Paul J. Heney – Editorial Director
On Twitter @DW_Editor
Next year it’s U.S.
It’s really difficult to describe Hannover Fair to someone who hasn’t been to what is the world’s biggest trade show fairground. Hall after hall (about 30 of them) contain nearly every industrial product you can think of, from motion control and fluid power automation to solar cells and robots.
Hannover is also one of few places you see forward-thinking technology and new, innovative products actually being released. (I’ve complained in this space before about the glut of trade shows, which leads to exhibitors telling the press that there’s nothing new under the sun, and they saw everything on display at the last event.)
This year’s Hermes Award, given to the most innovative technical product released at the show, was presented to Wittenstein AG, for their Galaxie drive system. I had the opportunity to chat with company executives at their booth, and also to see the product in action. The gearhead has been fused with a new high-performance motor to create a very compact, hollow-shaft drive system. It also has integrated connectivity—remember, this is Industry 4.0, people—and has a very impressive measured efficiency of more than 92%.
Each of the 24 teeth involved in torque conversion is an independent and dynamic entity, supported by a needle roller bearing, grouped around a two- or three-cam input polygon and guided along the teeth of a ring gear. At any given time, only two of the teeth are not engaged, resulting in a high torque density when compared with traditional gear types. It was fascinating to see the years of engineering that went into this product.
I’m also a sucker for great R&D—and Festo Corp. never fails to excite the engineering imagination with their ongoing series of Bionic Learning Network creatures. This year, I had to fight the crowds to get a good view of their eMotionButterflies in action. These large blue insects use indoor GPS and infrared technology to move in an enclosed space without colliding with other butterflies or permanent obstructions. Festo also showed off their new BionicAnts, which demonstrate industrial networking and cooperative behavior. And lastly, the FlexShapeGripper inverts its elastic silicone cap to pick up objects of almost any shape, inspired by the workings of a chameleon’s tongue.
Each year, Hannover selects a partner country, and all exhibiting companies play up their roles as well as facilities in that area of the world. Next year, the United States will be the partner country, for the first time in 30 years. The spotlight is going to be on us next April. This will be a great opportunity to show our manufacturing expertise—and the planning needs to begin in earnest, right now.
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Filed Under: Bearings, Motion control • motor controls, Networks • connectivity • fieldbuses, Pneumatic equipment + components, Robotics • robotic grippers • end effectors