eYs3D Launches One-Stop XINK Development Platform for Vision-Equipped Robots

The vision and streaming video area seems to be ripe for continued investment and innovation. I’ve discussed a few applications lately that look promising. Here is news of an underlying technology that will boost these other applications.

eYs3D, a silicon-design-AI computer vision solutions company, introduced at CES a state-of-the-art computer vision development platform for next-generation autonomous robotic applications such as AIoT (artificial intelligence of things), smart city, indoor cleaning robots, and outdoor agricultural robots for both industrial and retail sectors. 

XINK offers multiple benefits:

  • Industry 4.0 application readiness, via high-speed communications and conformance to IEEE 1588 standards
  • Effective power management, including with sleep and deep sleep modes for unused blocks, supporting always-on capability
  • Superior computing performance through the quad-core Cortex A55 and the 4.6 TOPS NPU in the eCV1 chip, which provides dedicated machine learning instructions, a patented neural network engine, and Tensor Processing Fabric
  • Highly flexible image and computer vision processing for domain-specific applications

The platform, called XINK, is both a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) as well as a hardware and software development kit that is a cost-effective solution for design of safe, vision-capable mobile AI products equipped with field analysis, object recognition, obstacle detection, object tracking and following, and route planning functions.

XINK provides all the necessary elements for product development, including high-performance compute power, AI accelerator, I/O controls and Flexi-bus communication peripherals, smart power management and machine vision subsystems. The modular XINK platform takes care of low-level programming, freeing developers to use cut-and-paste coding for application-specific design while reducing design cycles for quicker commercialization.

The platform has H.264 compression for video streaming as well as Imaging Signal Processing (ISP) support features. XINK accepts image data from either an external ISP such as eYs3D’s separate eSP87x series stereo video and depth processor, or from the ISP soft code inside the XINK CPU. 

The edge AI processing is powered by eYs3D’s new eCV1 AI chip that incorporates four Core ARM 64-Bit CPUs and a 4.6 TOPS neural processor unit (NPU). An additional low power ARM Cortex M4 processor can be used as an MCU. The platform supports various AI inference tools including TensorFlow, TensorFlow Lite, PyTorch, Caffe, TVM and more.

Universal Robots Cobot Awareness and 2022 Results

Two items from Universal Robots recently came my way. One discusses new uses for Cobots, while the other reveals Universal’s growth in 2022.

Turnkey robotic solutions, complete with all hardware, software, sensors and interfaces, will be powerful automation drivers in 2023, according to Universal Robots

“In 2023, cobot automation will become more sophisticated yet more straightforward to use,” predicts Joe Campbell, senior manager of applications development and strategic marketing at Universal Robots (UR). “We are going to continue seeing phenomenal growth within complete robotic systems for applications such as welding, palletizing and machine tending, propelled by UR partners creating full solutions powered by our collaborative robot arms.”

Sales of UR cobots for integration in OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturers) solutions grew about 50% in 2022. UR enters the new year with more than 80 OEM partners integrating UR cobots in turnkey systems, and over 300 UR+ partners launching application kits and components certified to work seamlessly with the UR cobots.

A significant share of new cobot-powered turnkey systems now handle welding applications. UR’s welding channel grew over 80% in 2022 as new cobot welders hit factory floors in places such as Raymath, a sheet metal manufacturer in Ohio, where the company CEO was able to visit a local UR partner, THG Automation, offering cobot welding solutions.

As more companies move towards cobot automation, many will want to handle heavier payloads. In 2023, UR’s new UR20 cobot becomes available to customers. The UR20 is built for 20kg payloads, with faster speeds and superior motion control all within a lightweight, small footprint system.

Universal Robots Reports Record Revenue Despite Global Uncertainty

Universal Robots, the Danish collaborative robot (cobot) company, has reported Q4 revenue of USD 85 million, bringing 2022 annual revenue to USD 326 million, up 5% on 2021. On a constant currency basis, growth over the year was 12%.

The company’s Chief Financial Officer, Kim Andreasen, said: “We are proud to have continued to grow our business despite facing a difficult macroeconomic environment in 2022. We focused on those things we are able to control, and we overcame supply chain challenges to report our highest annual revenue to date.”

The demand for automation in Europe slowed in 2022 following the start of the war in Ukraine. Universal Robots’ results have also been impacted by the change in exchange rates, which created an additional headwind to growth.

Despite the change in global markets, overall demand for automation is predicted to continue to grow in 2023 and beyond, driven by growing labor shortages and changing workplace expectations.

Universal Robots has taken steps in 2022 to meet this growing demand. The company’s President, Kim Povlsen, said: “We invested last year in building world-class expertise in welding, palletizing and machine tending. We have also been working with our ecosystem partners to make automation easier for our customers than ever before. 2022 has been an important year for the company overall. We started construction on new headquarters, reached our 1000 employee milestone and launched a ground-breaking new cobot.”

January News from Festo

Festo must be among the leaders of innovation. They send a continual stream of new product news. It’s also often pretty cool. Today, two new items from January 2023.

  • Festo Introduces an Online 3D CAD Configurator for Actuators and Accessories
  • Festo Introduces a Uniquely Engineered Angle Seat Valve

A 3D CAD file of the actuator assembly is ready for download at the end of configurator’s streamlined design process.

Festo introduces 3D CAD Configurator for pneumatic actuators and associated accessories such as fittings, lengths of tubing, and sensors.

The tool is intuitive and easy to use. Once the actuator is selected from a choice of either cylinder, drive with guides, or semi rotary drive, the engineer simply points and clicks on accessory hot spots to identify and select each accessory. The configurator ensures compatibility between actuator and accessory and eliminates any possible error in type code.

Actuators and accessories are shipped in a one-bag kit with a single unique Festo ID number covering all components in the kit. A unique identification number makes for fast and easy reordering. Kits are shipped to North American customers from the Festo Global Production Center in Mason, Ohio. The unique part number is recognized by Festo globally to ensure replacement kit availability wherever the machine is located.

The tool supports the most common CAD formats for OEM workflow compatibility. The single CAD file of the actuator/accessory assembly simplifies the design process by eliminating individual CAD files for the various components. The tool also consolidates and simplifies parts lists.

The Festo VZXA decouples the actuator from the valve seat for installation, maintenance, and operational benefits.

The new Festo VZXA family of pneumatically actuated angle seat valves delivers installation, maintenance, operational, and inventory benefits thanks to a unique modular design. When a VZXA actuator is removed for maintenance or changeover, for example, the stem, seat, and seal stay inside the valve body, allowing the process system to remain pressurized. In applications containing hazardous materials, those materials reside safely within the system, saving cleaning time and lowering health and safety risks of contamination. No other angle seat valve offers these operational benefits.

Reinstalling the actuator is simply a matter of screwing it into the valve body. The actuator does not have to be pressurized, which eliminates strain on the stem, seat, and seal and lowers the potential of damaging the valve seat. The modular design is ideal for valve manifold applications where speedy assembly, ease of maintenance, and compact size are pluses.

Modularity lends itself to valve body repair as stem, seat, and seal are individual components with readily available replacement parts. The valve family’s standardized design ensures every VZXA actuator is compatible with every valve body in the family. The universal fit between actuators and valve bodies simplifies ordering and inventory management.

Cloud Range Live-Fire Cybersecurity Training

Mindful people are marked by curiosity. At least, that is one characteristic. I don’t know about being mindful, but I embody a healthy dose of curiosity. A press release came my way from a company I had never heard of touting a process I also had never heard of—range. So, I had to investigate. In addition to the Web (yes, you can still do research by searching on the Web, but thanks to Google, it’s not as easy or as fruitful as it used to be), I also talked with Debbie Gordon, CEO  of Cloud Range.

This technology solution relates to cybersecurity. Specifically, these solutions provide training for varieties of personnel regarding identifying and thwarting cyber attacks. The “range” term is known in the IT world. Cloud Range, Gordon told me, is the first company to take the concept, develop it specifically for the operations environment, and use it to train operators, engineers, manufacturing IT, and any others who may be involved. 

Gordon used the metaphor of a flight simulator. It’s better for a pilot to train on abnormal situations in a device that isn’t going to crash and kill everyone on board. The problem for operations people lies in the fact that they may have never experienced a cyber attack. They may treat it as just another alarm that can often be ignored.

Cloud range also understands that while IT’s concern is data, OT’s concern is uptime. This requires an entirely new look at how to train and solve the problem.

On to the news:

Cloud Range introduced Cloud Range for Critical Infrastructure—the first-of-its-kind full-service, live-fire simulation training specifically designed to proactively train and prepare incident responders (IR) and security operations (SOC) teams in operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) environments to defend against cyber attacks to critical infrastructure. 

The digital convergence of OT and IT in critical infrastructure sectors has increased the focus of cyber attacks against OT and industrial control system (ICS) environments. This has accelerated the need for cyber defense teams to understand, train, and prepare to protect these assets. However, OT and IT environments can have very disparate objectives, setups, and risks. OT security requires different protocols, analysis, forensics, and other security methods than traditional IT security networks. That’s why OT/ICS security teams require unique training to ensure they can overcome the threats and challenges they face. 

Cloud Range for Critical Infrastructure is the industry’s first and only full-service OT/ICS/IoT cyber range simulation training environment with dynamic, live-fire OT/ICS, OT/IoT, and IT/OT incident response and security operations exercises. The customizable OT environments include unlimited network scenarios to simulate any organization’s OT/IT network and emulate any industrial sector, including energy, nuclear, transportation, communications, water systems, buildings/facilities, and more. The new OT solution not only strengthens the resilience of security teams, but also improves operational efficiency by providing a collaborative environment for IT/OT teams to work and train together and remove the complexity and friction between them that is common in most organizations. 

The product is a program with a taskmaster where personnel set aside a training time of around four hours to participate in the simulation.

Cloud Range for Critical Infrastructure mimics potential real-life cyber attacks and enables cyber defenders to see and understand an attack before it actually happens, preparing them to be ready to defend. Attack scenarios are mapped to the MITRE ATT&CK Framework for Industrial Control Systems (ICS) so teams can understand the specific tactics taken by adversaries. The immersive, live-fire cyber range environment gives OT IR and ICS security teams the needed expertise, judgment, skills, and muscle memory required to be ready when a real attack occurs. 

Cloud Range training missions are led by expert attackmasters providing teams with real-time guidance. Additionally, security leaders receive performance metrics and analysis with prescribed training plans based on the results of an exercise.

Learn more about OT cyberattack simulation training by watching the webinar, “Conquer OT Attacks in an IT-focused World” featuring Debbie Gordon, founder and CEO of Cloud Range; Bryan Singer, Principal Director, Global OT Incident Response Lead at Accenture; Mark Cristiano, Global Commercial Director – Cyber Security Services at Rockwell Automation; and Lucian Niemeyer, CEO of Building Cyber Security.

McMenon Acquires Flowmeter Line from ABB

This news came to me via a UK company called McMenon Engineering Services. It concerns ABB, too. To quote from McMenon, “A UK manufacturing company’s growth plans have taken an exciting leap forward with the acquisition of a state-of-the-art product line from Europe.”

A range of Variable Area (VA) Flowmeters will now be manufactured in Workington, Cumbria, after McMenon Engineering Services Ltd was chosen by global technology company ABB to make the VA flowmeter product portfolio that had been produced by ABB in Germany. 

Following the acquisition, McMenon, under a supply partnership agreement, will continue to supply VA meters carrying the ABB brand and the meters remain part of ABB’s product offering.

McMenon, a worldwide manufacturer and supplier of quality flow and temperature measurement instrumentation, and ABB have a long-standing partnership.

With this acquisition, McMenon, already a highly recognised name in the global flowmeter and temperature instrumentation market, will now be placed among the top global manufacturers of VA flowmeters. ABB customers will see no difference and can expect the same product quality they are used to. 

ABB Adds Power, Speed to Cobot Line

Collaborative Robots, also known as cobots, have added juice to the overall robot market. Just as I thought robotics was a pretty stagnant market, cobots arrived to bring automation to applications previously too small for the size and expense of industrial robots. 

What started with startup Danish firms has spread to large and established firms. ABB, one of the originals, has announced a new cobot series.

  • SWIFTI CRB 1300 industrial collaborative robot is six times faster and five times more precise than other robots in its class
  • Combination of high payload capability – up to 11kg – and speed improves production efficiency by up to 44%
  • Features ensure safe deployment alongside workers and ease-of-use for non-robotics specialists

ABB has launched the SWIFTI™ CRB 1300 industrial collaborative robot, bridging the gap between industrial and collaborative robots. Combining class-leading speed and accuracy with expanded load handling capability of up to 11kg, the SWIFTI CRB 1300 can be used in a wide variety of production and product handling applications – from machine tending and palletizing to pick-and-place and screwdriving.

Powered by ABB’s OmniCore™ C90XT controller, the SWIFTI CRB 1300 is up to five times more precise than any cobot in its class, making it ideal for tasks requiring consistent accuracy and repeatability. This, combined with a top speed of 6.2m/s, and payload options from 7 kg to 11 kg and reaches from 0.9 to 1.4, enables the SWIFTI CRB 1300 to perform a range of higher payload tasks including screwdriving, assembly, pick-and-place, and palletizing. With protection against dust and moisture (up to IP67), it can also be used in demanding environments, making it ideal for machine tending applications.

The SWIFTI CRB 1300 prioritizes operator safety, with a safety laser scanner integrated with ABB’s SafeMove collaborative safety software..

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