Sector sets another record for production output in 2015
For 2016, the German machine tool industry is cautiously optimistic. “We’re expecting moderate growth of 1 per cent in 2016,” says Dr. Heinz-Jürgen Prokop, Chairman of the VDW (German Machine Tool Builders’ Association), speaking at the organisation’s annual press conference in Frankfurt am Main.
This prognosis is based on capital investment from the major customer sectors, global figures for machine tool consumption, and finally the order bookings at Germany’s machine tool manufacturers.
For the investments, Oxford Economics, the VDW’s forecasting partner, was in the autumn of last year expecting a global increase of 4 per cent. The principal drivers are traditionally the automotive industry, followed by the electrical engineering and electronics industries, metal product manufacturers, and the mechanical engineering sector. Machine tool consumption is predicted to rise by 4.2 per cent. Europe tops the rankings here (plus 4.6 per cent), closely followed by Asia (plus 4.5 per cent) and America (plus 2.5 per cent).
Order bookings at German machine tool manufacturers, an indicator for medium-term business activity, showed a moderate rise of 1 per cent in 2015, to reach 14.9 billion euros. Production output and order bookings are thus settling at approximately the same level.
During the first three quarters of 2015 Asia and Europe ordered 4 and 3 per cent more German machine tools respectively than in the previous year. Orders from China, which account for around a quarter of the total, were down again, this time by 8 per cent. This shows that the restructuring process in the Middle Kingdom will remain an issue for quite a long time to come. Nonetheless China remains important due to the sheer size of its market alone – the country is responsible for one-third of international machine tool consumption.
In 2015, the sector produced machines worth 15.1 billion euros
The VDW’S prognosis is based on the record year of 2015. Last year, the German machine tool industry produced machines worth 15.1 billion euros, corresponding to an increase of 4 per cent. “That’s once again a record figure, following the last high in 2013,” explains Dr. Prokop.
With an export ratio of around 70 per cent, and exports up by 4 per cent to around 9.4 billion euros, markets abroad made a somewhat greater contribution to the overall result than domestic consumption. Contrary to all expectations, Europe did particularly well, with a plus of 8 per cent.
Asia, by contrast, a few years ago on almost level pegging with Europe, disappointed with a fall in exports of 5 per cent. China, the largest market with a share of still over one-fifth, has been severely affected.
In 2015, the sector’s workforce increased by an annual average of 1.5 per cent to around 68,500 employees. Capacity utilisation was running at an annual average of just over 88 per cent, which was about 2 per cent down on the preceding year’s level. The current figure in January, however, shows a renewed uptrend. The order backlog, at 6.8 months, was averaging half a month below the preceding year’s figure.
“Overall, these figures show the sector has once again performed very well. Some of our member companies have reported the best year in the firm’s history,” is Dr. Prokop’s comment on the figures for 2015.
Global business is getting progressively harder
“Nonetheless, the business environment for our operations has become more difficult, and our options for exerting a direct influence are limited,” says Prokop. The newly industrialising countries, in particular, are under pressure, due to the low prices for raw materials, Russia is suffering from the weak rouble and the low oil price, Brazil is mired in a serious recession, while China, with its faltering growth is weakening the most important trading partners. Then there are the numerous geopolitical uncertainties. “So it’s all the more important for our companies, in time of transformative global change, to be on the lookout for new long-term market potentials,” says Dr. Prokop. This applies both to new sales markets, and to new products and services from the manufacturers.
Market potentials for German machine tool manufacturers
Iran, currently on everyone’s lips, offers potentials for German manufactures as well. In the boom times of the early 1990s, they exported machines worth almost 190 million euros. The figure for last year, by contrast, was a mere 20 million euros. The country’s machine tool consumption is expected to increase rapidly from its most recent 82 million. In particular, German vendors are anticipating good sales opportunities thanks to a very substantial demand for modernization among equipment suppliers for the oil and gas industries, and in the automaking segment. In order to reconnect with the traditionally good relationships with Iranian customers, VDW is joining forces with Messe Stuttgart to host the AMB Iran, a trade fair with an accompanying symposium, in Teheran from 30 May to 1 June 2016.
Mexico is also regarded as an exciting high-growth market, driven predominantly by the automotive and aviation industries Mexico’s machine tool consumption rose by an impressive 85 per cent between 2010 and 2014. With 1.5 billion euros, the country nowadays ranks among the world’s biggest markets for machine tools. Germany is the third-biggest supplier, with a share of 14 per cent. German exports have since 2011 climbed by more than 250 per cent. In mid-April 2016, on the initiative of the VDW and with political support, there will be a German exhibition called “German High-Tech in Metal Working” under the aegis of the Expomaq trade fair in León.
Another promising region is the ASEAN bloc, whose countries represent a market volume of 3.9 billion euros. The Japanese have so far been dominating the market, not least because the Japanese automotive industry has a strong local presence. Japan supplies around half of the machine tools imported, Germany a mere 4 per cent. Nonetheless, German exports to the region have risen substantially in the past few years, and most recently totalled more than 150 million euros. “So greater involvement will be well worth while,” opines VDW Chairman Dr. Prokop.
Upgrading competitive advantage with new technologies
“If you want to continue prospering in the face of international competition, it’s increasingly imperative to offer solutions that others cannot emulate,” adds Heinz-Jürgen Prokop. Keyword Industry 4.0: it’s becoming progressively more difficult to attain major competitive advantages in terms of machine technology. For this reason, machine tool manufacturers are well advised to broaden their viewpoints and to think in terms of holistic production solutions. If these are to be consistently adopted throughout a system, this demands profound knowledge of the process concerned in the context of what are sometimes highly disparate customer’s requirements. “No one knows these worlds better than we do, and this is our great opportunity,” is Dr. Prokop’s firm conviction.
Another issue with a definite future is additive manufacturing. It enriches the range of existing conventional metalworking processes by enabling customised or complex components to be produced, for example. More and more manufacturers are accordingly examining the idea of hybrid machines, which combine conventional machining processes with additive manufacturing. Nonetheless, their use is viable only if it creates an additional benefit for the customers that justifies the higher production costs involved. “In the case of customised or complex components or in small series, this is easy to implement; in medium or large series and mass production, there’s still quite a lot left to do in order to achieve competitive unit costs,” admits the VDW’s Chairman.
125 years of success for the German machine tool industry – 125 years of the VDW
All in all, the German machine tool industry is in excellent shape. It is doing intensive work in the fields that it can influence itself, so as to successfully compete with its international counterparts. The majority of companies are taking globalisation on board and are operating all over the world. They are training young people, researching and developing new products, integrating new technologies, and expanding their spectrum of service capabilities. “If they succeed, they will maintain their international competitive lead,” is Dr. Prokop’s firm conviction.
The machine tool industry has since way over 100 years been demonstrating that it can repeatedly re-invent itself, has met and mastered numerous challenges, and never failed to upgrade its leading position in the world. This is equally true for the VDW, which in 2016 is celebrating its 125th anniversary. Over all these years, the association has provided backing and proactive support for the sector.
“Against this background, it’s all the more important to be properly prepared to identify and maintain a shared course, and never lose sight of the shared goal. What we’re relying on here is tradition and experience. What’s also essential is flexibility and creativity if you want to continue being successful even under altered situational conditions,” to quote Dr. Prokop.
Schneider Electric Innovation Summit Singapore 2018
Latest innovations to EcoStruxure architecture unveiled
Schneider Electric, the leader in digital transformation of energy management and automation, is hosting more than 1,500 customers, partners, suppliers and influencers at its latest Innovation Summit, September 20-21 at Singapore Marina Bay Sands. The event brings together Schneider Electric experts and world-leading industry thinkers to share insights and bold ideas on the challenges and opportunities of Powering and Digitizing the Economy.
Schneider Electric Innovations Unveiled for East Asia
In its second year running, this year’s Innovation Summit World Tour includes 20 events across the world, double the 2017 program. The Singapore event will be Schneider’s largest in East Asia, and the company will showcase its latest developments to EcoStruxure™, its IoT-enabled, plug and play, open, interoperable, architecture and platform. EcoStruxure™ delivers enhanced value around safety, reliability, efficiency, sustainability, and connectivity. EcoStruxure™ leverages advancements in IoT, mobility, sensing, cloud, analytics and cybersecurity to deliver Innovation at every level, from Connected Products, Edge Control to Apps, Analytics & Services. EcoStruxure™ has been deployed in 480,000+ sites, with the support of 20,000+ system integrators and developers, connecting over 1.6 million assets under management through 40+ digital services.
Major EcoStruxure developments will be presented at the Summit:
• EcoStruxure Power: the next generation of Schneider Electric’s IoT-Enabled platform and architecture for electrical distribution will be announced, dramatically strengthening power management capabilities for customers to improve operational efficiency and reliability. New user applications (EcoStruxure Power Advisor), edge control management software (EcoStruxure Power Monitoring Expert 9.0 and Power Scada Operation 9.0), and connected products (Powerlogic ION9000 Meter and Easergy P3 Protection Relay) will be announced.
• EcoStruxure Building: this smart, collaborative platform and architecture designed for buildings delivers maximum building efficiency and increased people comfort and productivity. EcoStruxure Building will benefit from new user applications (EcoStruxure Building Advisor), a new edge control application (Ecostruxure Building Operation 2.0), as well as new connected sensor products (SmartX IP Controller MPx and SmartX Room Sensors).
• Ecostruxure Plant & Machine: our IIoT technologies, including integrated software, are ready for smart manufacturing and can deliver new business opportunities for plants and machine builders – increasing profitability (EcoStruxure Triconex) and productivity (EcoStruxure Machine Advisor).
• EcoStruxure Asset Advisor: the new version of Schneider Electric’s equipment monitoring services application brings a much-needed cloud-based, data-driven 24/7 predictive service for business continuity in electrical distribution and critical data center assets.
Bold ideas for the digital economy
“The world is changing at an unprecedented rate driven by a booming digital economy. Technologies such as the Internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence and big data analytics are making companies more efficient and innovative, boosting their competitive advantage,” said Jean-Pascal Tricoire, Chairman and CEO, Schneider Electric. “As a responsible industry leader, we need to demonstrate how our innovations help our customers and partners make a successful digital transformation in energy management and automation. Our technologies, built on EcoStruxure™, harness the power of digitization, enabling our customers to become more efficient, safe, reliable, connected and sustainable – leaders in the New Digital Economy.”
During the two-day event, customers, partners and suppliers can attend Strategy Talks on topics as varied as “Redefining power distribution”, “Intuitive manufacturing, thanks to digitization” and “Reinvented buildings.” Schneider Electric is also conducting 15+ Expert Learning Sessions with its stakeholders, delivering concrete customer successes and solutions and interactive discussions between participants. Finally, a 3,700 m2 Innovation Hub will demonstrate the wealth of Schneider Electric’s software, solutions and services. The Singapore Innovation Summit will also feature the company’s growing network of Strategic Digital Alliances, Technology Partners, EcoXpertsTM and Start-Ups. Over 20 partners are represented, including Microsoft, Accenture, Cisco, Dell EMC, Autogrid, Danfoss, Somfy, and AVEVA, that complement Schneider Electric EcoStruxureTM solutions.
More information on Innovation Summit Singapore is available on Schneider Electric website.
New Technologies Pair the Physical with the Digital
Digital twinning is one part of the technology road map for Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things. A gamut of new technologies must be integrated to work seamlessly together to pair the physical domain with the digital information domain.
Digital twinning seeks to improve the design and maintenance of physical systems by offering datadriven ways to discretely map these physical systems into digital and computerized replicas of themselves. With the arrival of automation and data exchange, digital twinning could be useful in a myriad of industrial applications.
This new industrial context, where the physical and the digital worlds meet, is known as the fourth industrial revolution—or Industry 4.0. Brought on by the intersection of a host of high-technology electronic and computer systems, the “new way” of Industry 4.0 promises increasing gains, efficiencies, and flexibility. A gamut of new technologies must be integrated to work seamlessly together to pair the physical domain with the digital information domain. Digital twinning is only one part of the technology roadmap for Industry 4.0, as these additional technologies are helping to enable digital twinning for Industry 4.0 to manifest its potential:
• Pairing technologies
• Cyber-physical systems
• Augmented, virtual, and mixed reality
• Artificial intelligence
• Additive manufacturing
• 3D printing
• Digital thread
Pairing technologies are critical to digital twinning and the world of Industry 4.0, as these technologies empower a device or system to find, connect, and communicate with other devices and systems. For example, sensors and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) products require the ability to find and connect with other devices successfully. Technologies such as Bluetooth®, among others, are employed to make these connections. To accomplish this, connected devices must be able to interrogate other potentially connectable devices successfully. When inquiring other devices, units must be able to ascertain whether they are communicating with a unit that they should be corresponding and exchanging data with. When properly enabled and successful, this accomplishment is called pairing.
Security issues are paramount. Every device should pair only after proper identification has been confirmed to avoid crosstalk or misinformation. Shortcuts may be achieved through programming algorithms that allow the devices to quickly and easily identify other units that they should pair with. Pairing gets accomplished through authentication keys employing cryptography. Pairing works to ensure that the connections stay bonded in a data exchanging relationship between devices and works to prevent an external source from prying into their data exchanges.
Being that flexibility is paramount, units must be able to make and break their pairing quickly and without external, human involvement. Successful pairing may require ongoing communication to keep the pairing active. If one of the units determines that the pairing bond is no longer relevant to its successful operational objectives, it will remove its pairing relationship and present itself available for a different pairing opportunity.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) defines cyber-physical systems (CPS) as, “The tight conjoining of and coordination between computational and physical resources.” The critical element in this definition is that it focuses on a system approach— where a set of connected things or parts form a complex whole.
A current example of a CPS is the automated airline flight-control systems. Industry 4.0 requires traffic control, not for airplanes, but for the machines, computers, robots, sensors, and processes that comprehensively work together for its realization. It represents a system of higher order than IIoT, because it sits one level higher in the complexity chain. Where IIoT is concerned with collecting, handling, and sharing of large amounts of data, CPS is focused on ensuring that this large amount of data, collected from multiple systems, gets properly utilized across multiple disciplines that are relevant to the industry involved. The unique dilemmas of any given industry will require engineering expertise to address these specific challenges.
Augmented, Virtual, and Mixed Reality
New technologies are augmenting our reality. They are providing us with the ability to overlay digital content in front of us physically, merging the real with the virtual, creating a mixed reality that should be considered augmented. This gain is allowing engineers to view things in new ways. For example, rather than viewing a DT on a computer monitor, we could view a DT using an augmented reality (AR) headset that enables the users to engage with digital content or interact with holograms.
The use of such AR empowers viewers to have an immersive experience whereby they engage their bodily senses.
Reality-enhancing headsets can create real-time experiences of actual conditions happening in the physical world, by way of experiencing them through a digitized environment. AR could lead to new insights and understandings. Additionally, a DT display could appear in the user’s field of view, making real-time feedback that much more accessible and easy to use.
Artificial Intelligence Technologies
IIoT offers the promise to provide connected data; therefore, useful data must be stored and analyzed. Artificial intelligence (AI) is a solution to how to analyze and successfully handle large amounts of digital data. It helps in allowing digital twinning to become more realized because it promotes value by enabling rapid integration, hybrid integration, investment leverage, and system management and compliance.
Through machine learning, it offers the opportunity to use digital data to model, analyze, train, apply, and infer how best to make decisions. AI is helping to change the traditional perspective of computing, moving it beyond what primarily has been an automating- and scaling-process perspective towards a knowledgebased perspective, via actionable insights. Soon, it will help engineers gather new insights and ways to create value. By using a data-science approach, rapidly powered decisions will enable the generation of further opportunities.
Additive manufacturing (AM) is a method of production in which 3D objects are built by adding layer-upon-layer of material. AM holds promise because it leads to industries that can address variable demand and produce products that are distributable and flexible. Two areas of AM – 3D printing and digital thread – are advancing to make digital twinning possible.
3D printing is perhaps the most well-known example of AM. In 3D printing, a printer is programmed to print an object using plastics, metals, or other custom materials with virtually zero lead-time. 3D printing is extremely flexible and eliminates the issues involved in producing objects with large economies of scale. What this means for the future is that you will be able to get what you want quickly—as if walking up to the fast food counter.
With complex systems, however, AM has been confined primarily to the laboratory because all the systems involved do not operate under a unified system and, thus, are hard to scale. Digital thread promises to change that.
A digital thread is a single, seamless strand of data that acts as the constant behind a data-driven digital system. It activates the potential of AM by allowing a unification of disparate applications by way of their adherence to the thread, which is their source of shared information. A digital thread creates an easier process for collecting, managing, and analyzing information from every location involved in the redesigned Industry 4.0. It enables better and more efficient design, production, and utilization throughout the entire process.
Digital twinning will be a hallmark of Industry 4.0, helping to increase gains, efficiencies, and flexibility for existing products and processes. But digital twinning is just one part of the Industry 4.0 road map. Pairing technologies, CPS, AI, and AM are key to seamlessly bringing together the physical realm and the realm of its DT information and insights. While these technologies are bringing their complexities into the digital twinning equation, ultimately, they promise to enable Industry 4.0 to manifest its potential.
by Paul Golata for Mouser Electronics
Nanusens now live on Crowdcube for Pre-Series A fund raising
Investment in high technology start up from as little as £10
Nano-technology Company, Nanusens, has taken an innovative step of crowd funding for a round of investment. Investment starts from as little as £10 on www.crowdcube.com/nanusens
Nanusens CEO, Dr Josep Montanyà i Silvestre, explained: “We have venture capital firms already investing in this round that have been supporting us for a number of years as they believe in our novel technology. I think we are one of the first high technology companies to also offer the opportunity for people to easily invest using the simple process of Crowdcube. We already have 135 investors and raised £131,500 on Crowdcube, which is a 32% of the way to our target.”
Investing via Crowdcube can be done via a credit card payment or PayPal and only becomes effective once 90% of the target figure of £400,000 has been reached at the end of the crowd funding campaign.
Until now, sensors had to come off the standard CMOS production line to have the MEMS created on them using different processes. Nanusens multi-patent pending technology enables it to create nano-sensors using a standard CMOS processes within the same production flow as the rest of the chip production. This innovative approach dramatically reduces the size and cost of the sensors along with up to 85% reduction in the time to market.
”Our first silicon nano-sensor samples from GLOBALFOUNDRIES exceeded our expectations,” explained Dr Montanyà, “with a sensitivity that is an order of magnitude above what is needed for a motion sensor in most applications. The mechanical operation of the nano-sensor design was the tricky part to get right, as that is where the innovation happens. That works perfectly and the design is fixed. Everything from now onwards just involves standard CMOS processes. Partnering with GLOBALFOUNDRIES will ensure good yields and that we will be able to rapidly ramp up production as sales take off. We have a disruptive technology solution that will revolutionise the sensor market and meet the ever-increasing demand for low cost sensors in smartphones, wearable technology and IoT devices that has already made sensors a multi-billion dollar industry.”
Nanusens has the supply chain fully defined, having partnered with trusted providers, like JCAP, member of JCET, the largest assembly group in China. The first product is planned to be ready by September. Upon finishing the electronic part and doing final qualification, sales will start. Nanusens is already in conversations with potential customers in China with whom the final specifications have been defined.
How the sensors are made using standard CMOS processes
The Inter Metal Dielectric (IMD) is etched away through the pad openings in the passivation layer using vapour HF (vHF) to create the nano-sensor structures. The holes are then sealed and the chip packaged as necessary. As only a standard CMOS process with minimal post-processing is used, and the sensors can be directly integrated with active circuitry as required, the sensors can potentially have high yields similar to CMOS devices. Further details can be seen at https://vimeo.com/258745205
more information at www.nanusens.com
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