'Relaunched' Hannover Fair promotes business optimism, innovation

This year's Hannover Industrial Fair on April 19-24 added the process automation show Interkama to its format of eight "fairs within a fair," attracting 180,000 visitors to products and technologies from 5,040 exhibitors worldwide. Led by Factory Automation and Interkama, the "relaunched" show's 2004 lineup also included sectors on Energy, Digital Factory, Surface Tech...


This year's Hannover Industrial Fair on April 19-24 added the process automation show Interkama to its format of eight "fairs within a fair," attracting 180,000 visitors to products and technologies from 5,040 exhibitors worldwide. Led by Factory Automation and Interkama, the "relaunched" show's 2004 lineup also included sectors on Energy, Digital Factory, Surface Technology, Subcontracting, Microtechnology, and Research and Technology.

Besides its wide sweep of products and information seminars, Hannover Fair provides a venue for gauging new technologies and business trends. As part of its coverage of this key event, Control Engineering met with managers and officials from several major exhibiting companies to assess their views. Business optimism and continual innovation were common threads in the discussions.

Hybrid automation

Helmut Gierse, president of Siemens Automation & Drives Group , believes that a technology megatrend is underway, in which discrete and process industries are merging into one larger "hybrid industry." This blending includes control systems associated with both factory and process automation. The movement also offers a way for technology suppliers like Siemens to give customers a competitive edge, explains Gierse.

He cites Siemens' Totally Integrated Automation as an approach that simplifies users' tasks by incorporating complex thinking to make solutions simple. "To solve a complex automation problem simply is accomplishing a high-tech solution," says Gierse. The idea is to use the same PLC, DCS, and MES, the same drive system and same platform with specific add-ons—for discrete and process automation—to maximize productivity. "We're working hard on that," he states.

Gierse adds that the evolution of the "digital factory" is an approach that can drastically cut manufacturing ramp-up time by extensive use of simulation methods. Siemens Power Transmission and Distribution Group also was active at the fair.

Meanwhile, Rockwell Automation reports that it markets its technologies three ways: 1) Essential Component Campaign for OEMs—with PLCs being a prime example of "essential component," 2) Integrated Architecture, and 3) Service and Solutions, says Urs T. Marti, director of Rockwell's market development for the EMEA [Europe, Middle East, Africa] region.

Integrated Architecture represents 40% of Rockwell Automaton's products sold (control systems, HMIs, motion control, etc.), with 60% going into the automotive, food, beverage/brewing, and life science industries, which are the company's core competencies, explains Marti. Service and Solution focuses on reducing development time and cost over the entire product cycle from design to manufacturing to preventive maintenance. Areas of concentration include drive systems, motion, process control, and safety. Another industry focus at Rockwell is plant-floor security, says Marti. With "openness" in networking and communications on the rise, and information transactions are accelerating at production facilities, there is a commensurate need to make the flow of data secure.

Many technologies to track

Keeping up with the state-of-the-art in instrumentation and sensors is a key objective at Endress+Hauser (E+H), a company specializing in industrial process measurement and control. Of some 150 physical and chemical sensor effects in use, E+H applies 43 of them, and must keep up to date in its diverse technologies, states Dipl.-Ing. Dieter Schaudel, E+H's chief technology officer, CIO and executive board member.

However, the commitment to develop new leading-edge products carries a challenge, Schaudel explains. "It requires a total understanding of the architecture of the instrumentation, including its control algorithms, wiring, communication networks, and instrument traceability," he says. Measurement forms the basis of controls.

E+H prides itself on having a culture of invention as a manufacturer, with 157 patent applications filed in 2003—a 20% increase over 2002. While not all inventions become patents, Schaudel cites statistics about the number of patent application filed per staff member at different companies in 2003: Siemens (1 per 106); Bosch (1 per 72); and E+H (1 per 38).

Continuous product development

Roleof Timmer, ABB 's marketing director for drives (based in Helsinki, Finland), commented on ABB's drives-related business, which is "looking up" in Europe, "booming" in China, and "hopeful" in North America. The latest technology makes new electric drives very competitive, he explains, so much so that many suppliers can deliver a drive product able to handle 95% of applications. As a result, companies need to look for differentiation in how they develop their drives. At ABB, drives technology receives "continuous effort in product development," says Timmer. "More than 80% of ABB's drives revenue comes from products less than two years old."

ABB's exhibits at Hannover extended well beyond drives to include products and systems to support management of power transmission and distribution.

Working from its core competency in industrial networking, Phoenix Contact recently added an automation architecture to its offerings, called AutomationWorx. Dipl.-Ing. Martin Müller, of Phoenix Contact's Automation Systems division, says that this open, scalable platform includes products that work together, along "six sides" of a complete automation system—namely: software, networking solutions, I/O devices, drives, HMI, and controls.

Hannover Fair marked the official release of Small Machine Control for AutomationWorx, which is a diskless, fanless PC-based control incorporating Microsoft Windows CE/XP, three fieldbus interfaces, USB, and Ethernet, among other features. This addition to the "Worx" combines control and HMI functions in one unit, reportedly at one-third the cost of a competing product, explains Müller.

Phoenix Contact also looks ahead to embrace Ethernet with highly modular function switches and hubs, which will enable customers to use the same technology from low-end to high-end applications.

Next year, Hannover Fair moves to a more streamlined five-day format on April 11-15, 2005.

For more information on attending or exhibiting, visit www.hfusa.com . For a longer version of this article, visit / .

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