Preview Hannover Messe 2021: Innovative Product Presentations

Preview Hannover Messe 2021: Innovative Product Presentations
Preview Hannover Messe 2021: Innovative Product Presentations

The Hannover Preview event always features interesting new products and innovations. During the 2021 Hannover Messe Digital Edition Preview event, experts, associations, research organizations and suppliers presented their ideas and technologies for factories, energy systems and supply chains supporting “Industrial Transformation” theme. Leading topics include digital platforms, Industry 4.0, IT security, CO2-neutral production, AI, lightweight construction, and Logistics 4.0. Conferences and forums complete the program. Hannover Messe Digital Edition runs from April 12-16 2021. See my automation, globalization, and digitalization observations from the preview event here.

These are things I found particularly interesting at the Hannover Messe 2021 Preview event on Feb. 3, 2021.


2D/3D Camera Digital Operator Assistance – ifm

The digital operator assistance system “ifm mate” deploys a 2D/3D camera system with software for hand recognition to improve manual workstation productivity.  The ifm mate assistance system supports workers with manual processes in production or at packaging workstations. Equipped with an optical 2D/3D camera, it identifies the operator’s hands and detects, for example, whether the operator has reached inside a box. The recognition of the hand, which is based on powerful deep learning technology, is the key component of the system.  The system automatically adjusts to right or left-handed workers for recognition of the hand positions for tasks. 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. Using video hand recognition ifm mate does not require any further accessories such as VR goggles or wrist trackers. This greatly increases operator comfort compared to other guidance systems, resulting in very high acceptance levels among workers.

Workflows can be customized in the software. For example, it is possible to predefine a step sequence or let operators perform the steps in any order having a positive effect on workflow ergonomics. The system then checks whether the workflow is executed correctly and displays any deviations on the screen. A combined optical and acoustic signaling device is provided as an option to indicate errors directly in the operator’s field of vision. Setting up ifm mate is simple and intuitive without IT or specialist support required.

The new digitized operator assistance system achieves quality assurance that been a challenge to date. A typical application is, for example, a manual packaging workstation, where a sensor is to be placed into a cardboard box together with a cable and an instruction manual. The system also supports production employees with video instructions. This allows for flexible deployment of personnel at different workstations.

At Hannover Messe in April ifm mate will be released in its basic configuration including a PC, software and a camera system. In the future, additional modules will follow, e.g. to support connection to an ERP system or integration into production plants or machines.

ifm-pm 671 print.jpg The digital assistance system ifm mate supports operators at manual workstations in production or packaging environments.

Service Robots – Igus

The Igus modular gearbox kit for service robotics serves and enormous number of applications including for kitchens, bars, nursing, agriculture and logistics. Lightweight robots facilitate the automation of monotonous or non-ergonomic tasks. To make the implementation of such new concepts easy and, above all, cost-effective, igus is presented a new modular gearbox kit for collaborative robots at the Hannover Preview. The fully integrated tribo strain wave gear with motor, absolute-value encoder, force control system and controller is the main component of this kit.  "With our Low Cost Automation solutions, we enable design engineers to cost-effectively take part in the future of service robotics," said Stefan Niermann, who is responsible for the area of Low Cost Automation in the extended igus management structure. "This opens up space for new ideas in the area of automation: robots that can dispense coffee in retail shops or clear out the dishwasher at home. Cobots that can be used in the area of nursing as well as in industry." This plug & play solution facilitates the speedy implementation of exciting cobot ideas, without any thought being given to the power electronics.

Igus modular gearbox kit for service robotics fully integrated strain wave gearboxes.


The new fully integrated strain wave gearboxes are to be used this year in the new version of the ReBel, the igus service robot. "Our goal is to offer the ReBeL on the market for 2,900 euros (about $3,500 US) even for small order quantities. It should be able to carry 2kg, have a range of up to 650mm, as well as a self weight of less than 10kg and a minimum running time of 2 million cycles." On the online marketplace, interested parties can put together their robot kinematics with vision, safety or gripper components that matches their requirements and their budget exactly. The igus promise is that everything fits together, both on the hardware side and software side–in accordance with the igus "Build or Buy" approach, namely putting together a robot oneself or obtaining a ready-made solution.

Robolink ReBel Collaborative Robot

Ultrasonic safety & level technology - Pepperl + Fuchs

Ultrasonics Safety Sensor
Pepperl+Fuchs the USi® safety ultrasonic device is a 2-channel ultrasonic sensor featuring 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. Two safe OSSD outputs are provided for signal output. This ultrasonic sensor with safety certification in accordance with EN ISO 13849 category 3 PL d—the only sensor of its kind in the world. After the sales launch in the first quarter of 2021, the USi® will be added to the existing Pepperl+Fuchs safety portfolio, which includes inductive safety sensors, photoelectric sensors and light grids, safe positioning systems, safety-related AS-Interface components, and many different explosion-protected interface modules. "The USi® is the perfect complement to our broad portfolio of ultrasonic sensors and extends our range of products in the strategic target sectors of intralogistics and mobile machines to include an intelligent and highly reliable solution for safety applications," said Reiner Müller, president of the Factory Automation Division at Pepperl+Fuchs.

Ultrasonic Level Sensor
The WILSEN.sonic.level ultrasonic wireless sensor is a solution for remote monitoring of fill and water levels in tanks, silos, retention basins, lakes and rivers using the Internet of Things. The WILSEN.sonic.level, an industrial-grade ultrasonic level sensor that can be used to determine fill heights and levels in numerous applications. The measured values are recorded at regular intervals and transmitted to the Internet - optionally together with the current geo position. The autonomously operating wireless sensor is battery-powered and can therefore also be used away from any power supply infrastructure. The WILSEN.sonic.level detects the fill or level by ultrasonic distance measurement. It does not matter whether the medium to be detected is a liquid or a fine- or coarse-granular bulk material. In addition, the WILSEN.sonic.level enables reliable measurement even in dusty and dirty environments, as well as in narrow manholes and, for example, containers with struts or other installations, due to its sound lobe width, which can be adjusted via mobile app, as well as various evaluation and filter methods. Other data such as the temperature, the battery status, and optionally the geo position are acquired cyclically at the set interval. All data is transmitted remotely from the sensor to the Internet using the globally standardized LoRaWAN technology. Both public and privately operated LoRaWAN networks can be used for this purpose. The data is received by the remote station in the form of the LoRa network or application server and forwarded, stored and/or processed depending on the application.

IoT sensor WILSEN.sonic.level

 Single Pair Ethernet SPE - HARTING

The HARTING Technology Group continues to offer its customers a comprehensive and innovative solution portfolio for the Industrial Automation, Energy Infrastructure, E-Mobility and Railway sectors also in 2021. Particular attention is being paid to "Connectivity+", emphasized Dr.-Ing. Kurt D. Bettenhausen, Board Member for "New Technologies and Development" at HARTING, at the digital Hannover Messe Preview.  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. "At HARTING, we are bringing these three topics together under the term Connectivity+," emphasized Dr.-Ing. Bettenhausen.

"With Connectivity+, we are driving the development of innovative solutions forward for our customers, setting industry-wide standards via active committee work and bringing new technologies to market maturity in strong collaborations," stressed Ralf Klein, managing director HARTING Electronics.

Harting SPE Connectors

 Simplifying Robot Programming - KUKA

KUKA presented a preview of its operating system of the future to simplify robot programming.  "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," said Peter Mohnen, CEO KUKA Group.

KUKA’s goal is to provide simple operation and intuitive handling of automation solutions, which until now have often been reserved for experts. 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. In the coming years, automation will find its way into more and more areas–all around the globe. This development is already evident from current projects of the KUKA Group. These include major orders from the battery and e-mobility sectors, as well as the establishment of additional robot types in the portfolio, such as the KR SCARA for small parts assembly, material handling and testing tasks.


According to KUKA CEO Mohnen, the increasing width of applications is evident in other industries: "After the coronavirus pandemic, there will be a real push towards more automation, especially in logistics and healthcare, which will have a major impact in the medium term."


Solar Ice Block Machine - Ziehl-Abegg

Ziehl-Abegg solar-powered machine for the production of ice blocks enables Indonesia's small-scale fishermen in disadvantaged regions to sell their products nationwide. This is part of a high-tech solution from Southern Germany for a German-Indonesian project for rural development and to avoid food waste. This innovative type of unit was developed as part of a multi-year German-Indonesian cooperation arrangement. “The fish is prevented from spoiling, with the ice being produced on a totally climate-neutral basis,” said Frank Stegmüller of the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ). “This is a genuine German-Indonesian success story.”

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

Indonesia's policy aims to conserve fish stocks and secure the income of fishermen in remote areas. The key factor in achieving this is to keep the catch continuously refrigerated. The GIZ initiated and provided support for the development of a solar powered ice-making machine. Together with a number of Indonesian, German and other European companies, 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.

In accordance with the guiding principle of Industry 4.0, the innovative technology ensures the production of up to 1.2 tons of block ice per day, dynamically and automatically adapted 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. Stegmüller from the GIZ: “This secures the income of fishermen who operate on a sustainable basis, especially in remote and low-income regions of Indonesia.”

Steffen Sinn, area sales manager Asia, at the German fan producer Ziehl-Abegg, explained: “The highly efficient fan is using the low solar power to produce enough cooling energy which is used to freeze down the water.“ The secret behind the high efficiency of the fan is the blade design inspired by nature. Ziehl-Abegg is technology leader by biomimicry in the fan industry. “The edge of the blade is serrated similarly to the owl wings.This fan design saves energy.” Steffin Sinn is pictured above in this article's featured photo.

Components and know-how were provided free of charge during the development phase by the German companies Bitzer, Ziehl-Abegg and BAE Batterien. The development as well as technical support were provided by experts from the ILK Dresden [Institute of Air Handling and Refrigeration]. The solar powered ice-making machines are manufactured by the Indonesian industrial company Selaras Mandiri Tehnik (AIREF). Other project partners include REC Solar, ATW Solar, Studer and Omron. 

A key solar ice maker component is the high efficiency fan blade design inspired by nature. Ziehl-Abegg is technology leader by biomimicry in the fan industry. “The edge of the blade is serrated similarly to the owl wings”, Sinn adds. “This fan design saves energy.”

Ecological Polymer Film Alternative - KIT

Professor Hendrik Hölscher, Biomimetic Surfaces Research Group, Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT) gave a fascinating presentation about polymer films that are extremely thin and have a high degree of light scattering that are the result of a new process developed by Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). This comes from bionics research which deals with understanding and imitating natural phenomena in order to make them technically usable, often leading to completely new solutions which might never have been found any other way.  Velcro is an example of  product developed observing nature by Swiss electrical engineer George de Mestral when he was walking in the woods and wondered why burdock seeds clung to his coat and dog.

The new inexpensive material can be applied industrially to a wide variety of objects to give them an attractive white look. The process can also make products more environmentally friendly.

A brilliant white surface makes furniture and other objects look clean, bright and modern. So far, titanium dioxide has been the standard pigment for coloring paints, paints and plastics, but also cosmetics, food, chewing gum and tablets white. However, the pigment has come under fire. "Titanium dioxide has a very high refractive index; it reflects incident light almost completely but has the disadvantage that its particles do not degrade and thus pollute the environment in the long term," said Professor Hendrik Hölscher from the Institute for Microstructure Technology (IMT) at KIT. There are also concerns that titanium dioxide could be potentially harmful.

Video- Biomimetic Surfaces: Nano- and Microstructured Surfaces Inspired by Nature (German w English Subs

"We avoid the use of pigments that are harmful to the environment and health by creating porous polymer structures with a comparably high degree of dispersion," said Hölscher. He and his team were inspired by the white beetle Cyphochilus insulanus, whose scales appear white thanks to a special nanostructure of its chitin shell. “Following this example, we manufacture solid, porous nanostructures from polymers that resemble a sponge,” said Hölscher, who heads the Biomimetic Surfaces research group at the IMT. Like the bubbles from shaving or bath foam, the structure here also ensures that the light is scattered, making the material appear white. The new technology for an inexpensive and harmless white look is suitable for a wide variety of surfaces.

Based on the model of the white beetle Cyphochilus insulanus, a ecologically safe nanostructured polymer film creates a brilliant white coating.

KIT is “The Research University in the Helmholtz Association.” One of the largest scientific institutions in Europe, the only German university of excellence with national large-scale research combines a long university tradition with program-oriented cutting-edge research. The university world, whose roots go back to 1825, stands for the breadth of disciplines and knowledge, while the Helmholtz world traditionally focuses on the major and pressing issues of society, science and economy. The goal is to contribute to the success of large projects in society with excellent teaching, cutting-edge research and innovation. At KIT, more than 5,000 scientists work together on a broad disciplinary basis in the natural, engineering, economic, human and social sciences. Regardless of whether they come from the large-scale research section or from the university world, they participate in teaching so that our students receive insights that only KIT, as the research university in the Helmholtz Association, offers them. Ultimately, the developments of our researchers should ultimately benefit society in the form of products, processes or procedures.

Information about KIT developments and technology transfer.

About The Author


Bill Lydon brings more than 10 years of writing and editing expertise to Automation.com, plus more than 25 years of experience designing and applying technology in the automation and controls industry. Lydon started his career as a designer of computer-based machine tool controls; in other positions, he applied programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and process control technology. In addition to working at various large companies (e.g., Sundstrand, Johnson Controls, and Wago), Lydon served a two-year stint as part of a five-person task group, where he designed controls, automation systems, and software for chiller and boiler plant optimization. He was also a product manager for a multimillion-dollar controls and automation product line and president of an industrial control software company.

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