NIAS's innovations ignite National Manufacturing Week

More than 21,000 control and automation professionals descended on about 215 exhibitors during the National Industrial Automation Show (NIAS), which was part of National Manufacturing Week (NMW), March 16-19, at McCormick Place in Chicago. Here are highlights from some of the show's major press events:


More than 21,000 control and automation professionals descended on about 215 exhibitors during the National Industrial Automation Show (NIAS), which was part of National Manufacturing Week (NMW), March 16-19, at McCormick Place in Chicago. Here are highlights from some of the show's major press events:

ObjectAutomation unveils first products

ObjectAutomation (OA, Santa Ana, Calif.) introduced its OAenterprise 98 family of software products on March 17, and stated it will begin deliveries this month. Dave Smith, OA's president and founder, says OAenterprise 98 is the first software family designed to be a universal object-based control system. OAenterprise 98 will serve discrete, process, batch, motion control, numerical control, and building automation applications. The product family includes OA2control, OA2view, OA2history, and OA2alarms applications. Expansion plans are already slated for Asia and later for Latin America.

Intellution partners to create complete PC-based package

Octagon Systems (Westminster, Colo.), Opto 22 (Temecula, Calif.), and Intellution (Norwood, Mass.) announced March 17 at NMW that they've joined to offer a Starter Kit, a new PC-based control package including Intellution's FIX Paradym-31 SoftLogic control software, Opto 22's new Snap I/O digital and analog modules, and Octagon's MicroPC system. "As software moves toward more object-oriented structures, hardware is also becoming more scalable," says Christopher Zei, Intellution's marketing director. Two kits will be offered. A DOS-based system will be available next month, and an NT version will be ready to ship in May.

Steeplechase launches Diagnostic Manager

Steeplechase Software (Ann Arbor, Mich.) announced a new browser-based, web-aware PC-based diagnostics tool, the VLC Diagnostic Manager, at the show on March 16. Second in Steeplechase's PC-based control line, the new product adds to the diagnostics capabilities in the firm's Visual Logic Controller PC-based control software. Steeplechase president and ceo, Mike Klein, says the VLC Diagnostic Manager efficiently leverages Internet technology and automatically displays and logs faults from the Diagnostic Wizard in Flowcharts. This can cut diagnostics costs by 90%, he adds. Shipping begins in 3Q98.

National Instruments creates modules

National Instruments (Austin, Tex.) released new modules March 16 to connect CompactPCI systems to communications networks. These modules work with PXI, the company's extended version of Compact PCI. They include a Controller Area Network interface, a master/scanner interface for DeviceNet networks, Serial RS-485 and Serial RS-232 interfaces with isolation—PXI 8461, 8470, 8423, and 8422, respectively.

Siemens introduces new soft logic control system

Siemens Energy & Automation Inc. (Alpharetta, Ga.) introduced NMW and the North American market March 16 to SIMATIC WinAC (Windows Automation Center), a PC-based control solution that allows users to perform standard PC applications as well as process visualization or open-loop control on a single, open hardware platform. Using the PC's increasingly powerful capabilities, SIMATIC WinAC merges automation tasks with the steadily overlapping world of office data processing. Operating under a Windows NT software platform, SIMATIC WinAC permits smooth integration of software components for control, engineering, data processing, communication and visualization tasks.

Rockwell Automation launches 'smart' products

An array of "smart" automation devices were released by Rockwell Automation (Milwaukee, Wis.) during this year's show. These products included: a 15-in. thin film transistor display option added to its line of Allen-Bradley RAC6180 industrial computers; an open-platform machine vision system, Allen-Bradley Optix, that allows end-users and OEMs to custom design inspection systems; a PCI scanner card for connecting PCs to DeviceNet communication networks; and a highly integrated control solution, Allen-Bradley ProcessLogix, designed specifically for small- to mid-sized process control applications.

Mitsubishi introduces variable frequency drives

Mitsubishi Electric Automation Inc. (Mt. Prospect, Ill.) unveiled March 18 its new A500 Series Variable Frequency Drive with compact, cost-effective units in ratings of 1/2 through 100 hp at both 240 V and 480 V. Designed to improve system reliability, A500 provides access to all configuration and monitoring parameters and extensive diagnostic information. Mitsubishi also launched its Supermicro PLC family, FX2N. At half the size and more than six times the performance level of existing microcontrollers, FX2N's capabilities put it in the new supermicro category of high-end, small PLCs.

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