Hybrid power generation system wins energy award

The Hybrid Power Generation System (HPGS) of national security alliance the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s (Nato’s) Energy Security Centre of Excellence has won one of the Energy Transition Trophies 2016.

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The awards, held in Paris, France, in June, covered such themes as factories, energy, renewable energy, energy transition and mobility, and were organised by leading professional press group in France, Usine Nouvelle.

The HPGS smart energy system beat more than 130 rival projects in the renewable- energy category. The system is based on Germany-based cable and overhead line accessory manufacturer Pfisterer’s CrossPower technology, which combines conventional and renewable-energy sources in one system.

Pfisterer’s CrossPower system creates isolated power grids, or microgrids, in which wind turbine and photovoltaic (PV) systems are combined with conventional diesel generators.

“This alliance of hybrid power generation and intelligent management ensures a highly secure power supply,” according to Pfisterer.

Further, the system allows for a stable, mobile power supply in various areas.

In emergency scenarios, the ability to rapidly establish a reliable power supply is crucial, the company noted in a press statement last month, adding that, with the HPGS, stable power grids could now be set up rapidly in locations such as remote areas, earthquake zones or refugee camps, or areas of conflict.

While the Lithuanian Armed Forces have been testing the system in field conditions since the beginning of the year, Nato will soon deploy the system in planned military exercises, the Nato Energy Security Centre of Excellence says.

Pfisterer and the centre gave a demonstration of the technology at Eurosatory, the world’s largest international land, air defence and security exhibition, in Paris, in June. This was Pfisterer’s first joint trade fair appearance with the Nato energy organisation. The hybrid power concept attracted military and civilian interest.

Modern lithium-ion batteries store solar or wind power in the system. The control system automatically prioritises renewable-energy sources according to their availability, whereas the diesel generators function only as required to recharge the batteries and always operate at their optimum output range.

This reduces fuel consumption by up to 50% and makes the system remarkably efficient, the company noted.

A single 150 kW plant can provide a reliable supply for a hospital with 100 people or to a military base with up to 150 soldiers, while the entire system is based on touch-safe design and can be operated in the close vicinity of tents and equipment.

The CrossPower system also reduces logistics expenses. Since diesel consumption is significantly lower, fewer costly fuel transports – inevitably entailing security risks – are necessary to conflict areas.

Additionally, the system can be housed in two International Organisation for Standardisation-certified 20-ft containers for transport, taking up very little space.

One container accommodates the PV system and the wind turbine mast, while the second accommodates the management system, switchgear, batteries and diesel generators.

The CrossPower system is scaled by design and is available with rated power outputs from 25 kW up to 1 000 kW/1 MW as a stationary unit. Additional modules can be integrated, for instance, into a hydroelectric power station, a permanent power grid or a Smartflower solar system.

Manufacturing equipment locally proves to be beneficial

Following two years of research and preparing for the local manufacturing of new innovative materials handling equipment, Pretoria-based materials handling company Wuhlf started manufacturing last month and has reached full production.

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Engineering News reported in January that the company would manufacture materials handling equipment – including wheel loaders, forklifts and numerous attachments – designed specifically for the South African market.

Manufacturing Wuhlf products enables the company to predict its quality and outcome as the inputs and outputs of the expected end product can be controlled.

“There is a need for materials handling equipment in the engineering industry, owing to the size of projects and the moving of loads. Being able to manufacture the equipment in South Africa gives the company the upper hand in producing high-quality, low-technology products relevant for the local market,” says Wuhlf director Johan Grobler.

Another advantage is the number of jobs created by manufacturing locally, as this increases Wuhlf’s contribution towards social responsibility.

Moreover, Grobler notes that the maintenance requirements of the locally manufactured equipment are relatively low and require no electronics.

He explains that the nonelectronic tools for maintenance allow for end-users to repair and maintain the equipment themselves, with parts being locally available and easy to use.

“A few companies in the engineering industry still think that high-technology equipment is a better option; however, locally manufactured low-technology front-end loaders and terrain forklifts are more reliable in terms of maintenance and availability,” he asserts.

Design Specifications

Grobler says Wuhlf is manufacturing front-end loaders and terrain forklifts. Front-end loaders are used on farms, construction sites and where supplies need to be picked up and transported from one location to another, he notes, adding that the terrain forklift is equipment used to lift and move materials short distances.

Grobler notes that the Wuhlf ML 18 front-end loader has a full hydraulic articulated frame steering, with a 35° angle, and a width of 1 900 mm. He adds that the machine’s overall operating weight is 4 370 kg, with a bucket capacity of 0.9 m.

He points out that the machine uses an open-mode controlling system, with an 85 ∙ fuel tank capacity, a 15 ∙ oil tank capacity and a 4 ∙ break system, as well as a four-cylinder diesel engine of 47 kW and 2 400 rpm.

Grobler asserts that the all-terrain off-road 4  4 forklift is 5 100 mm long, 1 720 mm wide and 2 430 mm high.
He points out that the forklift’s rated load capacity is 2 000 kg, with an 18 kN max traction force, a fork size of 1 070 mm and total weight of 3 200 kg.

Grobler concludes that the company will continue to develop and research ways to manufacture different equipment while building the company profile as local manufacturers.

ABB new robot offers bigger payload handling, compact footprint

ABB Robotics has launched its latest robot – the IRB 1660ID – for applications such as arc welding, machine tending and materials handling, which require work in tight spaces.

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The new robot’s Integrated DressPack solution makes it easier to programme and simulate predictable cable movements, creates a more compact footprint and reduces maintenance costs by 50%, owing to reduced wear and tear on cables.
“Our aim . . . was to deliver a robot that offers superior and consistent quality in arc welding, as well as a fast, agile and reliable machine-tending solution,” ABB Robotics global product management head Dr Hui Zhang explained in a press statement last month.

The robot will also enable customers to increase productivity, deliver better workpiece quality and reduce cycle times, he noted.

The IRB 1660ID, with the aid of RobotStudio, ABB’s offline robot software programming tool, enables programmers to envision high-density cells, with several robots welding close to one another.

Additionally, the compact and hollow IP67 wrist enables fast and reliable movements, while the risk of collision in confined spaces is also eliminated. The combined working range of 1 390° for axes 4, 5 and 6 ensures agility inside computer numerically controlled machines.

“As a direct result of close collaboration with our customers, the IRB 1660ID also includes a new generation of accurate, efficient and reliable motors,” said Zhang.

The IRB 1660ID has a reach of 1.55 m and can handle payloads of up to 6 kg.

While the robot’s predecessor, the IRB 1600ID is installed at several sites across South Africa, ABB South Africa expects to service the first orders for the new robot in the near future.

ABB South Africa service manager Alok Maharaj told Engineering News that there was significant demand for welding, assembly, painting and finishing in the automotive and metal fabrication industries, as well as picking, packing and palletising in the pharmaceuticals and food and beverage industries.

“Traditionally, the automotive sector has driven the technology and adoption of robotics in industry. However, small to medium-sized enterprises are also starting to invest as decreasing prices and increased labour issues become a reality,” Maharaj said.

GE Capital Aviation Services Signs Purchase-and-Leaseback Transaction with Qatar Airways for Five Airbus A350-900s

SHANNON, Ireland – August 16, 2016 – GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS), the commercial aircraft leasing and financing arm of GE, today announced it signed a purchase-and-leaseback transaction with Qatar Airways for five new Airbus A350-900 aircraft to help expand the carrier’s fleet.

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About Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways, the national carrier of the State of Qatar, is one of the fastest growing airlines operating one of the youngest fleets in the world. Now in its 19th year of operations, Qatar Airways has a modern fleet of 190 aircraft flying to more than 150 key business and leisure destinations across six continents.

A multiple award-winning airline, Qatar Airways was awarded World’s Best Business Class; Best Business Class Airline Lounge and Best Airline Staff Service in the Middle East at the prestigious 2016 World Airline Awards managed by international air transport rating organisation Skytrax.

Qatar Airways is a member of the oneworld global alliance. The award-winning alliance was named the World’s Best Airline Alliance 2015 by Skytrax for the third year running. Qatar Airways was the first Gulf carrier to join global airline alliance, Oneworld, enabling its passengers to benefit from more than 1,000 airports in more than 150 countries, with 14,250 daily departures.

About GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS)

GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS) is a world leader in aviation leasing and financing. With over 45 years of experience, GECAS offers a wide range of aircraft types including narrowbodies, widebodies, regional jets, turboprops, freighters and helicopters, plus multiple financing products and services including operating leases, purchase/leasebacks, secured debt financing, capital markets, engine leasing, airframe parts management and airport/airline consulting. GECAS owns or services a fleet of over 1,950 aircraft (~1,700 fixedwing/ ~250 rotary wing) in operation or on order, plus provides loans collateralized on an additional ~400 aircraft. GECAS serves ~ 270 customers in over 75 countries from a network of 25 offices.

Siemens proves pioneer position delivering green solutions in the shipbuilding industry

Scandinavia is the first region in the world to rely increasingly on battery-powered and thus environmentally-friendly technologies in the shipbuilding industry. After “Ampere”, the world’s first electrical ferry in Norway, Siemens has received a follow-up order of the Finnish shipping company FinFerries. Ampere was put into operation in Norway in May 2015, and has traveled a distance equivalent to more than 1.5 times around the equator. With the change from diesel propulsion to battery, Norwegian ship owner Norled has reduced the cost of fuel by 60 percent. For FinFerries, Siemens has now tailor-made a suitable technical solution for Finland’s first emission-free ferry. This follow-up order confirms Siemens’ pioneer position delivering green solutions in the shipbuilding industry.

Finnlands erste Elektrofähre wird neuer Meilenstein in ökologischer Schifffahrt / Finland's first battery-powered ferry represents milestone towards clean shipping

Helping robots to communicate more effectively with machines

Industry 4.0 is on everyone’s lips, but practical implementation is still rather tentative. This is due not least to the lack of standards for linking the digital machines to each other. The VDW (German Machine Tool Builders’ Association) in Frankfurt am Main is now engaged in changing this.

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It has for the first time formulated a comprehensive and nonetheless flexibly applicable standard with which robots or other workpiece carrier systems can be integrated more simply into a production system. This standard is scheduled for submission to the responsible technical committee of the International Organization of Standardization (ISO) in the upcoming weeks. “We are thus launching a first globally valid standard for interfaces in automated production systems,” says a gratified Dr. Hartmuth Müller, Chairman of the VDW’s “Machine Tool – Automation Interface” Working Group, which has drawn up the standard.

Boost for automation

It was only recently that the WGP (German Academic Society for Production Engineering) – a grouping of front-ranking German professors in this field – warned the small and mid-tier companies not to miss out on the revolution involved in digitised value creation chains made possible by Industry 4.0. The lack of standards for networking production lines, let alone entire production chains, is deplored not only by academics. “The firms often have to endure protracted struggles before their machines are able to communicate with each other in an automated production chain,” concurs Ralf Reines, a technical consultant at the VDW. The problem is this: “Machines are not going to understand each other if the interfaces concerned are not compatible because they have not been standardised, just as people cannot talk to each other if they don’t speak the same language.” Depending on the manufacturer concerned, signals like “Release the workpiece” and “Place the workpiece in the loading station” have different names, and the meanings behind them are not uniformly defined. This is why, for example, a robot cannot necessarily “agree” with the processing machine involved on how to load and then process the workpieces.

Costly and elaborate reprogramming not required

Sizeable production lines are in most cases installed without being able to test beforehand whether the machines are actually able to communicate with each other via the various interfaces provided. The individual machines involved are frequently too large and complex to be transported into a test environment. For this reason, the individual interfaces (i.e. the connections via which the data from the various machines are exchanged with each other) are discussed and coordinated beforehand by system integrators on the basis of numerous documents. Then comes the great moment when the line is switched on – and only too often nothing works. The amount of time and money expended on reprogramming the interfaces can be avoided – if all interfaces conform to a standard right from the start – as laid down in the new standard. “This will impart significant momentum to digitisation of production operations, and is an important step forward on the path to Industry 4.0,” says Hartmuth Müller confidently.

New standard is flexibly applicable

The newly created standard can be applied on a modularised basis, in order to meet a huge spectrum of disparate requirements – wherever particular workpieces have to be moved from transporting machines to processing machines. This may involve simple removal of a product’s parts or complete complex production lines, e.g. in an automotive production facility, where the workpieces are processed at different machines. In all, users can choose between three stages and different options for interpreting the standards to suit the specific project involved. Certain control system signals can be added or omitted, e.g. depending on whether the processing machine possesses a loading door guarding the machining area or not. The most important safety-engineering-related aspects are also laid down in a special safety interface.

In order to guarantee simplicity in actual use, the experts at the VDW have described the standard in an Excel file, with which the signals can be easily filtered for the various stages and options involved.

The formal procedure at the ISO begins with a survey on whether the standardisation project is of international importance. For this to apply, at least four countries have to regard the project as deserving of standardisation. Should this be the case, the work involved in international standardisation will be commenced. The experts are in no doubt that this will happen before the end of this year.

KASTO: High-performance circular saw with outstanding automation potential

Whether in press shops or forging plants, at manufacturers of fittings or electrical parts, at steel stockholders or automotive industry suppliers: In countless industries, there is a demand for sawing solutions that combine high cutting performance with efficiency and precision. With its KASTOspeed range of products, the sawing specialist KASTO has just such a solution in its portfolio: The high-performance automatic circular saws have been specially designed for economic series production and excel thanks to their reliability and excellent results, even during continuous operations. By means of the KASTOsort robot interface they can easily be integrated in a controlled, end-to-end material flow.

KASTOspeed is available in two variants, for sawing steel or non-ferrous metals. Furthermore, users can choose between two sizes, with a cutting range of 90 or 153 millimetres (for round materials). The automatic circular saws help minimize cycle times and make it possible to produce millions of high precision cut parts every year when operated for two or three shifts per day. Thanks to its outstanding reliability and precision in continuous operation, KASTOspeed is one of the most frequently purchased high-volume circular saws in the world.

Depending on the ease of machining of the material and the production requirements, HSS full steel or disposable carbide saw blades are used on the KASTOspeed. The right cutting speed can be selected for each job. The optimum positioning of the saw drive and the four-point workpiece clamping arrangement enable an extremely short saw stroke. The robust machine construction with helical gearbox, combined with a hydraulically damped measuring stop and a bar pusher that can be moved rapidly into position, permits accurate cutting and very high output.

What is more, the KASTOspeed offers many different ways of improving efficiency. The KASTOsort robot interface makes it possible to automate upstream and downstream production processes and integrate these in a controlled, end-to-end material flow that includes the sawing operation itself. Industrial robots are able to remove the cut parts automatically and accomplish numerous other tasks, from deburring and chamfering, through centring, tapping, marking and printing and on to sorting, stacking and picking. This robot-saw solution can be further integrated with a container management or driverless transport system.

Depending on the customer’s requirements, KASTO integrates the robot controller into the saw controller, its own KASTOlogic Warehouse Management System or an existing ERP system. As a result, the user can control and monitor all the processes over a single interface and benefits from a perfectly harmonized process chain. A number of different magazine variants are available to allow large quantities of raw material to be stored upstream of the machine. This means that companies can run the system fully unattended even for long periods when required.

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Picture 1: The high-performance automatic circular saw KASTOspeed has been specially designed for economic series production.

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Picture 2: The KASTOsort robot interface allows automation of upstream and downstream production processes and their integration into a controlled, end-to-end material flow.

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Picture 3: Industrial robots are able to remove the cut parts automatically and accomplish numerous other tasks, from deburring and chamfering, through centring, tapping, marking and printing and on to sorting, stacking and picking.

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Picture 4: Depending on the customer’s requirements, KASTO integrates the robot controller into the saw controller, its own KASTOlogic Warehouse Management System or an existing ERP system.

Walsh Manufacturing at the Precision Machine Technology Show

Walsh Manufacturing, a diversified supplier of cost-effective metal fabrication and machine design, will exhibit at the upcoming Precision Machine Technology Show (PMTS) in Columbus, Ohio. Engineering experts from Walsh Manufacturing will be on hand to showcase the company’s engineering solutions, parts washing systems, metal fabrication, machinery rebuilds, automation equipment, and water jet cutting services.

The precision manufacturing show, held April 21-23 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, will feature 260 exhibitors, live machine tool builder floor demos, interactive education centers, and a dedicated Parts Cleaning conference (PCx) and pavilion. Here, attendees can see first-hand the time and savings benefits of proper parts cleaning processes.

In addition to custom applications offered by Walsh Manufacturing, there will also be a number of global experts from the parts cleaning, environmental and engineering fields on hand for 15 educational sessions during PCx.

Visit the Walsh Manufacturing team at Booth 1513 in the Cleaning and Coating Equipment Pavilion to see a range of components designed to improve work performance, reduce maintenance, and boost production.

German machine-tool orders drop in February

Frankfurt (AFP) – Falling domestic demand weighed on Germany’s key mechanical engineering sector in February, the VDMA industry federation said Wednesday.

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The manufacture of machine tools is a key driver of German industry and exports.

In February, overall incoming orders fell by 3.0 percent compared with the same month a year earlier, VDMA said in a statement, with export orders stagnating while domestic orders slumped by 7.0 percent.

Making a three-month comparison to iron out short-term fluctuations, VDMA said overall orders rose by 4.0 percent in the period from December to February.

Foreign orders increased by 6.0 percent in the three-month period while domestic orders stagnated, VDMA calculated.

“Weak domestic demand shows that we mustn’t allow ourselves to be dazzled by record exports,” said VDMA chief Thilo Brodtmann.

“The weak domestic figures are a warning signal for politicians,” he said.

The grand left-right coalition government under Angela Merkel was too focussed on consumption, and not enough on investment, Brodtmann complained, calling on Berlin to create “a climate for innovation.”

GE makes once-a-decade bet on big turbines

General Electric’s industrial overhaul rests in part on a piece of machinery that’s larger than a Winnebago and weighs as much as a Boeing 747. Now, it just needs to work.

GE plans to deliver its newest gas turbine in July, a decade after the rollout of an earlier model that was hindered by performance issues and sold poorly. The company is investing $2 billion developing the new 433-ton unit, which can churn out enough electricity to power 400,000 homes.

That investment reflects the turbine’s importance to chief executive officer Jeffrey Immelt’s plan to strengthen GE’s industrial business while shrinking the volatile lending arm. It’s also needed to fend off rivals Siemens AG and Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Ltd. as global population growth drives greater demand for electricity.

“This is one of the main events for GE,” said Victor Abate, 50, chief executive officer of power generation for GE Power & Water. “Eighteen months ago, the machine wasn’t in our catalog. Today, we have $1 billion worth of orders.”

GE hopes to sell as many as 500 of the new turbines by 2030, according to Abate, speaking in an interview at GE’s turbine testing and manufacturing facility in Greenville, S.C. In addition to 15 unit orders already on the books, the Fairfield, Conn.-based company is bidding or in talks on another $11 billion worth of equipment, he said. GE will ship the first unit this summer to French utility Electricite de France SA.

GE’s Power & Water unit is the company’s largest non- finance business, with sales last year of $27.6 billion, accounting for about 26 percent of its industrial revenue.

The introduction comes as GE, which sells half of the world’s gas turbines, attempts to win approval to buy Alstom’s energy assets for $13.3 billion. The European Commission said in February it would open a probe to determine whether combining the two turbine makers would limit competition. Regulators plan to rule by Aug. 6.

The new turbine, known as the HA, is an air-cooled version of GE’s earlier H-class model, which was cooled by a more complicated steam system. It incorporates technology borrowed from GE’s jet-engine unit to help it withstand internal temperatures in excess of 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit, improving its efficiency in converting natural gas to electricity.

“The material advances that GE has done have been very significant,” said Meherwan Boyce, managing partner of the Boyce Consultancy Group LLC and author of several books on power-plant equipment. “GE, in my opinion, is among the leaders in this field.”

In a so-called combined-cycle power plant, where a steam turbine is paired with a gas turbine to improve electricity output, the HA unit can achieve net efficiency greater than 61 percent, a key benchmark, GE says.

Exelon Corp. was the first U.S. company to buy the new turbine in an order worth more than $500 million. Ed Lesh, project director for construction of Exelon’s new Texas power plant, said GE’s air-cooled technology was important to its decision, given the area’s drought conditions. Exelon expects to begin using the turbine in 2017.

The early interest in the HA contrasts with the anemic demand for its previous heavy-duty gas turbine, which went into commercial service between 2003 and 2008. The company said it sold just six of the steam-cooled units.

“The product was a disaster; it was just failing,” said Scott Davis, an analyst with Barclays Plc. “They had to go back to the drawing board, and test and retest. It took them a long, long time.”

One unit installed at the Inland Empire Energy Center in California suffered “a pretty massive failure” before it was hooked up to the energy grid, said Matthew Layton, a supervising mechanical engineer with the California Energy Commission.

“We’ve seen very few catastrophic failures like that,” he said.

GE’s global market share for gas turbine sales by megawatt capacity fell to a three-year average as low as 43 percent in 2011 from 61 percent in 2001, according to data from Richmond, Va.-based McCoy Power Reports.

Abate acknowledged past issues, saying the steam-cooling mechanism was overly complicated, making maintenance difficult and costly.

“The serviceability was a little bit of a shortcoming,” he said. “When you would take a power plant offline, it would take weeks just to get it where you could go in and do the maintenance you wanted.”

GE was also encumbered by its testing procedures, which took place mostly at customer sites. The company has since expanded its Greenville facility, where real-world conditions can now be approximated before delivery.

GE has boosted its market share in recent years in part through the enduring popularity of its smaller F-class unit, Davis said. GE accounted for 51 percent of the gas-turbine megawatts ordered globally last year, according to McCoy data. Siemens, including newly acquired assets from Rolls-Royce Holdings, sold about 23 percent of the 2014 capacity, followed by Mitsubishi’s 13 percent share and Alstom’s 7 percent.

Siemens now lags GE in turbine efficiency and pricing, and it may take several years to catch up, according to a Siemens manager with knowledge of internal evaluations. The Munich-based company is facing declining orders and profitability in its turbine segment, which it hopes to reverse in part through the Rolls-Royce acquisition. A Siemens spokesman declined to comment.

Based on the early demand, GE expects the units to account for as much as half of its gas-turbine sales by the end of the next decade.

“I was skeptical,” said Barclays’s Davis. “I thought they would be behind in technology. They pulled a rabbit out of their hat and I’m impressed.”