

“ProcessMaster and CoriolisMaster with Ethernet will support our customers’ digital journey towards smart cities and Industry 4.0. Ethernet is the leading communications technology. By incorporating it into the ABB flowmeters, we can help even more customers reduce complexity of operations and lower costs of infrastructure in more plants around the world – safely and remotely.” said Frank Frenzel, Global Product Line Manager Process Flowmeters. 

An integrated secure webserver based on the ABB Ability Cyber Security framework ensures robust and secure operations that offer instrumentation engineers support during commissioning and troubleshooting. It also provides access to configuration, diagnostics and measurement data through a built-in QR code. This allows verification of all parts of the flowmeter and provides insights into its operating condition with automatically generated reports. 

Combining 4-20 mA or digital outputs with new 1- or 2-port Ethernet makes classic instrumentation truly future-proof, with speeds of up to 100Mbit/s. The flowmeters use various Ethernet based communication protocols, such as simple Modbus TCP or high performance EtherNet/IP. This prepares them for IT/OT convergence, cloud connectivity and the requirements needed for secure and encrypted communication both today and tomorrow. 

*Ethernet connectivity for the electromagnetic flowmeter ProcessMaster is currently available in North America only. It will be released globally later in 2021.

Global EV battery production needs significant boost to meet demand

According to the ‘Electric Vehicle Battery Supply Chain Analysis,’ sponsored by ABB Robotics and authored by the automotive intelligence unit of Ultima Media, while 2036 is the changeover year when all-electric passenger vehicles are predicted to overtake sales of ICE-equipped equivalents, concerns over EV battery supply to meet the escalation in demand poses serious risk to the growth of electricity as a clean propulsion fuel, despite plans for 80 new global battery gigafactories.  

The report outlines that although Asia leads electric vehicle battery production, Europe will make up vital ground over the next few years while US manufacturers are also planning increases in capacity.  

“Automation is key to increasing assembly safety, quality and traceability and delivering battery technologies cost effectively, which is critical to the expansion of electric vehicles.” said Tanja Vainio, Managing Director of ABB Robotics Auto Tier 1 Business Line.  “With production speed and flexibility essential to the successful scale-up of the EV battery industry, our cellular production architecture enables manufacturers to quickly validate a cell design and then roll out production cells globally with uniform quality, safety and productivity standards. Roll-outs can be scaled to demand with the flexibility to adjust capacity in real time.”

The report’s researchers point to the importance of battery pack assembly being located close to or within car assembly facilities. 

“Co-locating battery pack assembly not only boosts sustainability by reducing transportation, it increases flexibility.  A cellular approach to production is easily integrated alongside existing lines. If the demand curve moves, cells can be added or removed quickly to maintain accurate production scale. Our robots are designed to be quickly repurposed as needed, boosting flexibility and adding to our sustainable approach by maximizing the life of each robot we build,” added Vainio. 

“We believe that building a robust battery supply chain will create a distinct competitive advantage for OEMs, setting a trend towards maximum production flexibility, whether battery pack production is insourced or outsourced, to further reduce costs and boost productivity,” Vainio added. 

The high price of EVs will increasingly create a barrier to further market penetration, reducing vehicle cost has therefore become a whole-industry focus. Given that the battery represents up to a third of vehicle costs, ABB is focused on solutions that improve battery manufacturing productivity. 

“Increasingly we see that higher productivity and lower costs are driven by assembling battery cells straight into packs,” concludes Vainio. “ABB is working in partnership with a number of manufacturers, using its systems and knowledge to increase productivity, quality and safety levels, as well as reduce finished pack costs through automated assembly – vital if EVs are to meet their required cost and adoption targets.”

The ‘Electric Vehicle Battery Supply Chain Analysis’ examines the current and future state of EV battery supplies – sources of materials, technologies available, demand analysis and potential risks. 

The report is available to download from here

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