A focus on trends and solutions for sustainable industrial production was a central theme promoted by this year’s Hannover Messe organizers. The Green Intelligence concept formed a backdrop to many displays from various industrial sectors. Visitors were invited to consider the challenges of an industrial order where energy conservation and e-Mobility would be new central concerns. Some years ago such themes would only have been seen in terms of challenges to industry, whereas the important message from Hannover in 2012 was clearly one of opportunity.
Conti Tech was typical of some of the companies with major presence in the automotive sector who were able to display their wider brief, embracing mobility solutions for the future across the full range of transport technologies. In the public mind, so often the motor industry is presented as if in opposition to other forms of transport. However, Hannover 2012 demonstrated graphically the growing interdependence of all forms of transportation if we are to meet future global mobility needs in a sustainable way. Conti Tech reflected another of the show’s themes by placing a major emphasis on its involvement in China.
Beckhoff offers automation technologies across a range of industries and brought a wide range of automation and motion applications to Hannover. In common with many suppliers, an emphasis on new generation high performance PC-based control technology was apparent. Fast control response was another attribute that Beckhoff emphasised in control processes with very short reaction time. Central to automation and control technologies is high quality measurement hardware that can be optimised for each application. Beckhoff showcased its TwinCAT 3, which has integrated all key programming languages with the potential for savings in engineering costs and a more efficient control technology.
FerRobotics came to Hannover in buoyant mood with the success of its Active Contact Flange—a combined actuator and sensor element between the usual robot and its tool. Equipped with a standard flange, it is suitable for all automated solutions. Many applications that could not be implemented with inflexible equipment can be automated easily and efficiently with the active contact flange. Robots that need a sense of touch can get it now with this new, uniquely controlled contact element.
Cross-disciplinary thinking to the fore
Increasingly sophisticated internet and software-derived products continue to play an important role among the displays at Hannover. Aucotec AG provided an interesting opportunity to explore the potential of “cloud’ computing in professional engineering and manufacturing, exploiting the flexible three-layer architecture of the Engineering Base (EB) software system, which can be scaled from a single workplace to a global company and be offered and managed in a private cloud as “Infrastructure as a Service” (IaaS).
Many essential products appear less technically sophisticated but require just as much careful thought and innovation in their development and design. Switzerlandbased Multi-Contact AG for example specialises in sophisticated electrical contact elements for electric vehicle battery charging and power supply. Devising solutions to the challenges of e-Mobility requires not just innovation in vehicle design but the appropriate response from a range of industry suppliers to provide the material infrastructure on which new vehicle developments can be based. Hannover has the advantage of bringing together suppliers from a diverse range of industry and stimulating cross-disciplinary thinking. Other areas in which technologies move across application and disciplinary boundaries include components such as pressure sensors. Sensor-Technic Wiedmann introduced visitors to the Thin Film Element OPTI that allows simple accurate high-pressure measurement in sensors.
Another well received development this year was the System Partner Theme Park, which drew attention to the increasing tendency of OEMs to draw suppliers into complex system partner relationships—piloting development and product life cycle issues alongside their customers. It offered a presentation platform for suppliers of transmission and fluid engineering systems, highlighting the extent to which design innovation is a shared process.
Ubisense AG brought to Hannover expertise in product location and real-time tracking of industrial assets as well as automatic product identification in assembly.
In other areas, more traditional metalworking equipment and processes were highlighted. OBE GmbH reminded visitors of the unexpected capabilities and economic rationale of powder metal technologies in a range of applications. Components produced with the procedure can combine the design freedom afforded by plastic injection moulding with physical characteristics close to those of a traditional metal component—all this within an attractive cost envelope. Sheetcast Technologies GmbH brought its interesting hybrid brake disc, combining grey cast iron or aluminum with steel inlays embedded into the sand core. The company claims this market-ready technology offers outstanding advantages against all other currently known solutions, realised in a series-production-ready manufacturing process. Simulation tools have become key elements in speeding the design process, stimulating innovation and assuring quality. Electric vehicle development has focused attention on the need to enhance battery life and performance and visitors to Hannover were able to hear about the lithium–Ion Simulations Software being developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics.
Simulation technologies applied to other applications were also shown by further academic/industry partnerships. Koln University of Applied Sciences, through its Laboratory of Mechatronics, worked in collaboration with DMecS GmbH to develop a simulation technology that is able to allow haptic feedback monitoring of vehicle systems. In this way, prototype development phases can be concentrated and product-to-market time reduced. It claims substantial cost savings when measured against more traditional development methods.
E-Mobility poses engineering challenges, not just at the level of vehicle manufacture but also in terms of infrastructure provision. Visitors to Hannover 2012 cannot fail to have noticed the seriousness with which attention is now turning to major city provision of infrastructure to enable eMobility to become a reality. ITM Power used Hannover to launch a long-awaited TUV-certified hydrogen refueler. Its HFuel electrolysis-based product range is able to produce zerocarbon hydrogen if linked to a renewable power source or a supply of green electricity.
With the German Hydrogen Now clean energy partnership leading the way in rolling out hydrogen car infrastructure on a commercial basis, many visitors— especially from other European nations and the US—will have taken back clear messages about the long-term market potential of these developments. Most important perhaps is sight of ITM Powers’ HF Transportable Refueling State, which allows the flexibility to operate small fleet and early “hydrogen highway” applications of both fuel cell- and hydrogen-engine vehicles without massive disruptions and investment. Using a modular platform base, it can be expanded at any point after initial installation, enabling a staged roll-out of hydrogen fuel.
This technology, along with the opportunity to explore hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicles on a variety of suppliers’ displays left may delegates with a sense that the operation of alternative fuelled vehicles will have ever-increasing viability impact in the short term as well as the long term. This year’s keynote partnership with China was not executed to the exclusion of other areas. Indeed, many countries took care to coordinate and encourage their industries to be represented on the world stage from within distinct national display areas. India for example had an impressive pavilion organized by EEPC India, with substantial displays on industrial subcontracting and lightweight materials generating significant interest from those from the automotive sector.