Credit: Songsak Paname |

Oil & gas companies are investing a significant amount of money in technologies to automate their complex manufacturing processes.

According to the report, “Global Actuator Sensor Interface (AS-i) Systems Market 2016-2020,” emergence of new and innovative fieldbus solutions will be a key driver for market growth. The digitization of the process signals and the associated decentralization are paving the way for the wider adoption of open fieldbus systems. Also, the development of open fieldbus in power plants has revolutionized the structure of control systems. Open fieldbus technology enables shifting central functions into field devices and leads to decentralized structures in the automation systems.

The report finds that the fluctuation in oil prices has adversely affected the demand for lower-level networking in the oil & gas industry. Members of Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) such as Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Venezuela control more than 40% of world’s oil supply. The demand for oil has reduced, especially from Europe and China.

The fluctuations in oil prices decreased the CAPEX of the oil companies in 2015. For instance, Shell had to cut spending by $15 billion and Chevron announced a cut of $5 billion in 2015. Such budget cuts are likely to pose a huge challenge for the AS-i systems market because the oil & gas companies are expected to reduce capital spending on new installations of the AS-i network in plants due to fluctuations in oil prices.

Linear analysis

VibePro vibration technology is used to collect vibration data in ball screws and to detect issues such as:

  • Preload
  • Backlash
  • Worn ball paths
  • Wear points on slides

VibePro technology enables uninterrupted capture of vibration data on ball screws, slides, and any other linear moving equipment. Vibration data is sent using VibePro Online web service to certified technicians who will analyze data and provide a full report along with actionable recommendations to maintain all equipment at optimum levels of performance.

Collaborative robots

The hot topic of automation technology at the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) was collaborative robots, or robots that can work safely in tandem with operators. Leading automation companies had their newest collaborative equipment on display, made possible by extremely sensitive sensor technology.

Kuka’s LBR IIWA 14 R820 robot has sensory capabilities for safety, fast teaching, and simple operator control. The system opens up new areas of application in the vicinity of humans that were previously off-limits for robots.

Fanuc’s CR-35iA is a force-limited collaborative robot that is able to work alongside human employees without the need for fencing, with the ability to lift and move heavy objects weighing up to 35kg. Unlike the company’s traditional yellow robots, this collaborative robot is green with a soft shell and a ISO 10218-1:2011 safety certification.,

Heavy-duty oil rig robot wins the 2016 gold vector award

Every two years, igus GmbH presents the vector award for novel energy chain system applications covering fast travels, adverse environmental conditions, and dizzying rotations. This year, the gold vector award went to Robotic Drilling Systems, which use several energy chain systems in limited spaces within their robots.

The Drill-floor Robot DFR-1500 from the Robotic Drilling Systems is the central robot in an automated oil drilling system. Oil drilling work typically involves manual carriage of individual drilling elements and fixing with bolts with enormous effort. Robotic Drilling Systems is working on oil platforms where drilling is completely prepared and executed by robots. The DFR-1500 uses individual drilling elements and brings them into the correct position for the drilling operation. Reverse bend radius (RBR) systems from igus are used in the articulated joints of the robots and are responsible for the supply of energy, data, and media. RBR chains are used lying on their side, and the chain links can move in both directions, allowing rotational movements. A jury honored the Robotic Drilling Systems’ application with the gold vector award. The award, also with 5,000 prize, was received by Jimmy Bostrom, chief operating officer at Robotic Drilling Systems, in front of guests at the award ceremony in the fair stand of igus GmbH at the Hannover Messe.