NMW delivers new products but lacked the thunder

Perhaps the biggest noise made at the 2007 National Manufacturing Week event in Rosemont, IL on Sept. 25-27 was the Tuesday morning thunderstorm that rolled through the Chicago area. The thunder and lightning was all outside. Exhibitors were hoping for a little more thunder and lightning inside. The 2007 event was the first year NMW had been co-located with the Assembly Technology show and the ...

By Bob Vavra, Jack Smith of PLANT ENGINEERING, and C.G. Masi, senior editor, Control Engineering October 15, 2007

Perhaps the biggest noise made at the 2007 National Manufacturing Week event in Rosemont, IL on Sept. 25-27 was the Tuesday morning thunderstorm that rolled through the Chicago area. The thunder and lightning was all outside. Exhibitors were hoping for a little more thunder and lightning inside.

The 2007 event was the first year NMW had been co-located with the Assembly Technology show and the Quality Expo after its purchase by Canon Communications from Reed Business Information in 2006. NMW also made the leap from its traditional spring dates to September, creating an 18-month gap between events. The National Association of Manufacturers dropped its support of National Manufacturing Week shortly after the sale, and NAM is now partnered with the Fabtech International Show Nov. 11-14 in Chicago.

The proximity to October’s ISA show in Houston and a general sense that NMW had lost its luster as a ‘national’ manufacturing show kept most of the major manufacturing automation vendors and several other key manufacturing from having any significant presence at NMW in 2007. There were some complaints about the logistics of the Stephens Convention Center. Still, the Quality Expo drew significant crowds, and traffic did pick up on Sept. 26, the show’s second day. Vendors interviewed by PLANT ENGINEERING seemed generally satisfied with the show. If there was no thunder and lightning, neither was there a drought.

The show did produce some significant research data on a couple of fronts. PLANT ENGINEERING released results of its study, “The Changing Role of the Plant Engineer,” at a Wednesday press conference. Results of that study were also discussed with Kevin Prouty of Motorola and Eric Luyer of IBM, which sponsored the study with PLANT ENGINEERING , at a cocktail party to mark the magazine’s 60th anniversary on Wednesday evening (see related story, page 88).

The study will be reported in full in the November issue of PLANT ENGINEERING , which is also the magazine’s 60th anniversary issue. Among the significant findings in the study:

The report concluded:

The plant-floor leadership, by whatever title (plant manager, plant engineer, foreman, VP of manufacturing) plays a crucial business role in the specification and deployment of technology. That crucial role is growing.

The greatest challenge these professionals face is the inability to replace a shrinking workforce with new talent, and a need for an infusion of capital and equipment to remain competitive in a global manufacturing landscape.

Automation drives most plant floors, but not everyone is using it effectively. More education from suppliers is needed to drive more and better usage.

Energy efficiency and sustainability will be major issues in the next three years.

Industrial heat and control systems manufacturer Chromalox, Inc ( www.chromalox.com ). released the results of its annual industrial trends study as well. More than 750 design engineers and engineering managers responded to the survey from a wide variety of industries.

The group was nearly evenly split when responding to whether they foresee changes in the core heating and control technologies used in their respective industries. For those who predict changes, three main factors — cost, energy source and functionality — will significantly influence those changes. Respondents frequently noted that increasing energy costs have pushed the demand for energy-saving controls, as well as overall cost-control in operations, which ties to the need for controls with more functionality and features.

When purchasing control heat and control components, 25% of respondents valued high quality, followed by best service and custom design, each cited by 22% of respondents. In 2007, 27% of respondents said that buying/selling products that meet third-party global approvals is very important to them, compared to 2006 survey respondents which ranked third party approval at 50%.

Respondents that use remote PC access for control and monitoring function totaled 57%. In 2006, 27% had some form of remote equipment monitoring technology. Sixty-three percent of respondents have process critical equipment which is remotely monitored by the OEM.

As with the 2006 results, this year’s respondents forecast plant production volumes to increase this year. The top three named competitive strategies were the installation of improved production technology (47%), supply chain improvements (32%) and the implementation of lean manufacturing techniques (32%). In comparison, in 2006, 19% planned to install improved production technology and implement lean manufacturing techniques. Department budget and staff levels have remained flat and are expected to remain unchanged.

Other NMW news

National Manufacturing Week produced some significant product introductions as well. They included:


AutomationDirect ( www.automationdirect.com ) jumped into the general-purpose motor market by introducing its IronHorse general purpose ac motor line. The company’s first broad-range family of electric motors, the series includes rolled-steel and cast-iron designs in the most popular sizes. IronHorse motors are available in single and three-phase models, and power ratings from 1/3 to 300 hp. All motors have a base speed of 1,800 rpm, and are electrically reversible. The company made the announcement at National Manufacturing Week ( www.manufacturingweek.com ).

The MTR series 56C frame motors, in 1/3 to 2 hp sizes, are housed in rolled steel, totally enclosed fan cooled (TEFC) enclosures and are equipped with removable bolt-on/bolt-off bases. MTR series motors feature large, easy-to-wire junction boxes, high tensile strength steel shafts and cast aluminum end bells. The single-phase, 115/208-230 V motors include large all-metal capacitor covers with rubber gaskets and oversized capacitors. Prices for single-phase motors start at $96. The three-phase, 208-230/460 volt motors are inverter-capable and start at $97. The company says MTR series motors work well in applications using conveyors, fans, gear reducers, and pumps and are CE and CSA certified.

The 3-phase industrial duty MTC series motors are T-frame TEFC motors available in 1 to 300 hp sizes, and feature ribbed-design cast iron frames to ensure maximum cooling. They are also equipped with solid full-frame-length cast iron mounting feet, cast iron junction box with rubber gasket and rubber dust cover. Motor sizes 10 hp and lower are equipped with maintenance-free bearings. Larger motors feature NSK/SKF brand premium quality ball or roller bearings. These high-efficiency motors are CSA, CE, ISO9001 and EPACT certified. The company says the T-frame motors are ideal for applications such as pumps, material handling, metal and textile processing and test stands. Prices for MTC series motors start at $120.

Accessories include motor slide bases for accurate and easy motor positioning. Available in sizes from NEMA 56 – NEMA 449T, these motor bases start at $10. Replacement capacitors and centrifugal switches are available for MTR single-phase motors for $12. C-flange kits, starting at $14, can be used for C-face mounting of the cast iron MTC series motors. The company says the motors are available for same-day shipping and are backed by a two-year warranty.


Megger highlighted its ground testing instrument family, which has grown to six models. The latest additions are the DET3 and 4 contractor series Earth/Ground resistance testers.

The DET3 series features digital or analog display ground testing capabilities, as well as the capability of testing onsite grounds without disconnecting the utility connection. The DET4 adds a fourth terminal for measuring soil resistivity. The DET4TC features 4-pole testing as well as attached rod and stakeless techniques. This allows the operator to use the instrument as a clamp-on ground tester in applications where that method is viable, while also being able to operate as a fall-of-potential tester.

“The concepts of grounding and bonding are not very well understood,” said Jeffrey R. Jowett, senior applications engineer at Megger (and frequent contributor to Plant Engineering magazine). “Users need more information about how to properly ground their systems, which includes appropriate testing techniques.”


IDEAL’s PowerPlug is a ballast-disconnect that allows electricians to disconnect ballasts hot. Because its maximum current is 3 A, there’s no flash danger, and the product is intended to eliminate the shock hazard.

According to Jim Gregorec, group manager for IDEAL’s Test & Measurement division, PowerPlug was introduced last year to OEMs for retrofits, but the recent news is that it is it is now available for electrical contractors.


UK-based IRISYS had its line of infrared thermal imagers on display. The company has experienced rapid growth for nearly seven years, according to sales manager Sat Sandhu.

IRISYS thermal imagers are marketed as low-res low-cost imagers. Instead of aiming for the ultra high resolution, high-end, high-cost camera, the company finds its niche in the low resolution market, which allows imagers to be offered at a comparatively low price.

Sandhu related several applications where low resolution thermal imaging is preferred. When SARS was an international travel issue, and with Avian Flu threatening the global well being of travelers, IRISYS IR imagers were used by air transportation officials to anonymously screen people with elevated temperatures. “An elevated body temperature does not mean a person has SARS,” Sandhu said. “It just means they have a temperature that is higher than everyone else.”

By screening those with elevated temperatures, officials could have further testing done by medical personnel to determine the nature of the feverish person, and whether that individual was contagious. “The beauty of a low resolution imager, Sandhu explained, “is that the resolution is not high enough to show facial features, so that those selected with elevated temperatures could remain anonymous, thereby protecting their identities.”

Sandhu also related how the IRISYS imagers can be used in building fire protection systems. Typically, when a sprinkler system deploys, all the sprinklers go off. This usually causes more damage than the fire that the sprinklers extinguish. By using the LRLC imagers, small fires can be zone-localized, and sprinklers only the affected area would be deployed. This allows the fire to be put out quickly without damaging more than necessary with water from the sprinkler system.

The retail industry is beginning to use this type of imager for head-counts — literally. Lateral scanning optical devices are prone to error because if patrons enter a store side-by-side, which happens quite often, the lateral scanners count only one person. Ceiling-mounted thermal imagers can ‘see’ the thermal profile from above, and with the appropriate software, the scanning system can get an accurate ‘head’ count. The imagers see the heat given off by the heads of patrons entering and leaving the store.

IRISYS sells through channel partners and distributors. Although new to the U.S. market with only about 1.5% of the market, the company feels its niche will enable considerable growth as it did in Europe.

D.R. Components

Despite recent overseas departures, contract manufacturing and electronic assembly remain strong in the U.S. However, the maintenance of legacy systems remains even stronger — whether by contract firms or captive field service organizations.

Part of maintaining legacy systems is obtaining hard-to-find electronic components. Laura Levin with D.R. Components said her company provides components that are now obsolete through normal channels. If National Semiconductor discontinues a line of its integrated circuits (ICs), chances are you will find it at D.R. Components, according to Levin.

The company stocks capacitors and resistors originally manufactured by Bourns, Clarostat, Kyocera, Vishay, Ohmite and many others. It also offers ICs from Exar, AMD, Fairchild, National Semiconductor, Signetics, Zilog, Intel and many others.

According to Levin, D.R. Components also offers value-added services which includes kitting, epoxy encapsulation, tape and reeling for sequencers, lead cutting and forming, IC programming and excess inventory solutions.


Lapp USA, part of the Lapp Group introduced several new product lines at NMW, according to Maureen Broe, senior marketing communications for Lapp.

Lapp Group introduced OLFLEX Control TM, a flexible and oil-resistant tray and machine-tool cable with UL MTW, UL TC-ER exposed sun approval for industrial applications. The cable is a gray pressure-extruded 600 V, 105 C multiconductor cable with UL and CSA approvals, which eliminates the need for costly conduit. It also complies with NFPA-79, Section 12.3.1. Applications include industrial automation, machine tool, instrument and control panels and other ‘plug-and-play’ uses.

Lapp also introduced a new line of shrinkable tubing. Part of its cable management solutions, the new tubing line features multipurpose, low recovery tubing in 2:1, 3:1 and 4:1 shrink ratios; dual wall, adhesive lined permanent bonding polyolefin for liquid tight sealing in these same shrink ratios; specialty tubing including highly flexible elastomers, semi-rigid solutions, zero halogen tubing and chemical and temperature resistant fluorelastomers.