Centers of excellence of certain types of technology seem to grow organically. Dayton, Ohio once had several manufacturers of special coil-winding machinery. Central western Ohio had several companies that manufactured special tube-bending machines. Odessa, Denmark? An entire ecosystem built around collaborative robots. And today, November 29, I sat in on a press conference announcing Universal Robots newest product—the UR30 collaborative robot (cobot) with a 30 kg payload capacity.
Why develop a new product? CEO and President Kim Povlsen says the market is good and growing—especially in Asia. The automotive and electronics markets are hot, and logistics has become an increasingly good market for cobots. Plus expanding the line perpetuates and extends UR’s mission of creating better workplaces.
The UR30 is a bit of a paradox. It can handle a heavier payload than its sibling the UR20, but it has a smaller footprint. This smaller size allows it to adapt to more application areas. A structural benefit comes from the smaller size leading to a more rigid structure allowing it to hold its arm steady in high-torque screw driving applications.
UR30 is the second in Universal Robot’s new series of innovative, next generation cobots and is built on the same architecture as the award-winning UR20. Despite its compact size, UR30 offers extraordinary lift, and its superior motion control ensures the perfect placement of large payloads allowing it to work at higher speeds and lift heavier loads.
This makes UR30 ideal for several applications, including machine tending, material handling and high torque screw driving. For machine tending, the high payload brings new possibilities as it allows the cobot to use multiple grippers at the same time. This means it can remove finished parts and load more material in one single pass, shortening changeover times and maximizing productivity.
UR30 will also effectively support high torque screw driving as it can handle larger and higher-output torque tools, and thanks to a steady mode feature UR30 delivers straight and consistent screw driving. This will be beneficial in, for example, the automotive industry.
In addition to this, the 30 kg payload makes UR30 a great match for material handling and palletizing of heavy products across all industries, with the small footprint enabling it to fit into almost all workspace – relieving humans of the heavy lifting. Weighing only 63.5 kg, it can also be easily moved between work cells.
Povlsen adds, “The higher payload and greater flexibility underpin a new era in automation. Industries around the world are embracing more agile manufacturing and modularity in production – part of achieving that modularity and agility is about mobility and this cobot delivers that despite its payload.
“As industries evolve, the UR30 not only meets but anticipates shifting demands, enabling businesses to adapt and respond to changing needs effectively. As we continue to innovate, the UR30 is another step in UR’s journey in pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the world of automation.”
Edge compute continues to be the most talked about part of the network these days. This news concerns an application development platform for Edge and Cloud. I wish I could try out all this software like I used to many years ago. It’s all too complex and expensive today. Like everything, I don’t know if it works, but it sounds good.
Lightbend Inc., the company providing cloud native microservices frameworks for some of the world’s largest brands, has announced the release of its latest version of Akka, one of the industry’s most powerful platforms for distributed computing, which incorporates a new and unique programming model that enables developers to build an application once and have it work across both Cloud and Edge environments.
“Today, applications developed for cloud native environments are generally not well-suited to the Edge and vice versa,” said Jonas Bonér, Lightbend’s founder and CEO. “This has always struck me as counter-productive, as both architectures lean heavily on one another to be successful. As the line between Cloud and Edge environments continues to blur, Akka Edge brings industry-first capabilities to enable developers to build once for the Cloud and, when ready, deploy seamlessly to the Edge.”
“Akka has been a powerful enabling technology for us to build high-performance Cloud systems for our clients,” said Jean-Philippe Le Roux, CEO of Reflek.io, an innovative company delivering Digital Twin technologies to geo-distributed companies. “We have been able to dramatically speed our time-to-production by building a single solution for both Cloud and Edge with Akka.”
Akka provides a singular programming model that eliminates the high latency, large footprint, and complexity barriers the Edge has posed for development teams wanting to bridge the Edge and Cloud. Developers focus on business logic, not complicated, time-consuming tool integrations. As a result, businesses can harness, distribute, and fully utilize the vast amount of intelligent data to improve their operations, regardless of where that data is generated. Some specific capabilities of the latest version of Akka include:
Adaptive Data Availability
Projections over gRPC for the Edge – asynchronous, brokerless service-to-service communication
Scalability and efficiency improvements to handle the large scale of many Edge services
Programmatically defined low-footprint active entity migration
Temporal, geographic, and use-based migration
Run Efficiently In Resource Constrained Environments
Support for more constrained environments such as running with GraalVM native image and lightweight Kubernetes distributions
Support for multidimensional autoscaling and scale to near zero
Lightweight storage, for running durable actors at the far edge
A Single Programming Model for the Cloud-to-Edge Continuum
Akka single programming model keeps the code, the tools, the patterns, and the communication the same, regardless if it is Cloud, Edge, or in between
Seamless Integration – works at the Edge or in the Cluster automatically
Empowering New Innovation
Active/Active digital twins, and many other new use cases
No dealing with complicated logic to handle network segregation
Focus on business logic and flow (not on tool integrations)
The big internal debate at OpenAI last week that spilled into the general news domain highlights the struggle over developing technology as quickly as possible (usually to be the first with a hugely profitable product) against those who seek some responsibility among the developers. These latter would be trying to avoid the social discord and personal angst caused by Facebook/Instagram/TikTok algorithmic feeds.
Responsible Computing (RC), a consortium comprised of technology innovators working together to address sustainable development goals, published a new whitepaper: Aligning Responsible Computing Domains with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
“Responsible Computing must align with an existing, globally adopted framework such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to ensure our work is credible and reliable,” said Page Motes, Strategic Advisor. “Leveraging the SDG helps ensure that each Responsible Computing domain is rooted in legitimate and practical concepts to implement and drive beneficial progress.”
The RC framework focuses on six domains of responsible computing, including data centers, infrastructure, code, data usage, systems, and impact. RC’s Self-Assessment survey helps organizations evaluate their sustainability practices for information and communications technologies (ICT) and other business areas.
The UN initially established SDGs to guide nation-states; however, thousands of public and private organizations across the globe have decided to align broad programs, as well as discreet projects/initiatives, to specific SDGs.
“Organizations need a way to measure their progress in meeting SDGs against a baseline as they implement new strategies and as domains evolve and mature,” said Oriette Nayel, Co-Chair for Data Usage, Responsible Computing Consortium. “The Responsible Computing Self-Assessment provides a clear opportunity for organizations to cross-reference the various sub-elements addressed per RC domain with the SDGs.”
Responsible Computing domain alignment to SDGs falls into three different categories:
Foundational SDGs ensure domains are structurally sound and rooted in the law or essential standards.
SDGs that benefit by proper scoping, planning, or execution of the elements of a domain.
SDGs that reap the positive impact of a purposeful, responsible computing use case based on its intended output/outcome.
Organizations can drive meaningful and lasting change by:
Adopting the RC model
Understanding the potential impacts (positive and negative) related to each RC domain
Identifying and progressing against a small number of UN SDGs
Providing transparent reporting of outcomes
“IBM continues to be proud of our leadership position related to responsible computing,” said Guncha Malik, Executive Architect, IBM Cloud CISO. “In alignment with our ESG framework of Environmental, Equitable and Ethical Impact, IBM co-founded the Responsible Computing Consortium to further highlight the importance across industry to act as good corporate citizens and address key areas of synergy in alignment with widely accepted frameworks such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.”
“Whichever SDGs your organization chooses to advance, root your work in measurement and transparency, and be cautious with the use of the terms green, sustainable, or similar language that could lead to accusations of greenwashing and reputational damage,” said Bill Hoffman, Chairman & CEO, Object Management Group.
The list of trade fairs that I’m missing grows. I did not go to Nuremberg this year for the SPS show. There were many product announcements. These three are from Siemens concerning its Industrial Edge. It is all happening at the Edge.
New hardware and software available for Siemens’ Industrial Edge ecosystem
Industrial Edge Management System now cloud-based As-a-Service
Low code for Industrial Edge: Simplifying edge app programming with Mendix on Edge
Edge Computing allows manufacturers to capture and process data where it’s generated: at the field level in the plant. At this year’s SPS trade show in Nuremberg, the technology company Siemens is expanding its range of products and services for Industrial Edge at all levels. This will allow users to connect their information technology (IT) even better with the operational level (OT). Industrial Edge is also part of the portfolio of the Siemens Xcelerator open and flexible business platform.
Industrial Edge Management (IEM) is a software portal for managing IoT solutions consisting of hardware and software in the factory. It allows all devices, applications, and users integrated into Siemens Industrial Edge to be centrally managed. Siemens now also offers this system as a cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS): IEM Cloud is available as a fully managed service and includes both the infrastructure and the set-up of the system. The operational system requirements and configuration costs for users are kept to a minimum. Industrial Edge devices can be integrated directly in the management system. IEM Cloud can be used to manage automation software as well as hardware from Siemens and third-party providers.
Siemens is also expanding its Industrial Edge ecosystem with more hardware: more Simatic industrial PCs (x86 processor-based) and Industrial Edge devices from the Scalance and Simatic IoT device family based on ARM processors are now available. Weidmüller is also the first third-party manufacturer in the Siemens ecosystem to offer the u-control M4000, an edge device based on this processor architecture. The ARM processor-based devices are primarily designed for less data-intensive use cases: for example, remote access and connectivity solutions like gateways. And users can now use Siemens’ new Industrial Edge Own Device software to convert their existing third-party x86 processor-based IPCs into fully functional Industrial Edge devices, centrally manage them, and thereby integrate existing hardware into their IoT environment.
Mendix’s low-code development environment allows users to develop field-level apps in production with no coding knowledge. Automation engineers can use the new Industrial Edge plugin to develop industry-specific apps in their Mendix Studio Pro development environment and seamlessly install them on appropriate devices at the field level.
I’ve written a few times about Bosch Rexroth’s new OS and platform ctrlX. Most recently here. Just realizing that I have another post in queue to expand on the potentials of the OS. The company and its technology are attracting a number of partners. This is interesting. Will the market follow?
The vision of an automation world in which competitors become partners and users help to shape the solutions is becoming reality. The operating system ctrlX OS with its ecosystem has won over even more collaborators: In addition to WAGO, the first company to join the group, Dell Technologies, Nokia and others have joined too. As a result, the solution is now established on all levels of the automation pyramid. The partner network ctrlX World is growing too and now offers even more variety. At the moment, partner companies cover more than 150 use cases. KUKA, another leading robot brand, recently joined the group.
“Automation needs to move away from proprietary systems towards open, modular and scalable microservices architectures that will enable a profound transformation of industry in terms of digitalization, connectivity and sustainability. ctrlX OS is the enabler for this,” said Steffen Winkler, Vice President Sales Business Unit Automation & Electrification Solutions at Bosch Rexroth.
With ctrlX OS, Bosch Rexroth has developed an operating system with digital services. It is a core part of the ecosystem initiated by ctrlX AUTOMATION. The entire sector has access to it, even competitors. The aim of Bosch Rexroth and the partner companies is to create an open industry standard for the market.
Bosch Rexroth has opened up the operating system ctrlX OS for the entire market. It entered into its first system and technology partnership with WAGO. “We offer ctrlX OS on our own devices and develop specific applications on the basis of the operating system. WAGO is about to launch the Edge Controller 400 and the Edge Computer with ctrlX OS to coincide with the SPS trade fair. Together, we’d like to strengthen ctrlX OS and develop it further,” said Johannes Pfeffer, Vice President Business Unit Automation at WAGO.
Because it can be used flexibly on various levels, ctrlX OS is of interest not only for industrial control systems and edge industry PCs. As a virtualized solution, the operating system also runs on edge servers in close proximity to machines and production lines, in data centers and in the cloud.
Dell Technologies and Bosch Rexroth are working together to integrate ctrlX OS as an out-of-the-box software module for Dell NativeEdge, an edge operations software platform that simplifies edge operations and provides zero-touch implementation and zero-trust functions.
The solution offers companies support for applications and services needed to ensure smooth system operation – across sectors, in cloud environments and at sites spread across the world. To reduce time to production, Bosch Rexroth and Dell are helping customers to quickly configure, deploy and scale ctrlX OS in their environments with Dell Validated Designs for Edge.
Nokia is integrating the virtualized operating system ctrlX OS into its Nokia MX Industrial Edge (MXIE) on-premises operational technology (OT) edge solution. Various applications run on this and it has private wireless 5G campus network technology. Through this integration, Nokia MXIE customers can install ctrlX OS as an application at the click of a mouse and thus operate their business-critical use cases with reduced latency.
KUKA, a leading robot brand, has now joined the group. As a result, there is now a KUKA connection and integration based on the KUKA.PLC mxAutomation interface. This is used by the company Mairotec in its “MAIRobot” app and in an exhibit which will be shown at the Rexroth stand (booth 450 in hall 7) at SPS 2023.
This news encompasses a couple of trends of the past few years—partnership collaboration and sustainability. Yokogawa sent this one to me. Looks promising. If the idea works out, the impact on our environment will be substantial. Imagine cleaning up all the accumulated plastic that will never go anywhere.
Working toward a circular economy through a high-efficiency system that utilizes renewable energy –
The companies will aim to construct a small-scale, high-efficiency recycling system by combining Microwave Chemical’s high-efficiency plastic decomposition technology with an automation technology that is based on continuous control of the thermal decomposition process, an energy management system (EMS) for the utilization of renewable energy, and an electricity tracking system provided by Yokogawa Solution Service.
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the volume of discarded plastic produced globally in 2019 was 353 million tons, which is more than double the 156 million tons produced in 2000, and of this, only 9% is recycled. As such, further initiatives are required if a circular economy is to be achieved.
Chemical recycling, in which used resources are chemically processed and broken down at the molecular level to return them to the state of a raw material, is an excellent method that enables materials to be repeatedly recycled, even if they are not clean or contain impurities. When it comes to the chemical recycling of discarded plastic, the main subject of investigation by major chemical manufacturers and other such companies in Japan and overseas is large-scale centralized processing facilities with capacities of several thousand tons to tens of thousands of tons. While these facilities can efficiently process large volumes of discarded plastic, the transport of these materials from remote locations is cost prohibitive and a source of CO2 emissions due to their low specific gravity and poor transportation efficiency per unit weight.
To address this issue, Yokogawa Solution Service and Microwave Chemical have concluded an agreement for the joint development of a small-scale distributed chemical recycling system to break down and process discarded plastic near where it is generated. This system has at its core a reactor that breaks down discarded plastic by using microwave heating, and it is used together with the aforementioned energy management system and electricity tracking system to reduce CO2 emissions.
Microwave Chemical’s PlaWave chemical recycling technology uses microwaves to directly heat discarded plastic and thereby speed up the process of breaking down and processing these materials. This saves energy and is suitable for use on a small scale. With a focus on measurement, control, and information, Yokogawa Solution Service provides production control systems, instruments, and other solutions that achieve highly efficient and safe operations at all kinds of plants. Its solution for this application centers on an energy management system that can optimize operations by predicting energy demand.
Since August 2022, the two companies have been using a chemical recycling bench plant to investigate ways to improve yield, operating rate, and energy efficiency of a process involving the use of microwaves to thermally break down polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) and convert it into oil. They have verified the feasibility of this process and the methods for implementing it. On the basis of the results that were achieved, the companies concluded an agreement in September for the joint development of a small-scale distributed chemical recycling system.
Microwave Chemical will develop the core apparatus for the small-scale distributed chemical recycling system, and this will have built-in continuous thermal decomposition functionality for PE, PP, and PS (polystyrene). Yokogawa Solution Service will investigate measurement methods for monitoring the state of the thermal decomposition process and performing component analysis and estimation in real time. By making use of modeling technology developed by other companies in the Yokogawa Group, Yokogawa Solution Service will aim to automate the continuous control of the thermal decomposition process in this core apparatus, and thereby optimize this process. To enable the carbon neutral recovery of resources by using renewable energy as the power source for this core apparatus, Yokogawa Solution Service will develop and provide an EMS and an electricity tracking system. Via the cloud, data from these systems on the operating status and state of this core apparatus will be continuously acquired and analyzed to make improvements and reduce maintenance costs.
The plan from FY2023 to FY2024 is to develop prototypes that incorporate input on user needs, and firm up functions and specifications. In FY2025, a commercial small-scale distributed chemical recycling system will be developed with the aim of commercialize this system the following year.
In parallel with the development of this small-scale distributed chemical recycling system, Yokogawa Solution Service and Microwave Chemical intend to form a consortium with retailers, chemical manufacturers, oil companies, and other organizations that are involved in processes ranging from the recovery and transport of discarded plastic to the refining, repolymerization, and distribution of recycled raw materials. By working together with all parties in this supply chain and sharing the use of facilities such as this cloud-based small-scale distributed chemical recycling system, the aim is to realize a carbon neutral society. The two companies will discuss the possible commercialization of this small-scale distributed chemical recycling system.