July/August 2013
Automation Update

Robot graduates from film studios to national parks

Standing at nearly 3 meters tall, Mantis claims the title of the world's largest walking robot. The hexapod is able to transport people and loads while protecting the ground beneath it, thus making it suitable as an innovative means of transportation for rangers in national parks or other protected areas. Its creators can even imagine that Mantis will be able to explore the ocean floor via remote control.

To create the giant robot, British company Micromagic Systems drew on its experience in making robots for the film industry: previous versions of the hexapod robot were featured as turtles in the Harry Potter movies. But the 2-ton Mantis requires significantly more power to move. That is why Micromagic Systems used hydraulic drives for the legs and relied on Bosch Rexroth's support in designing the energy-efficient drive.

Demand for industrial robots increases

Between 2008 and 2012 robot sales increased by 9 percent on average per year. In 2012, more than 159,000 units were sold-the second highest level of robot sales ever recorded. The demand for industrial robots is growing because industry is becoming more and more automated worldwide. Robot installations will likely reach a similar level again in 2013. About 70 percent of the total robot sales in 2012 went to Japan, China, the U.S., Korea, and Germany.

The trend toward automation is due to the increasing industrialization of huge consumer markets, the necessary modernizing of production facilities, and the need to be competitive globally. Energy efficiency and light-weight construction are the main challenges of the manufacturing industry. The potential of industrial robots in general industry will substantially grow when robots can collaborate with workers and when the integration of robots becomes easier. Integrating robots in machine tools especially provides an enormous potential for new robot installations.

Oil & gas industry safety improves over past 10 years

The International Association of Oil & Gas Producers (OGP) released the latest edition of its annual "Safety Performance Indicators" report. The report, covering 2012 data, shows the number of fatalities per 100 million hours worked (the fatal accident rate) has fallen in the last 10 years.

In 2012, participating OGP member companies reported 88 fatalities that occurred in 52 separate incidents. The fatal accident rate was down by 52 percent compared with the 2003 rate, showing an overall downward trend over the last 10 years. The rate increased, however, by 27 percent compared with 2011; a single incident (a gas leak and explosion of a pipeline where 31 people died) had a predominant effect on the 2012 rate.

The largest proportion of fatalities (44 percent) were reported in the "explosions or burns" category with "caught in, under, or between" being the second largest category (18 percent).

The report identifies failures in six common causal factors leading to fatal incidents and high-potential events:

  • Hazard identification or risk assessment
  • Work standards/procedures
  • Supervision
  • Decision making or judgment
  • Training/competence
  • Unintentional violations

OGP has developed life-saving rules to identify high-risk activities and actions that prevent fatal incidents. Analysis of data reported shows that rigorous implementation of the rules could have helped to prevent fatal incidents.

Emerson acquires Groveley Detection

Emerson Process Management acquired Groveley Detection, a developer of ultrasonic gas leak detectors for both offshore and onshore oil and gas installations. U.K.-based Groveley Detection was the first company to develop a piezo-electric-based ultrasonic gas leak detector engineered for extreme industrial applications.

Groveley will join the company's Rosemount Analytical business unit, expanding Emerson's safety-monitoring portfolio. Emerson strengthens its position in the global safety-monitoring market by adding Groveley's ultrasonic gas leak detection technology to the complementary Net Safety fixed-gas detection and flame detection product line.

Fluke introduces Energy Resource Center

Fluke launched the Energy Resource Center, an interactive knowledge base to help facility managers identify and quantify energy waste. The Fluke resources explain how to target the best opportunities for energy waste reduction in facility equipment, processes, and infrastructure and what data to gather to prioritize energy-saving projects and to estimate their payoffs.

The Fluke Energy Resource Center features interactive diagrams that illustrate energy waste and measurement steps for various building systems. Visitors can watch videos and webinars about where energy waste occurs.

ABB names Ulrich Spiesshofer CEO

The board of ABB has unanimously appointed Ulrich Spiesshofer, the head of its discrete automation and motion (DM) division, as chief executive officer. He will succeed Joe Hogan in this role in an orderly transition on 15 September 2013. Hogan will continue with ABB for some months as senior adviser to the board.

Spiesshofer joined ABB's executive committee in 2005 and was named leader of the DM division in 2009.