UK trade show disappoints!
The annual mtec exhibition, a constituent of the much larger Advanced Manufacturing UK seems to be moving further and further into the year. Originally a stalwart as first major event on this side of the Atlantic in February, last year it was in March and this year it was a week later than the mammoth Hannover Messe.
As usual the whole show was a eclectic mix of engineering capabilities from the precise medical area through mechanical, to building services, manufacturing and measurement capabilities.
The show itself was a bit disappointing and seemed smaller than last year though visitor numbers seemed busy enough. This was particularly noticeable in the Medtec, medical appliance site of the show. Most exhibitors were happy enough with their own performance commenting however on the apparent shrinkage. The fact that the emphasis appeared to be on the Medtec part of the show was also commented upon and indeed all the signs to the hall in which the exhibits were housed emphasised this show with the other six constituent shows getting less emphasis.
The only really new item that we saw at the show was a new micro-flowmeter from Titan Enterprises. “The Atrato” is set to create a breakthrough change in small bore flow metering, it uses patented technology which enables the direct through meter to handle flows from laminar to turbulent according to company founder Trevor Foster. His enthusiasm for his new product was infectious and I think unique in the show this year.
There were also a number of seminars organised to coincide with the exhibition. Those dealing with industrial communications were entirely to do with wireless and were organised by the England Section of the International Society of Instrumentation.
The wireless semnars, which were held on the first morning, progressively attracted more attendees. Starting off was Russel Hobbs of ISA England and Yokogawa who outlined the ISA100.11a, which, as reported last October, was approved and published last year. Industrial wireless communication opens up new resources for highly flexible and efficient automation solutions.
Ian Ramage of Techni Measure and the British Society of Strain Measurement, gave lots of practical examples of wireless transmission particularly in the areas of stress, strain and vibration. He discussed the harvesting of energy in these applications where vibration can be converted into power to power the transmitters. Applications included bridges, moving of delecate or sensitive pieces of equipment. He quoted for instance the used of these transmitters (from MicroStrain Inc.) in the moving of one of America’s most treasured monuments, the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. He also mentioned possible interference to watch out for in wireless applications caused by micro-wave ovens in the canteen and sometimes with Bluetooth enabled systems in the vacinity.
National Instruments’ Ian Bell gave a run down on their applications using their Labview product. “Instruction and research involving RF and wireless communications systems require a flexible platform for software design, hardware prototyping, and implementation. National Instruments RF tools deliver a high-performance platform for hands-on learning and pioneering research.”
Mark McCormick of Siemens, referred to WirelessHart, accepted in March 2010 as an IEC standard (IEC 62591Ed. 1.0). Whether GSM/GPRS, IWLAN or WirelessHART, industrial wireless communication products have to be reliable, rugged and secured to meet hard conditions indoor and outdoor. Nowadays numerous industrial WLAN applications such as cranes and AGV are proving outstanding reliability even in safety applications.
Completing this series of talks Gary Wedge of Honeywell, who, while like the other speakers did not hide the advantages of his own company’s products, or choice of protocol emphasised also the necessity of the openess whatever platform is used. “This is not a conflict between Honeywell and Emerson as the media sometimes make out,” he said.
There are a number of points that the independent ARC Advisory group published on wireless which indicated ten or eleven requirements for industrial wireless applications. The most requested points were that the units must be “multifunctional” and also the ought to be “multiprotocol.” In other words users do not want to tied down to one supplier or one type of protocol. Most o the applications to date are for monitoring and measurement but there is a demand for control applications and indeed one of the points made out in the ARC report is a request that industrial wireless be “control ready!”
All in all it was an interesting show though whether it was worth a long journey to attend is debatable.
Advanced Manufacturing UK 2011 is scheduled to be held next year at the same venue on the sixth and seventh April 2011.