Hannover Fair, 12-16 April: the virtual exhibition01 April 2021

Although hoping for a mixed digital and in-person event in 2021, the organisers of the Hannover Fair admitted that the COVID pandemic has forced them to rule out an in-person event. Rather than cancel, it has gone ahead with a digital-only concept. Here is how it will work in practice

The COVID-19 virus has changed everything, and industry is in the midst of a transformation, argues Jochen Koeckler, CEO of Hannover fair organiser Deutsche Messe. Supply chains have had to be rethought, and industry has had to take advantage of digital alternatives to face-to-face interactions.

And that’s true as well for the exhibition, which welcomed 200,000 visitors in 2019, when it also launched its first contemporaneous digital event. Of course, last year’s event was cancelled entirely. Now, in the spirit that a digital event is a better format than nothing, and in the hopes that this year’s all-digital event will be a ‘learning factory’ for the future, the organiser is pressing ahead, says Koeckler.

The digital event – participation in which costs €20, unless you have the good fortune to be invited by an exhibitor – will consist of three elements.

First is an expo experience. Just as they would in person, visitors will have a chance to meet the hundreds of participating exhibitors, read product information, view company and product presentations and arrange video chats. Another service is accessing the show’s exhibitor database, which was said to have received two million search requests in 2019. Underneath the lead theme of ‘industrial transformation’, exhibitors are being organised in seven categories:

  • Automation, motion & drives
  • Compressed air & vacuum
  • Digital ecosystems
  • Energy solutions
  • Engineered parts & solutions
  • Global business & markets
  • Future hub

Second is a virtual conference livestream. Although the programme was not expected to be completed until just before the event, confirmed attendees include Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel, Eugene Kaspersky, founder of Kaspersky Lab, AI researcher Toby Walsh of the University of New South Wales and Christoph Bornschein, CEO and founder of digital consultancy TLGG.

Conference presentations will be spread across the whole week. Monday covers policy and politics, press conferences, the partner country (Indonesia) and the Hermes award ceremony. From Tuesday to Thursday the focus shifts to technology. Three live channels will cover topics within: energy and resource efficiency; intelligent production & IT infrastructure; climate-neutral production & mobility; supply chain, logistics & mobility. On Friday will be the 18th Career Congress, entitled ‘WomenPower 2021’, featuring presentations from inspiring women and men, workshops and panel discussions.

Third is a networking platform. All visitors will get their own digital dashboard to display companies, speakers and participants matching their chosen interests. In fact, says Koeckler, with it “you can contact anyone you like. If you find someone who has same interests in you – like hydrogen or automation or whatever – you can contact that person and maybe it will be better than in the actual programme. Maybe this is something that we can expand on [in future] with the hybrid format.”

We shall see. In any case, below are selected exhibitor profiles, in alphabetical order.

Emerson is showing among other products a range of Aventics communications technology: Series AF2 sensors (pictured) are flow sensors that monitor air consumption in pneumatic systems; Series SPA (Smart Pneumatics Analyser) uses mathematical algorithms to digitise and translate sensor data into information; Fieldbus electronics and I/O technology including Series G3 with an integrated graphic display to provide direct diagnostics and simplified commissioning. Also to be shown is an edge computing range including PACEdge IIoT software, a new edge analytics solution, RXi2 Edge computers and RX3i CPL410 Edge controller.

Festo’s Productivity Master is a demonstration that makes personalised USB memory sticks (above). According to the company, it is showing how automation technology will evolve along the value chain when combined with digitalisation. Thanks to seamless connectivity, everything fits perfectly, from the mechanical and electric systems to the intelligence, it says. The Festo automation platform provides an integrated and practical system to link all Festo engineering tools, components and solutions in hardware and software. The plant achieves the automation balancing act between mass production and customisation of a finished product.

For Harting Electronics, at the heart of technological megatrends such as modularisation, autonomy, and digital twin technology are fundamental requirements for the connectivity of the future as a necessary and unifying element. Specifically, these are key topics such as electromobility, DC power supply in industry and new ecosystems such as single-pair ethernet (SPE) in the field of industrial communications. “We are bringing these three topics together under the term Connectivity+,” the company says. Particular product focuses include SPE, energy storage and high-speed data transmission. A wide-ranging offering of product presentations, web seminars, expert talks and more will be on the agenda under ‘Harting Experts Camp’.

Huawei is using a suite of technologies, platforms and services to digitalise the entire supply chain. It plans to support this with a range of smart solutions, combining ubiquitous connectivity, edge computing, cloud and AI to create solution packages specific to each sector and use case, under the overall theme of ‘Accelerate Industrial Transformation through All Wireless + AI’. For example, it is using technologies including 5G, Wi-Fi 6 and RFID and other wireless technologies to create an all-in-one smart solution offering for warehouses.

ifm will be presenting the digital operator assistance system ‘ifm mate’ for support of manual workstations in production environments. Based on a 2D/3D camera system for hand recognition, the system is said to eliminate the need for cumbersome wrist accessories common to other systems. The assistance system consists of a computer with a touch screen, the software and a photoelectric sensor that captures both a 2D video image and a 3D image (pictured above). Workflows can flexibly be customised in the software. The system then checks whether the workflow is executed correctly and displays any deviations on the screen. A combined optical and acoustic signalling device is provided as an option to indicate errors directly in the operator’s field of vision.

igus is presenting a new modular gearbox kit for cobots to help facilitate the development of service robotics (pictured, p28). The integrated tribo strain wave gear with motor, absolute-value encoder, force control system and controller are the main components. Friction and wear are said to be optimised by means of lubrication-free tribo-polymers. The gear can be used along the last axis of an articulated arm, linear robot or delta robot, for example, in front of different gripper systems. They are to be used this year in the new version of the ReBel, the igus service robot.

KUKA is presenting a preview of its operating system of the future at the digital Hannover Messe 2021. Prototypes have already been in use at various customers since the end of 2020. This is less about the product ‘robot’ alone, but rather about its use and the possible applications. “Our mission by 2030 is: automation will be simpler, more intuitive, and thus available to everyone. This will lower the entry threshold. Programming a robot will then be as easy as working on a PC today,” says group CEO Peter Mohnen.

Nord Drivesystems is promoting a synchronous motor (pictured above), released last year, that is said to offer significantly higher energy efficiency (IE5+) than the previous IE4 series. It is a supplement to the standardised geared motor variants of the brand’s LogiDrive systems. The permanent magnet motor was initially launched in a size for power ranges from 0.35 to 1.1 kW with continuous torque from 1.6 to 4.8Nm and speeds from 0 to 2,100rpm. Direct motor attachment as well as NEMA and IEC motor attachments are available. Integrated encoder and mechanical brake are optionally available. It can be also combined with NORD gear units and drive electronics.

Pepperl+Fuchs offers two new sensors for different markets. First, the new USi safety ultrasonic sensor (pictured below) is for factory automation. It is said to be the only sensor of its kind to meet EN ISO 13849 category 3 PL d, required of safety-related parts of control systems of robots. Its two-channel ultrasonic sensor features two transducers connected to a control interface. On each of the two independent channels, objects can be detected via an elliptical sound beam within ranges of up to 2,500 mm. Second, the WILSEN.sonic.level wireless sensor provides remote monitoring of fill and water levels in tanks, silos, and rivers with ultrasonic distance measurement. The autonomous, battery-powered sensor regularly records measured values and uploads them to the Internet.

Schneider Electric contends that the adoption of the IEC 61499 open automation standard will alleviate many automation challenges facing industry. It establishes a common language for automation, ensuring different hardware and software systems can leverage the power of advanced technologies most effectively by ‘talking’ to each other and easily working together. Based on that is its EcoStruxure Automation Expert, first launched in November 2020. Version 21.0 was launched in early February; future releases are scheduled every six months. In October 2020, it also launched EcoStruxure Power and Process, which is said to unify engineering design, operations and maintenance. It was developed in partnership with AVEVA and has already been implemented at several energy-intensive production sites globally. In February Schneider began a strategic relationship with Wood, the energy and industrial services provider.

Weidmüller claims to be reinventing the connector with a new modular product concept. With their basic design, OMNIMATE 4.0 connectors are constructed as prefabricated individual I/O modules which the user can combine thanks to various options. The connectors are available with 2 to 12 poles and from a batch size of one. In the longer term, almost any combination of signal, power, data or even hybrid and smart interfaces can be created through a simple selection process in the Weidmüller Configurator (WMC), according to the company. Dispatch is in a few days, whether single samples or series production orders. It is also promoting the fifth generation of its PrintJet CONNECT printer for plastic and metal markers.

BOX: Solar-powered ice factory

Hannover Fair country partner Indonesia is the world’s leading tuna producing nation and the second largest fish producer overall. However, small-scale fishermen are often unable to transport their fish to consumers due to a lack of refrigeration facilities. As a result, they find it virtually impossible to compete with industrial fishing; much of their catch is spoiled, causing poverty amongst the fishermen.

The German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) initiated and provided support for the development of a solar powered ice-making machine.

The innovative technology ensures the production of up to 1.2 tons of block ice per day, dynamically and automatically adapting to the amount of solar energy available. This does not require either a power connection or an expensive, large battery storage system, allowing ice blocks to be produced in locations away from power grids and used for cooling locally caught fish.

Together with a number of Indonesian, German and other European companies, including Bitzer, Ziehl-Abegg and BAE Batterien, the production of these machines was also established in Indonesia. Development began in 2016 and the pilot plant started up successfully in 2018. The first commercial unit will go into operation in Indonesia in 2021. Other project partners include REC Solar, ATW Solar, Studer and Omron.

William Dalrymple

Related Companies
Festo Ltd
Harting Ltd
Huawei Technologies
IFM Electronic Ltd
Igus (UK) Ltd
KUKA Robotics UK Ltd
Pepperl & Fuchs GB Ltd
Schneider Electric
Weidmuller Ltd

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