SPS/IPC/Drives `99: Snows slow only start of this growing technology show

By Frank Bartos, executive editor March 1, 2000

Nürnberg, Germany -Winter came early to Central Europe and parts of Germany the past two years. In late November 1999, heavy snows added to travel hardships. ‘Chaos in the streets,’ in words of the local press, coincided with the start of Nürnberg’s major late-fall event, SPS/IPC/Drives-the Electric Automation Technology Exhibition & Conference, held here Nov. 23-25, 1999. Snow delayed arrival of visitors, but only briefly. The show was back on track by the end of day one.

Despite early snow, the SPS/IPC/Drives
show in Nürnberg saw significant
growth in attendance numbers.

Actually, SPS/IPC/Drives `99 continued its positive track of growth with 16,400 visitors and 540 exhibitors on 30,000 m

Besides automation and control systems, other ‘must’ technologies were prominent, among them: electric drives; industrial data networks and fieldbuses; sensor, image processing, and machine vision systems; safety technologies; HMI; and a myriad of software for control, simulation, communication, etc. Broad-based integration to connect all these automation elements was also on display.

Ethernet, international stature

Ethernet products were evident in many stands. In fact, the show was the occasion for the founding meeting of IAONA Europe (Industrial Automation Open Networking Alliance) on Nov. 23. This European counterpart of IAONA ‘USA’ (Waltham, Mass.) promotes the use of Ethernet in industrial automation technologies. Leading manufacturers and user companies in automation technologies make up these alliances.

Some people still regard SPS/IPC/Drives as a regional show, however it is evolving into an international event in terms of both exhibitors’ and visitors’ countries of origin. Strong growth of exhibitors from other parts of Europe adds to the overall image.

Joseph Rath, managing director of show organizer Mesago GmbH (Stuttgart, Germany), refers to SPS/IPC/Drives as ‘Europe’s largest `special-interest fair’ for electrical automation technology.’

Many company names seen at comparable North American shows such as National Manufacturing Week are found here as well-albeit under local subsidiaries.

Kurt Küherz, managing director of Rockwell Automation Germany (Haan, Germany) commented on the show’s regional origins and its recent growth at the present site. [It has been held at Nürnberg’s Exhibition Center since 1997.] He sees SPS/IPC/Drives as a highly focused show. ‘Many skilled people attend the show, looking for answers to highly technical, application-specific questions and looking for solutions,’ Mr. Küherz told Control Engineering . Rockwell Automation (world headquarters in Milwaukee, Wis.), showed a wide range of technologies from automation systems/components and PLC/PC-based controls to drives, I/O networks, software, and services.

Sampling exhibitors

National Instruments (Austin, Tex; Munich, Germany) showed its two main HMI offerings, LabView and Lookout software, along with a recent product called MXI-3 (Multisystem Extension Interface). MXI-3 is a board product for controlling PXI and CompactPCI systems using fiber-optic or copper wire over distances up to 200 m without a repeater.

‘Open’ object-oriented architecture, operator interfaces, process automation, and integration of information technology (IT) with manufacturing were active themes at GE Fanuc/Eberle Automation ‘s (Charlottesville, Va.; Nürnberg, Germany) exhibit. Cimplicity HMI software was the centerpiece, showing its various industrial applications and web capability.

By the way, here as at several other booths, there was no trademark problem with using the term ‘soft SPS,’ the acronym being the German equivalent of PLC (programmable logic controller).

Close to home, Siemens Automation & Drives (Nürnberg) was present in a large way with ‘integration in engineering’ as the main theme. This is part of the company’s ‘Totally Integrated Automation’ image. Hans-Rainer Knobloch, director, regional product management, told Control Engineering that integration of all Siemens drive systems is a major element of the project. A notable tool in this task is PC-based software called Drive ES (Engineering System). Released in Dec. 1999, Drive ES uses methods similar to function blocks or graphical programming-especially enhanced for drives-to unify configuration, communication, and data handling. ‘Complete applications can be designed and evaluated via the Design ES tool. It means real gains in flexibility for projects,’ explains Mr. Knobloch.

Among several drive-related demos at Siemens, a four-axis servo system involved Simodrive Posmo A combination intelligent motor/controller, axis synchronization, an optical quality control station, and a vision system-under command of MasterDrive with Profibus motion functionality.

A cross section of automation and process control technology was on display at ABB’s stand, represented mainly by ABB Automation Products (Mannheim, Germany) and ABB Automation Systems (Eschborn, Germany). Sample products included Advant Controller 200, an IEC 61131-compliant ‘soft SPS’ system; RLM01 redundant coupler for Profibus DP/FMS installations; and various motors and drives (ac/dc). DCS 400 is an example of a new OEM-oriented dc drive with rapid set up procedures built into software. In a simulated ‘commissioning exercise,’ this editor completed the procedures in 10 minutes, though with a bit of guidance.

CAN in Automation (CiA, Erlangen, Germany) managing director Holger Zeltwanger explained a change in exhibits for his organization. Due to the large number of exhibitors embracing CAN technology, CiA will no longer have a joint booth with those partners at shows in Germany. CiA’s plain booth displayed a large map of the exhibit halls showing booths of CAN bus users in color-‘about half of the exhibitors here,’ according to Mr. Zeltwanger. ‘The traditional joint exhibits [with user companies] will continue [at shows] outside Germany,’ he adds.

Contemporary Controls (Downers Grove, Ill.), a developer of Arcnet products, partnered with a small German electronics firm, Heyfra Electronic (Eisleben, Germany), that makes interface cards for the ISA bus.

PEP Modular Computers (Kaufbeuren, Germany) has expanded and reorganized in the form of separate Business Units-VME Bus, PCI, Soft SPS, and Systems-to reduce time to market for new product development, according to Suzanne Petzler, corporate communications. Each unit has its own staff to handle customer-specific project management. The move was dictated by company growth, says Ms. Petzler.

Drives, motion control

Never far in the background at this show, numerous manufacturers offered motor, drive, and motion control technologies.

Among products of Mitsubishi Electric Europe (Ratingen, Germany) was its RP-1AH compact robot for precise positioning introduced at Interkama in October 1999.

Baldor Motors & Drives (Fort Smith, Ark.; Munich [Kirchheim], Germany) showed complete lines, including motion control products of its U.K. subsidiary, Baldor Optimised Controls, as well as linear motors and controls.

Servo Halbeck (Offenhausen, Germany) is a technology developer and distributor for U.S. companies like Galil Motion Control (Mountain View, Calif.) and Performance Motion Devices (Lexington, Mass.). Products examples are Galil’s DMC-1700 Series motion controllers and PMD’s Navigator motion control chipsets. One of Servo Hallbeck’s own products is the Posys 500 Series motion controllers for servo and step motors that incorporates ASIC and DSP technologies, such as the Navigator chipset. It also has a company in the U.S. called Intelligent Motion Control Ltd. (Scottsdale, Ariz.).

SIG Positec Automation ‘s (Lahr, Germany; Plymouth, Mich.) offerings included its integrated motor-servo controller system (IclA) introduced at Hannover Fair ’99. ‘It’s being received well by the market,’ says Klaus E. Albrecht, vp of technology and integration. ‘We are looking at variations for this product including more sizes [Size 17 (42 mm OD); Size 23 (60-mm OD] and to lengthen the service life. CAN bus is the current communications method and DeviceNet is under evaluation,’ he says.

Zebotronics (Munich, Germany) presented an unusually wide range of step motors, all the way up to giant-sized 1.3 kW (168-mm OD) units.

Besides variable-frequency drives (VFDs), programmable logic controllers and operator interfaces were the highlights at the Hitachi Europe (Düsseldorf, Germany) exhibit. PLC offerings ranged from the EH-Micro with 10 to 84 I/O points to the substantial EH-150 offering up to 512 I/Os. VFDs included sensorless flux vector control models with autotuning and >200% starting torque. Examples are SJ100 for 0.2-7.5 kW and SJ300 for 1.5-55 kW (3-phase, 400 V operation).

Adjustable-speed drives, ac/dc servos, machine control systems, and robotics comprised Yaskawa Electric Europe ‘s (Schwalbach, Germany) products. A synchronized motion control demo centered on the launching and catching of billiard balls under servo control. This ‘juggling robot’ needs positioning accuracy of 0.01 mm. The company’s North American headquarters are located in Waukegan, Ill.

Landert-Motoren AG (Bülach, Switzerland) highlighted its high-pole count, direct-drive motor based on the transverse flux principle. Called Servax, the unusual design yields high torque density in a small package for speeds of 0-600 rpm and substantially reduces copper losses. However, pricing is 10-15% higher than standard motors, largely due to the complex assembly of peripheral magnets, says the company.

Diverse conference program

SPS/IPC/Drives continues to build on its tradition of a strong conference alongside the exhibition. The conference program ranges from technical papers, forums, and discussions to poster sessions, given almost exclusively in German. In 1999, a total of 98 lectures and 20 tutorials were presented.

Conference topics ranged widely from Java techniques for automation (web-based, embedded, etc.) to safety of bus systems, sensorless control methods for ac induction motors, and high-performance servo systems.

While system solutions are in the forefront, there is no disillusionment with components at SPS/IPC/Drives. The next show, scheduled for Nov. 28-30, 2000, continues to carry the subtitle ‘Electrical Automation-Systems & Components.

Frank Bartos, executive editor