July/August 2013
automation update

Automation by the Numbers

$170 billion

The market for industrial automation equipment (IAE) is set to grow 6.2 percent this year to approximately $170 billion, helped in part by the recovery of global manufacturing in the first quarter, according to a report titled "The World Market for Industrial Automation Equipment" from IHS. Leading indicators-including machinery orders and manufacturing activity-point to increasing demand for industrial products during the next six months. Moreover, progress has been observed in the markets of China, Europe, and the U.S. in the first half of this year, fueling confidence that the IAE space is headed toward renewed vigor.

In China, manufacturing indices indicate a slow and steady improvement that began in September 2012 has continued through the first five months of 2013. China is also reporting that inventory replenishment has started to occur in equipment markets.

Meanwhile in Europe, increases in German machine-tool orders also point toward bolstered demand that could overflow to the IAE market.

Signs of economic health are likewise springing up in the U.S., where greater growth stemming from a variety of factors-including rising natural gas exploration and production, stronger housing markets, and rising exports-will help propel demand for IAE.

The global interdependence that hampered market expansion last year will prove to be a boon now, especially because growth in the U.S. in 2013 will not be a key requirement to the overall expansion of the worldwide IAE space. The U.S. no longer needs to buoy the rest of the world-at least not for this year.


SSAB, a producer of high-strength steel, decided to use Softing's PROFINET protocol software with its PC-based Proview control system. The industrial communication solution was deployed in a new steel plant in Mobile, Ala.

Today, 10 Proview controllers operate at the Mobile steelworks using PROFINET. Together they control more than 650 field devices. Some of the larger networks consist of up to 150 field devices, including a number of drives. These large networks achieve cycle times of 8 to 32 milliseconds without fully exploiting the optimization potential.

Proview is an open source process control system that includes all the features necessary for successful sequential control, adjustment, data acquisition, communication, and supervision.


Festo announced it will build a product assembly and distribution center in Mason, Ohio, about 20 miles northeast of Cincinnati along the I-71 technology corridor. The Festo Regional Service Center, which is scheduled to open in 2015, will serve U.S., Canadian, and Mexican customers and be a showplace for automation solutions.

Ohio was selected as the site for the distribution center because it shortened the average distance to customers and thereby will decrease delivery time. Plans call for a facility exceeding 170,000 square feet, a significant expansion over the present facility's size.


Optima Group Consumer, a German manufacturer of coffee-capsule filling stations, is helping its customers-some of the largest coffee makers in the world-make flawless cups thanks to machine-vision quality control testing using GigE and USB cameras from Imaging Development Systems (IDS).

First, the Optima system checks empty plastic capsules for frayed edges and deformations before the filling process. Any capsules damaged in transport have to be reliably detected and separated. That is the job of two IDS uEye™ UI-5220-M VGA cameras with GigE interface. Each camera monitors a conveyor belt, and together they can inspect up to 500 capsules per minute. The cameras are triggered by a light barrier and, in turn, control the incident light from a light-emitting diode. In less than a tenth of a second, the system detects even the slightest defection in an empty capsule and pushes it away using compressed air.

Next, specially designed metal holders convey the approved capsules in rows of eight to be fed into the filling station. Each capsule holds up to 10 grams of coffee powder, depending on the coffee type. Once an accurate amount of coffee is weighed and pressed into the capsule, it is sealed under oxygen exclusion to keep the aromatic coffee fresh for a long time. Therefore, accurately placing the membrane seal with no creases at the edges is critical. Finally, the system checks that the labeling is perfectly centered.