Researchers Prove that Glass can Bend and Flex on a Nanoscale

A new glass technology capable of adding a new level of flexibility to the microscopic world of medical devices has been developed by Brigham Young University researchers. Headed by Aaron Hawkins,...
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Researchers Develop Innovative Nano-Capillary Rise Model to Decipher Fracking

In the last decades, hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” a method of oil and gas extraction, has taken the global energy industry by storm. In this technique, small gas and oil deposits...
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Cybersecurity pitfalls!

Jonathan Wilkins, marketing director of obsolete industrial parts supplier, EU Automation discusses three cyber security pitfalls that industry should prepare for – the weaponisation of everyday devices, older attacks, such as Heartbleed and Shellshock and vulnerabilities in industrial control systems.

IBM X-Force® Research
2016 Cyber Security Intelligence Index

In 2016, IBM reported that manufacturing was the second most cyber-attacked industry. With new strains of ransomware and other vulnerabilities created every week, what should manufacturers look out for in new year?

‘Weaponisation’ of everyday devices
The advantages of accessing data from smart devices include condition monitoring, predictive analytics and predictive maintenance, all of which can save manufacturers money.

However, recent attacks proved that these connected devices can quickly become weapons, programmed to attack the heart of any business and shut down facilities. In a recent distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack, everyday devices were used to bring down some of the most visited websites in the world, including Twitter, Reddit and AirBNB.

Such incidents raise a clear alarm signal that manufacturers should run their production line on a separate, highly secure network. For manufacturers that use connected devices, cyber security is even more important, so they should conduct regular cyber security audits and ensure security protocols are in place and up-to-date.

Don’t forget the oldies
According to the 2016 Manufacturing Report, manufacturers are more susceptible to older attacks, such as Heartbleed and Shellshock. These are serious vulnerabilities found in the OpenSSL cryptographic that allows attackers to eavesdrop on communications and steal data directly from users.

Industrial computer systems generally aren’t updated or replaced as often as consumer technology, which means that some still have the original OpenSSL software installed. A fixed version of the programme has since been released, meaning that manufacturers can avoid this type of attack by simply updating their system.

Keeping industrial control
Manufacturers understand the need to protect their networks and corporate systems from attacks, but their industrial control systems also pose a risk. If an attacker deploys ransomware to lock down manufacturing computers, it could cause long periods of downtime, loss of production and scrap of products that are being made when the attack happens.

This is particularly true in the era of Industry 4.0, where devices are connected and processes are automated. One of the most effective means of safeguarding automated production systems is cell protection. This form of defence is especially effective against man-in-the-middle attacks, whereby the attacker has the ability to monitor, alter and inject messages in a communications system.

In its report, IBM also stated that cyber security awareness in the manufacturing industry is lower than other sectors. The truth is that any company can be the target of a cyber attack. The only way to avoid a cyber security breach is by planning ahead and preparing for the unexpected.

#PAuto @StoneJunctionPR @IBMSecurity


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Researchers Reveal Atomic Positions and Local Electronic Properties of 2D MXene

Scientists have long been searching for electrically conductive materials for cost-effective energy-storage devices. Two-dimensional (2D) ceramics known as MXenes are candidates. MXenes, unlike most...
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It IS rocket science!

Graham Mackrell, managing director Harmonic Drive, explains why its strain wave gears have been the top choice in space for over forty years.

Anything that goes into space is seen as the pinnacle of human creation. Astronauts are highly trained and are at the peak of physical fitness, space shuttles are crafted by large teams of expert engineers and all the technology used is so high-tech it’s as if it belongs to science fiction.

Driving on Mars!

Many decades ago, the first Harmonic Drive gears were sent into space during the Apollo 15 mission. Even from the beginnings of the space race, the expectations for the technology used were high. The equipment used in space had to be reliable, compact and lightweight and given the increasing demands on equipment in today’s space missions, it must also now be highly accurate with zero backlash and have high torque capacity.

When aerospace engineers were recently designing a new space rover, they looked to Harmonic Drive gears for reliability. Due to the obvious difficulties of performing repairs in space, a high mean time between equipment failures is a high priority. Harmonic Drive products achieve this by prioritising quality throughout the entire design and manufacturing process.

It is vital that aerospace gears are thoroughly tested before they are sent to customers, ensuring that they always receive a quality product. At Harmonic Drive, we test products using finite element method (FEM) testing. This process simulates real world physics to ensure that the product is capable of surviving in space. For example, structural testing is carried out to ensure the product is robust and the space rover travelling over rough terrain will not damage the actuators used in the wheels. Thermodynamic properties are also important as aerospace gears are often exposed to both extremes of the temperature range, which are tested in the initial design process.

Also considered in the design process is the part count of the aerospace gears. Harmonic uses a low part count which means that they are maintenance free. In addition, there is a lower chance of components failing giving the gears a high Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF). This also contributes to the compactness and light weight of the gears, a feature essential in space.

Another key feature for aerospace gears is high torque capacity and zero backlash. This is essential for systems which communicate the location of the rover to the control room. If traditional, high backlash gears were to be used, the system would misreport the rover’s location. This would cause problems when the rover is used to survey uncharted areas of planets and could lead to inaccurate mapping. Due to the emphasis on high precision with Harmonic Drive gears, this problem can be avoided.

The numerous quality processes that Harmonic Drive undertakes have led to recognition from a number of accrediting bodies. Harmonic Drive products are AS9100 certified, a specific aerospace standard for the design, manufacture and sale of precision gear reducers, servo-actuators and electro-mechanical positioning systems.

To be the pinnacle of global technology, there are no shortcuts. Components used in aerospace technology must be subject to vigorous testing in order to be reliable, safe and have a long product life.

• The MARS adventure: The NASA site.
@HarmonicDriveUK #PAuto #Robotics @StoneJunctionPR


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Sandia Researchers Develop 3D Metasurfaces Possessing Optical Possibilities

Metamaterials are not found in nature, but they do have the potential for a world of applications with their ability to bend light to keep satellites cooler, make ultra-efficient cell phone antennas...
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Cybersecurity at the heart of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Ray Dooley, Product Manager Industrial Control at Schneider Electric Ireland examines the importance of maintaining security as we progress through Industry 4.o.
Ray Dooley, Schneider Electric Ireland

Ray Dooley, Schneider Electric Ireland

A technical evolution has taken place, which has made cyber threats more potent than at any other time in our history. As businesses seek to embrace Industry 4.0, cybersecurity protection must be a top priority for Industrial Control Systems (ICS). These attacks are financially crippling, reduce production and business innovation, and cost lives.

In years gone by, legacy ICS were developed with proprietary technology and were isolated from the outside world, so physical perimeter security was deemed adequate and cyber security was not relevant. However, today the rise of digital manufacturing means many control systems use open or standardised technologies to both reduce costs and improve performance, employing direct communications between control and business systems. Companies must now be proactive to secure their systems online as well as offline.

This exposes vulnerabilities previously thought to affect only office and business computers, so cyber attacks now come from both inside and outside of the industrial control system network. The problem here is that a successful cyber attack on the ICS domain can have a fundamentally more severe impact than a similar incident in the IT domain.

The proliferation of cyber threats has prompted asset owners in industrial environments to search for security solutions that can protect their assets and prevent potentially significant monetary loss and brand erosion. While some industries, such as financial services, have made progress in minimising the risk of cyber attacks, the barriers to improving cybersecurity remain high. More open and collaborative networks have made systems more vulnerable to attack. Furthermore, end user awareness and appreciation of the level of risk is inadequate across most industries outside critical infrastructure environments.

Uncertainty in the regulatory landscape also remains a significant restraint. With the increased use of commercial off-the-shelf IT solutions in industrial environments, control system availability is vulnerable to malware targeted at commercial systems. Inadequate expertise in industrial IT networks is a sector-wide challenge. Against this backdrop, organisations need to partner with a solutions provider who understands the unique characteristics and challenges of the industrial environment and is committed to security.

Assess the risks
A Defence-in-Depth approach is recommended. This starts with risk assessment – the process of analysing and documenting the environment and related systems to identify, and prioritise potential threats. The assessment examines the possible threats from internal sources, such as disgruntled employees and contractors and external sources such as hackers and vandals. It also examines the potential threats to continuity of operation and assesses the value and vulnerability of assets such as proprietary recipes and other intellectual properties, processes, and financial data. Organisations can use the outcome of this assessment to prioritise cybersecurity resource investments.

Develop a security plan
Existing security products and technologies can only go part way to securing an automation solution. They must be deployed in conjunction with a security plan. A well designed security plan coupled with diligent maintenance and oversight is essential to securing modern automation systems and networks. As the cybersecurity landscape evolves, users should continuously reassess their security policies and revisit the defence-in-depth approach to mitigate against any future attacks. Cyber attacks on critical manufacturers in the US alone have increased by 20 per cent, so it’s imperative that security plans are up to date.

Upskilling the workforce
There are increasingly fewer skilled operators in today’s plants, as the older, expert workforce moves into retirement. So the Fourth Industrial Revolution presents a golden opportunity for manufacturing to bridge the gap and bolster the workforce, putting real-time status and diagnostic information at their disposal. At the same time, however, this workforce needs to be raised with the cybersecurity know-how to cope with modern threats.

In this regard, training is crucial to any defence-in-depth campaign and the development of a security conscious culture. There are two phases to such a programme: raising general awareness of policy and procedure, and job-specific classes. Both should be ongoing with update sessions given regularly, only then will employees and organisations see the benefit.

Global industry is well on the road to a game-changing Fourth Industrial Revolution. It is not some hyped up notion years away from reality. It’s already here and has its origins in technologies and functionalities developed by visionary automation suppliers more than 15 years ago. Improvements in efficiency and profitability, increased innovation, and better management of safety, performance and environmental impact are just some of the benefits of an Internet of Things-enabled industrial environment. However, without an effective cybersecurity programme at its heart, ICS professionals will not be able to take advantage of the new technologies at their disposal for fear of the next breach.

@SchneiderElec #Pauto #Industrie40


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Communication analysis: Industrial Ethernet & Wireless v Fieldbus.

Industrial Ethernet and Wireless growth is accelerated by the increasing need for industrial devices to get connected and the Industrial Internet of Things. This is the main finding of HMS Industrial Networks’ annual study of the industrial network market. Industrial Ethernet now accounts for 46% of the market (38 last year). Wireless technologies are also coming on strong, now at 6% (4) market share. Combined, industrial Ethernet and Wireless now account for 52% of the market, while fieldbuses are at 48%.

Fieldbus vs. industrial Ethernet and wireless
HMS’s estimation for 2017 based on number of new installed nodes in 2016 within Factory Automation. The estimation is based on several market studies and HMS’s own sales statistics

HMS Industrial Networks now presents their annual analysis of the industrial network market, which focuses on new installed nodes within factory automation globally. As an independent supplier of products and services for industrial communication and the Internet of Things, HMS has a substantial insight into the industrial network market. Here are some of the trends they see within industrial communication in 2017.

network-shares-according-to-hms-2017-jpg_ico500
Industrial Internet of Things is boosting Industrial Ethernet growth
According to HMS, industrial Ethernet is growing faster than previous years, with a growth rate of 22%. Industrial Ethernet now makes up for 46% of the global market compared to 38% last year. EtherNet/IP and PROFINET are tied at first place, with PROFINET dominating in Central Europe, and EtherNet/IP leading in North America. Runners-up globally are EtherCAT, Modbus-TCP and Ethernet POWERLINK.

Anders Hanson

Anders Hanson

“We definitely see an accelerated transition towards various industrial Ethernet networks when it comes to new installed nodes,” says Anders Hansson, Marketing Director at HMS. “The transition to industrial Ethernet is driven by the need for high performance, integration between factory installations and IT-systems, as well as the Industrial Internet of Things in general.”

Wireless is redefining the networking picture
Wireless technologies are growing quickly by 32% and now accounts for 6% of the total market. Within Wireless, WLAN is the most popular technology, followed by Bluetooth. “Wireless is increasingly being used by machine builders to realize innovative automation architectures and new solutions for connectivity and control, including Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) solutions via tablets or smartphones,” says Anders Hansson.

Fieldbus is still growing, but the growth is slowing down
Fieldbuses are still the most widely used type of networks with 48% of the market. Fieldbuses are still growing as many users ask for the traditional simplicity and reliability offered by fieldbuses, but the growth rate is slowing down, currently at around 4% compared to 7% last year. The dominant fieldbus is PROFIBUS with 14% of the total world market, followed by Modbus-RTU and CC-Link, both at 6%.

Regional facts
In Europe and the Middle East, PROFIBUS is still the leading network while PROFINET has the fastest growth rate. Runners up are EtherCAT, Modbus-TCP and Ethernet POWERLINK.
The US market is dominated by the CIP networks where EtherNet/IP has overtaken DeviceNet in terms of market shares.
In Asia, a fragmented network market is very visible. No network stands out as truly market-leading, but PROFIBUS, PROFINET, EtherNet/IP, Modbus and CC-Link are widely used. EtherCAT continues to establish itself as a significant network, and CC-Link IE Field is also gaining traction.

More and more devices are getting connected
“The presented figures represent our consolidated view, taking into account insights from colleagues in the industry, our own sales statistics and overall perception of the market,” says Anders Hansson. “It is interesting to see that industrial Ethernet and Wireless combined now account for more than half of the market at 52%, compared to fieldbuses at 48%. The success of a series of industrial Ethernet networks and the addition of growing Wireless technologies confirms that the network market remains fragmented, as users continue to ask for connectivity to a variety of fieldbus, industrial Ethernet and wireless networks. All in all, industrial devices are getting increasingly connected, boosted by trends such as Industrial Internet of Things and Industry 4.0. From our point of view, we are well-suited to grow with these trends, since HMS is all about ‘Connecting Devices.’”

 @HMSAnybus #PAuto #IoT


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Changing bad gear oil habits.

Here, Mark Burnett, VP of the Lubricants and Fuel Additives Innovation Platform at the water, energy and maintenance solutions provider NCH Europe, explores how businesses can improve the effectiveness of their gear oil.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “it is easier to prevent bad habits than to break them.” This rings true for the industrial sector, where it is easier to form a habit of good predictive maintenance than to recover from machinery breakage or downtime.

nch_tan_lubricationHowever, this is easier said than done. Predictive maintenance requires constant vigilance in order to be effective, ensuring that maintenance engineers know when it is the right time to lubricate bearings, apply a rust-preventative coating or treat their water supply. These tasks will vary in frequency, so there can be a steep learning curve to getting it right.

Unfortunately, we all know that problems do not wait until you’re ready and, especially with gear oil changes, failure to get it right often leads to problems. Changing oil too soon, for example, leads to higher costs as more changes will be needed than necessary. Conversely, forgetting to change the oil at the right time increases the likelihood of machine damage and breakage, which itself leads to elevated operational costs.

Despite both extremes leading to increased business costs, only 20 per cent of oil changes happen at the right time. This is not surprising when considering the fact that many variables can determine how regularly oil needs changing. While many engineers may fill up a machine and expect it to require a change after a certain amount of time, it is actually the quality of the oil itself that must be measured.

This is understandably difficult without a comprehensive approach to industrial gear oil analysis. In order to reliably measure the quality of the oil and when a change is due, engineers must identify the quantities of external contamination and metal wear, as well as the general condition of the oil.

For example, oxidation is a naturally occurring process that affects oil over time. In the presence of oxygen, the oil begins to break down and this reduces the service life of the oil itself. In addition to this, it also produces sludge that makes equipment work harder and drives up operation costs.

If left long enough, the acidity of oxidised oil will steadily increase and result in corrosion and pitting. While this is problematic if left for extended periods of time, this acidity allows more accurate assessment of oil condition. By measuring increases in the system’s total acid number (TAN), maintenance engineers and plant managers can identify when the oil acidity is reaching the maximum acceptable level and act accordingly.

However, TAN only accounts for one part of overall gearbox system condition and there are many other considerations such as the operational health of the machinery itself. It is crucial that engineers consider all aspects to ensure optimum performance.

To this end, NCH Europe has developed the NCH Oil Service Program (NOSP) to help businesses keep their machinery in working order and their oil changes timely. Samples of gear oil are analysed and user-friendly reports are generated so that plant managers can see accurate results at a glance, giving a clear overview of equipment condition and the TAN of the oil.

Accurate analysis helps to prevent engineers falling into the bad habit of incorrect oil management. By combining this insight with an effective cleaning solution and a suitable gear oil, further bad oil-change habits and breakages can be kept at bay.

@NCH_Europe #PAuto


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The ‘ins and outs’ of air quality monitoring!

The British National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recently issued draft guidance on ‘Air pollution – outdoor air quality and health.’ 

Here, Jim Mills, Managing Director of Air Monitors Ltd, explains why there will need to be more funding for monitoring if the mitigation measures mentioned in the guidance are to be implemented effectively. Jim also highlights the close relationship between outdoor air quality and the (often ignored) problems with indoor air quality.

The NICE guidelines are being developed for Local Authority staff working in: transport, planning, air quality management and public health. The guidance is also relevant for staff in healthcare, employers, education professionals and the general public.

Covering road-traffic-related air pollution and its links to ill health, the guidelines aim to improve air quality and so prevent a range of health conditions and deaths. Unfortunately, on the day that the draft guideline was published, most of the national media focused on one relatively minor recommendation relating to speed bumps. ‘Where physical measures are needed to reduce speed, such as humps and bumps, ensure they are designed to minimise sharp decelerations and consequent accelerations.’ Measures to encourage ‘smooth driving’ are outlined; however, the guidelines also address a wide range of other issues, which, in combination, would help tackle urban air pollution.

Public sector transport services should implement measures to reduce emissions, but this is an area that could involve the greatest financial cost.

Many local authorities would doubtless comment that they are already implementing many of the guideline recommendations, but refer to budgetary constraints on issues that involve upfront costs. This issue was raised on BBC Radio 4 when the issue was discussed on 1st December.

AQMesh Pod

AQMesh Pod

The NICE guidelines recommend the inclusion of air quality issues in new developments to ensure that facilities such as schools, nurseries and retirement homes are located in areas where pollution levels will be low. LAs are also urged to consider ways to mitigate road-traffic-related air pollution and consider using the Community Infrastructure Levy for air quality monitoring. There are also calls for information on air quality to be made more readily available.

LAs are also being urged to consider introducing clean air zones including progressive targets to reduce pollutant levels below the EU limits, and where traffic congestion contributes to poor air quality, consideration should be given to a congestion charging zone. The guidelines also highlight the importance of monitoring to measure the effects of these initiatives.

As part of the consultation process, NICE is looking for evidence of successful measures and specifically rules out “studies which rely exclusively on modelling.”

In summary, all of the initiatives referred to in the NICE report necessitate monitoring in order to be able to measure their effectiveness. However, most LAs do not currently possess the monitoring capability to do so. This is because localised monitoring would be necessary before and after the implementation of any initiative. Such monitoring would need to be continuous, accurate and web-enabled so that air pollution can be monitored in real-time. AQMesh is therefore the ideal solution; small, lightweight, quick and easy to install, these air quality monitors are able to monitor all the main pollutants, including particulates, simultaneously, delivering accurate data wirelessly via the internet.

Whilst AQMesh ‘pods’ are very significantly lower in cost both to buy and to run than traditional reference stations, they still represent a ‘new’ cost. However any additional costs are trivial in comparison with the costs associated with the adverse health effects caused by poor air quality, as evidenced in the recent report from the Royal College of Physicians.

Inside Out or Outside In?

Fidas® Frog

Fidas® Frog

The effects of air pollution are finally becoming better known, but almost all of the publicity focuses on outdoor air pollution. In contrast, indoor air quality is rarely in the media, except following occasional cases of Carbon Monoxide poisoning or when ‘worker lethargy’ or ‘sick building syndrome’ are addressed. However, it is important to understand the relationship between outdoor air quality and indoor air quality. Air Monitors is currently involved in a number of projects in which air quality monitoring is being undertaken both outside and inside large buildings, and the results have been extremely interesting.

Poorly ventilated offices tend to suffer from increased Carbon Dioxide as the working day progresses, leading to worker lethargy. In many cases HVAC systems bring in ‘fresh’ air to address this issue, but if that fresh air is in a town or city, it is likely to be polluted – possibly from particulates if it is not sufficiently filtered and most likely from Nitrogen Dioxide. Ventilating with outdoor air from street level is most likely to bring air pollution into the office, so many inlets are located at roof level. However, data from recent studies indicate that the height of the best air quality can vary according to the weather conditions, so it is necessary to utilise a ‘smart’ system that monitors air quality at different levels outside the building, whilst also monitoring at a variety of locations inside the building. Real-time data from a smart monitoring network then informs the HVAC control system, which should have the ability to draw air from different inlets if available and to decide on ventilation rates depending on the prevailing air quality at the inlets. This allows the optimisation of the internal CO2, temperature and humidity whilst minimising the amount of external pollutants brought into the indoor space. In circumstances where the outside air may be too polluted to be used to ventilate, it can be pre-cleaned by scrubbing the pollutant gases in the air handling system before being introduced inside the building.

Fidas200The implementation of smart monitoring and control systems for buildings is now possible thanks to advances in communications and monitoring technology. AQMesh pods can be quickly and easily installed at various heights outside buildings and further units can be deployed internally; all feeding near-live data to a central control system.

Another example of indoor air quality monitoring instrumentation developing from outdoor technology is the ‘Fidas Frog,’ a new fine dust aerosol spectrometer developed by the German company Palas. The Frog is an indoor, wireless, battery-powered version of the hugely popular, TÜV and MCERTS certified Fidas 200. Both instruments provide simultaneous determination of PM fractions, particle number and particle size distribution, including the particle size ranges PM1, PM2.5, PM4, PM10 and TSP.

Evidence of outdoor air pollution contaminating indoor air can be obtained with the latest Black Carbon monitors that can distinguish between the different optical signatures of combustion sources such as diesel, biomass, and tobacco. The new microAeth® MA200 for example, is a compact, real-time, wearable (400g) Black Carbon monitor with built-in pump, flow control, data storage, and battery with onboard GPS and satellite time synchronisation. Samples are collected on an internal filter tape and wireless communications are provided for network or smartphone app integration and connection to other wireless sensors. The MA200 is able to monitor continuously for 2-3 weeks. Alternatively, with a greater battery capacity, the MA300 is able to provide 3-12 months of continuous measurements.

In summary, a complete picture of indoor air quality can be delivered by a combination of AQMesh for gases, the Palas Frog for particulates and the microAeth instruments for Black Carbon. All of these instruments are compact, battery-powered, and operate wirelessly, but most importantly, they provide both air quality data AND information on the likely source of any contamination, so that the indoor effects of outdoor pollution can be attributed correctly.

@airmonitors #Environment #PAuto @_Enviro_News


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