22 March, 2018

Special 21st Anniversary Report - Eventful journey

12 December, 2017

ring with minimal losses, again maximising the system efficiency. When we add up all the advancements in technology we can generate and distribute the air at its highest possible efficiency. This also has other side effects due to reduced leakage, and with more air per KW we can offer smaller compressors to meet the real demand. This can save space in the installation and lead to a reduction in ancillary requirements i.e. smaller ducting, less cooling and smaller Quality Air Solutions equipment.”


How has automation changed within the fluid power and related systems and equipment space over the past couple of decades? “In a huge way,” remarked Hambrook, adding that the price points have become more accessible, and the range of applications that computeried automation now touches is far greater. “Now, a modern machine will replace a number of staff that may have been required 10 to 20 years ago,” he said. “As we move into an era where robotics are what CNC machines were to the preceding 20 years, factories should become less reliant on so many factory staff and will probably move more towards factory machine supervisors; which intern would reduce staff numbers.”

Kling reflected that if one were to write a book about automation, there would be many chapters as the change has been significant. “However, for us it is important to look at the main drivers for the changes such as efficiency, productivity, proactive maintenance and controllability,” he said.

Buxton believes that for many years the UK has lagged behind its overseas competitors in the adoption of automation and robotics with robot density figures (number of robots per 10,000 employees), being behind that of all of our major competitors including Belgium. However, he maintains that this is now changing; not because the technology has changed (which it has), but because the risk aversion and lack of technical understanding among British manufacturers is finally breaking down as a younger more receptive generation are coming through. “The technological changes have been manifested in greater speed, increased processor speed, cooperative robots (or cobots as they are called) and advances in electronic and computer control – not to mention more advanced vision systems,” he said.

Brooks made the point that one only has to look back a few decades to the 1970s to see how automation has changed almost everything we do today. “Manual labour was then, as it is now, a major cost for both manufacturing and service companies manufacturing,” he said. “Automation has facilitated the increase in mass production of everything from food, pharmaceuticals, vehicles and every type of household item. As industry moves forward with Industry 4.0, more will be automated and controlled; not necessarily from work places but also from domestic dwellings.”

Sands considers that there are some exciting areas of simplification. He made the point that tools such as IO-Link have made it easier and simpler to set-up and use more sophisticated sensors. “This has enabled the user to customise devices like flow and pressure sensors to precisely meet their needs, yet in a user friendly and simple way,” he explained.

Revell sees a greater shift towards automation for many reasons. “The need for product consistency is high to comply with ISO standards and conformity to all regulations,” he said. “The IoT and Industry 4.0 is now affording greater information and control over all the processes in manufacturing. The efficiency of automation is also increasing, using less power to deliver faster results. With this need for consistency we are required to deliver the non-fluctuating pressure with constant air quality to the same level –

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