From industrial, research, and even consumer robots, here are 10 companies whose robots can use the Robot Operating System (ROS).

  • The Robot Operating System (ROS) has a deeper foothold in the robotics industry than you might think. Since it was first developed in 2007, the open-source framework for developing robotics software has found its way into various research projects, and even been embraced by major robotics companies. In 2012 the ROS-Industrial Open Source project was established by Yaskawa Motoman Robotics, Southwest Research Institute, and Willow Garage to extend ROS into manufacturing automation.

    A number of major companies have embraced ROS and many offer ROS tutorials and resources to engineers and developers looking to work with their machines.

    Here are 10 major robotics companies that use ROS. For a comprehensive list of robots that are compatible with ROS we recommend taking a looking at the wiki on ROS.org.

    You can also find further tutorials and software packages for using ROS with various robots on the ROS Github repository.

  • ABB, YuMi, robot, robotics, Mechatronics

    ABB Robotics

    ABB manufacturers YuMi (shown above), along with other lines of collaborative and industrial robots. What’s most notable about YuMi in this case however is that the robot can be controlled using ROS.

    (Image source: ABB Robotics)

  • Clearpath Robotics

    Clearpath Robotics manufactures material loader robots for factories and warehouses (shown above) through its subsidiary, Otto Motors. Clearpath also offers autonomous robot development platforms for ground- and sea-based applications. All of the company’s robots are supported by ROS and Clearpath also offers its own ROS tutorials.

    (Image source: Clearpath Robotics)

  • Doosan Robotics

    Doosan Robotics manufacturers collaborative robots (or cobots) for assembly, quality inspection, packing, and pick and place, among other applications. Several of the company’s robots support ROS.

    (Image source: Doosan Robotics)

  • Fanuc

    Fanuc’s industrial robots serve the manufacturing needs of industries ranging from automotive and aerospace, to medical and food and beverage. Several of the company’s collaborative robots such as the CR7IAL (shown above) are compatible with ROS.

    (Image source: Fanuc)

  • Fetch Robotics

    Fetch manufactures autonomous mobile robots for research and materials transport. The company’s Mobile Manipulator and Freight Mobile Robot Base are ROS-based platforms for developing robots for research, warehouse, and factory applications.

    (Image source: Fetch Robotics)

  • iRobot

    Your Roomba can do more than clean up after you. iRobot has made the Roomba compatible with ROS so curious engineers and makers can experiment with the robot’s functionality. For those outside of the US, iRobot also offers a robot called Create, a stripped down version of the Roomba dedicated to functioning as a development platform.

    (Image source: iRobot)

  • ABI Research, robots, mobile robots, adoption, smart technology, manufacturing, warehouses, Locus Robotics

    Locus Robotics

    Locus creates mobile autonomous robots for pick and place and other warehouse applications. The company uses its own distribution of ROS – called ROS Hotdog – which uses packages from the ROS library along with custom additions made by Locus.

    (Image source: Locus)

  • TurtleBot

    TurtleBot is an open-source, DIY robotics kit based on ROS. The single board computer-based robot can be customized for a variety of research and maker applications.

    (Image source: TurtleBot)

  • Universal Robots

    Cobot manufacturer Universal Robots has not traditionally supported ROS, but third-parties have collaborated with the company to create ROS-compatible drivers for several of Universal Robots’ machines. The company’s UR3, UR5, and UR10 (shown above) can all function with ROS.

    (Image source: Universal Robots)

  • Yasakawa Motoman

    Yasakawa Motoman manufactures collaborative and industrial robots for assembly, logistics, pick and place, and material handling, among other applications. Yasakawa was among the first industrial robotics companies to adopt ROS. Today, all of its robots are compatible with ROS. Shown above: Yasakawa Motoman’s HC10DT industrial collaborative robot.

    (Image source: Yasakawa Motoman)

Chris Wiltz is a Senior Editor at   Design News  covering emerging technologies including AI, VR/AR, blockchain, and robotics.


The Current War is the latest film to retell the major events of the decade-long battle between Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, and Nikola Tesla to bring electricity to America of the late 1800’s. (Does anyone remember the 2006 movie, The Prestige in which David Bowie played Nikola Tesla?) This latest retelling focuses on the personality differences between these great inventors and entrepreneurs, but includes enough technical bits to ensure the film’s interest for electrical, mechanical, and manufacturing engineers. It is well worth the price of admission.

Thomas Edison, play by Benedict Cumberbatch, stands among a field of incandescent bulbs at the beginning of the so-called Current War. (Courtesy of 101 Studio)

The movie concludes at the 1893 Columbia Exposition in Chicago, which served as a visual representation of the early factory electrification in America. The exposition drew an audience of millions to witness the wonders of electricity that would soon light up the entire globe. Further, it marked the timeframe in which Westinghouse defeated Edison by winning a major contract to electrify America with alternating rather than direct current.

Westinghouse clearly won that battle, but did he really win the war? Or was there a war at all? History is nothing if not a continual re-evaluation of the past through the optics of the present. From today’s perspective, both Edison and Tesla – hardly friends at the time – may well be considered victors of the so-called battle between DC and AC power transmission.

New power distribution systems were required to bring electricity to early factories, buildings, and homes in America. Edison’s first power station was located on Pearl Street in Manhattan, New York. But when he tried to expand his electrical power reach over distances greater than a mile, the power cables lost too much power. Longer copper cables meant greater resistance, resulting in a decrease in voltage (V=IR). At that time, there was no efficient way to increase the DC voltage along the transmission line. In contrast, Westinghouse engineers and Tesla figured out how to build transformers that efficiently stepped-up the voltage, thus allowing for the transmission of power over longer distances. Step-down electrical transformers would then convert the AC signals to back to DC for factories and customers.

Interestingly. Edison knew that AC current could be converted to DC from an earlier observation, but he didn’t seem to act on this knowledge. Edison’s observation did lead British scientist John Ambrose Fleming to develop the “Fleming Diode” to convert an AC signal to a DC one. Years later, the diode vacuum tube was commonly used to convert AC into DC in power supplies for electronic equipment.

The advent of electronic motors and devices would drive renewed interest in the need for DC power. The discovery of semiconductor material in the early 1900’s would further accelerate the growth of DC-based devices. DC power is essential for modern digital devices, from PCs and cellphones to autonomous vehicles and even some alternative energy systems.

This December 1896 clip of Niagara Falls was among Edison’s earliest movie taken with his motion picture machine. (Imag source:Library of Congress)

DC networks have even found a way back into the power transmission platforms. The IEEE Spectrum recently reported on a high-voltage direct current (HVDC) system that could challenge existing AC power transmission for modern applications. One of the advantages of HVDC is its easy synchronization with other DC networks, thus greatly reducing cascading power outages, e.g., as experienced by many communities in California’s latest fire season.

The question remains if Edison lost the war of the currents. Some modern historians have questioned Edison’s perceived success at the Pearl Street Station. Others wonder if the current war itself was little more than a hoax or PR stunt by Edison in an effort to demonize the Westinghouse’s AC power system. It’s hard to know for sure.

What is a certainty is that Edison went on to invent technology beyond the DC power systems and the associated incandescent bulb. The Current War ends with one such invention, that of the motion picture camera. It seems fitting that one of his greatest inventions should serve to tell – or retell – his story.

John Blyler is a Design News senior editor, covering the electronics and advanced manufacturing spaces. With a BS in Engineering Physics and an MS in Electrical Engineering, he has years of hardware-software-network systems experience as an editor and engineer within the advanced manufacturing, IoT and semiconductor industries. John has co-authored books related to system engineering and electronics for IEEE, Wiley, and Elsevier, and has worked as an affiliate professor at Portland State University and a lecturer at UC-Irvine. He currently serves as a standards editor for IEEE.


2019 October Top 5 in Packaging PT Autumn leaf

Welcome to November, which is anchored by a reflective, family-oriented holiday, Thanksgiving. The month began Friday, immediately after October’s swan song festival of Halloween where kids can be kids and adults can also dress up as whoever or whatever they want to be.

With a new month underway we review the best of October in plastics packaging, done by assessing the most popular articles of the month at the PlasticsToday Packaging channel as determined by page views. As with previous compilations across any particular timeframe, the list is populated by an abundance of sustainably centered news. In fact, sustainable packaging nearly ran the table, the lone exception being a slideshow feature of a wild invention that’s sandwiched at #3 exactly in the middle of the quintet.Coke Pepsi logo

We begin in typical reverse order with the #5 article of the month that checks in on the sustainability news from two of the world’s largest rival beverage brands, Coca-Cola Company (Atlanta) and PepsiCo (Purchase, NY).

Unfortunately, both left the Plastics Industry Association because of so-called philosophical disagreements with that organization’s strategies. Since then, both companies have launched new efforts to solve the problems that the plastics industry apparently has created for them, points out veteran plastics reporter Clare Goldsberry.

In a release sent in September, PepsiCo announced accelerated efforts to reduce plastic waste, primarily through cutting by 35% use of virgin plastic across its beverage brands by 2025, “driven by increased use of recycled content and alternative packaging.”

In a more positive tone, Goldsberry mentioned Coke’s development of first-ever sample bottles made using recovered and recycled marine plastics, demonstrating that, one day, even ocean debris could be used in recycled packaging for drinks (see First-of-a-kind Coca-Cola PET bottles made from ocean plastics, published October 2019).

For more, read What in the world of sustainability are Coke and Pepsi up to now?

Next: A K 2019 update to clarify oxo-biodegradable plastics


Digital Twin technology has emerged as a potentially powerful tool for implementing automation and control applications. The technology offers a new approach that promises to enable model-based machine development.

digital twin, VR, AR headsets, machine developers, B&R

Wearing VR or AR headsets, machine developers can use Digital Twin Technology to interact directly with their model, and directly connect to a B&R machine controller for testing. (Image source: B&R)

At the most recent ODVA Technical Conference, Todd Snide and Merrill Harriman of Schneider Electric delivered an excellent paper on this topic describing the digital twin as the “cyber” part of Cyber Physical Systems. The idea is that the “digital twin” (a combination of software, hardware and communications) is “a representation of a physical entity indicating an ideal or object state of that entity, in constant comparison with its actual conditions.”

While it is a digital representation, the twin is directly associated with a physical device. Systems have a need for performance, which is being aided by new IoT communication developments, and an ability to support simulation and measurement/integration of real-time operation metrics.

From CAD Data to Digital Twin

B&R Automation has recently announced a new simulation tool for model-based machine development that integrates what they call “industrialPhysics simulation” into its Automation Studio engineering environment. It makes it possible for developers to directly import CAD data from machine components or entire machines to quickly and easily generate a digital twin for developing and testing machine software. Developers are able to run the virtual model of the machine on a PC, and then also directly connect it with the machine controller.

Mitsubishi, machine parameters, digital twin, digital thread, automation, design for manufacturing

New software tools powered by Digital Twin technology make it easier to transfer useful live information and update machine parameters without the need for additional programming, making full use of the improved data transparency. (Image source: Mitsubishi & CONTACT Software)

Digital Twin data is imported in STEP format which includes properties of the CAD design such as mass and density, and enables machine designers to view the behavior of the machine in real time. The tool can also be used to simulate the flow of materials through the line to identify potential problem areas. An additional bonus is viewing the machine model using virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) headsets.

IoT Software Elements

CONTACT Software, a new member of Mitsubishi Electric’s [email protected] Alliance, has introduced Using Elements for IoT software which enables the lifecycle of machinery to be managed from a single reference point. Starting with CAD files of the equipment, a virtual operational model is built-up, and then connected to a physical production site.

This approach uses live data from machine tools, robots, PLCs and other smart devices to create a digital twin. The twin is then used to achieve maintenance on-demand, it can reliably predict service requirements, improving operational efficiency and reducing downtime.

Parameterizing connections to the machines makes it easier to transfer useful live information without additional programming, making full use of the improved data transparency. This kind of data transparency for individual machines and devices across multiple locations allows for efficient planning, management and predictive maintenance.

Cross-Domain Virtual Models

A final application example of Digital Twin technology is how Siemens is implementing cross-domain virtual models in software that accurately represents a product or production. Using this approach, data collected with IIoT platforms provides detailed insights into production operations.

By connecting this information to high fidelity digital twin models, the goal is that companies can create a consistent digital thread that enables them to speed up development, optimize manufacturing processes and improve products for their next version or iteration with real-time insights.

By combining MindSphere with Siemens’ Teamcenter software product data management collaboration tool, the digital twin evolves and continuously updates to reflect any change to the physical counterpart throughout the lifecycle to create closed-loop feedback in a virtual environment.

Finally Model-based Design

Snide and Harriman have predicted that “digital twins will be a major feature of all automation systems in the near future. It is a matter of what one puts in the digital twin not IF one wants to design a digital twin. The digital twin will be a common part of the system.

I highly recommend reading their paper for an overview of this technology, and more information on design implications and how Digital Twin Technology will be useful and implemented in CIP and EtherNet/IP networks.

Al Presher is a veteran contributing writer for Design News, covering automation and control, motion control, power transmission, robotics, and fluid power.

The Midwest’s largest advanced design and manufacturing event!

Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis connects you with top industry experts, including design and manufacturing suppliers, and industry leaders in plastics manufacturing, packaging, automation, robotics, medical technology, and more. This is the place where exhibitors, engineers, executives, and thought leaders can learn, contribute, and create solutions to move the industry forward. Register today!


A national survey examines Americans’ perceptions about the manufacturing industry, including sustainability and tariffs, as well as whether they plan to pursue a career in the field.

How do Americans feel about the manufacturing sector? A new survey from product sourcing, supplier selection, and marketing solutions company Thomas polled participants from across the US to take a temperature on how Americans feel about manufacturing both from an economic standpoint and as a viable career option.

Sixty-two percent of respondents prefer to buy American-made products, for example. Only 46 percent of respondents view the increased number of tariffs on foreign-made goods as disruptive to the American economy. Most encouraging, 95% of all respondents said they believe manufacturing is important to the US economy.

The majority of those survyed also look at manufacturing as a good career choice. “Since the skills gap is one of the biggest issues the industry is facing, it’s good to see that 60 percent of survey respondents would likely encourage someone entering the workforce to pursue a career in manufacturing, said Tony Uphoff, president and CEO of Thomas, said. “In reality, there has never been a more exciting time for industry as output is at an all-time high and job growth continues to rise.” 

Take a look at the rest of the survey results in the infographic below:

Chris Wiltz is a Senior Editor at  Design News covering emerging technologies including AI, VR/AR, blockchain, and robotics.

The Midwest’s largest advanced design and manufacturing event!

Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis connects you with top industry experts, including esign and manufacturing suppliers, and industry leaders in plastics manufacturing, packaging, automation, robotics, medical technology, and more. This is the place where exhibitors, engineers, executives, and thought leaders can learn, contribute, and create solutions to move the industry forward. Register today!


five email automation examples

Email automation examples help you learn what other companies are doing so you can better decide how to leverage marketing automation technology.

We don’t know what we don’t know.

If you’re just getting started with email automation, it’s hard to know where to start. Even if you’re somewhat of a pro, you might still find plenty to learn from these examples.

We’ve got five email examples for the following use cases:

  • Incomplete user task
  • Website visitor viewed specific page
  • Highly engaged website visitor
  • Win-back email for previous customers
  • Quiz email for user onboarding

1. User didn’t complete task (InVideo)

Automated email example for InVideo

Email type:

This email from video ad creation tool InVideo is sent when a user begins to create a video using one of their templates, but does not complete the process.

The email trigger here is the user’s incomplete task.

InVideo is a newer startup so they’re going above and beyond the standard incomplete task email by also asking users to take a survey about what went wrong and schedule a meeting.

Why InVideo sends this email:

Just like ecommerce companies might send an abandoned cart email, SaaS companies are wise to send an incomplete task email. There are a lot of benefits to doing so:

  • Get users to log back into the product if they felt stalled or unsure how to proceed
  • Get new users to experience the “Aha” moment before they churn completely
  • Remind users that their task is incomplete (in case they got busy, or simply forgot)

As a newer startup, InVideo isn’t just sending this email to better onboard new users and inspire existing users to log back into their platform, they’re also sending this email to collect feedback.

Not every company will be in the position to hop on a phone call every time a user doesn’t complete a task, but for companies that are still building their product and are hungry for feedback from actual users, it can be smart to take the opportunity to dig deeper.

How you can benefit from something similar:

Take stock of your product. If a user doesn’t complete a task, what is likely to be the reason? What would the goal be for your email? Would it be to just get them to log back in and complete the task, or is the goal of your email to also collect feedback about what went wrong?

If you’re uncertain why users don’t complete tasks, then some customer feedback (in the form of a survey or recorded user sessions) would be really smart in order to help you build out an automated sequence that really helps people.

First figure out what the problems are, then build your email content around what you discovered so you can automatically help other users experiencing the same issues. And of course, update your UX to fix anything you find.

2. Website visitor viewed an important resource (InVision)

Email automation example

Email type:

Here’s the deal—not very many companies send emails based on pages that website visitors have viewed, and since GoSquared can help you send this type of email, it’s very exciting to see one out in the wild.

This email from InVision is sent to leads who have viewed The New Design Frontier landing page.

Without even downloading the report, a lead will still receive this email.

GoSquared has the technology to trigger these sort of emails to captured leads and users.

Why InVision sends this email:

Clearly, InVision has decided that anyone who checks out this report could be a great fit for the enterprise version of their app. InVision is waiting to only send this email to leads who have downloaded this particular report.

Even if you’ve just viewed the page, InVision will send this to leads who were captured from downloading something previously, or because they are using the free version of their software.

Essentially, why only send email to people who have downloaded a certain report, if you can also email people who have viewed the landing page?

How you can benefit from something similar:

Perhaps downloadable guides and lead magnets are essential to your business. If so, you can follow the above example very closely. If not, you can use the same technology to send emails you have viewed other important pages like:

  • Pricing pages
  • Product pages
  • Feature pages
  • Demo request pages
  • Contact pages

Knowing which pages a visitor has viewed can give you context to start a conversation or inspire action via email.

3. Highly engaged website visitor (DesignBetter.co by InVision)

Email marketing example

Email type:

This email is a simple request to share DesignBetter.co with friends. The CTA button takes the user directly to a pre-written tweet to share on Twitter.

To sweeten the deal, there’s the chance to win a notebook. Hey, why not?

And to increase the chance of sharing even further, this email is sent only to new users who are highly engaged. Typically, this type of email is triggered based on when someone signed up and how many pages they have viewed or long they have been on the site.

For example, inside of GoSquared, you could create a smart group with this criteria:

New email subscriber fewer than 10 days old AND viewed 4 or more pages OR time on site is greater than 5 minutes.

Why DesignBetter.co sends this email:


In all seriousness, DesignBetter.co knows that they are giving away really valuable information (via their podcast, conversations, and ebooks) that product design leaders probably can’t get anywhere else. It’s not unlikely that their audience would want to share, and the chance to win swag certainly doesn’t help.

It’s also one of those emails that makes you feel like you’re getting a warmer welcome than the initial “you’re now subscribed” sort of email. It’s a bit more persona, despite the HTML styling.

With this email, DesignBetter.co can inspire more sharing from its most engaged new subscribers.

How you can benefit from something similar:

You can copy this to a T and ask only your most engaged website visitors for a share (using the Smart Group filtering criteria mentioned above). You can even offer the chance to win swag, or entry to a special live event.

However, the lead filtering behind this could be used for other campaigns besides asking for shares:

  • Drive engaged website visitors deeper into your funnel
  • Offer a special coupon
  • Offer a resource or guide
  • Schedule a demo

When you’re able to segment out who’s engaging with your site the most, you have the opportunity to deepen the relationship further.

4. Win-back email (Skillshare)

Email marketing example

Email type:

This type of email is called a win-back or a re-engagement, because you’re trying to convert someone who used to be a customer back into a customer again.

Skillshare is offering a special promotion for previous customers. Instead of the standard $12/month for monthly billing or $8/month when billed annually, Skillshare is giving a deal of $4.95/month when billed annually.

Why Skillshare sends this email:

Sometimes, your best new customers are your old customers. In a world with rising customer acquisition costs, no one can really afford to just spend money on bringing in new people and forget about everyone who had converted at some point in the past. Not realistic!

Are you sending win-back campaigns, or are you letting former customers fall through the cracks?

How you can benefit from something similar:

If you have a subscription-based company, you can follow Skillshare’s lead and send a win-back email that offers a good (or great) discount on an annual plan. For service-based businesses, you could offer an add-on service when someone purchases a regular service, or you could offer a discount on a regular service.

For ecommerce, a BOGO deal or a really great coupon applicable for anything on your site would be a great way to inspire repeat purchases from someone who hadn’t shopped with you in a while.

With GoSquared, you can create a Smart Group with criteria to automatically send a win-back email to customers who haven’t had a repeat purchase in a certain number of days or months.

5. Email to onboard unengaged users (Eventbrite)

digital marketing example

Email type:

Onboarding is no easy feat. It requires creativity to stand out in crowded inboxes, and it must be centered around problems that the user is trying to solve—or objectives they are trying to achieve.

Great onboarding reminds users why they signed up for your product in the first place, what they can achieve, and why they should log back in.

Why Eventbrite sends this email:

Eventbrite sends this email to new users who aren’t engaging with the product and using it to create and promote events.

Too often, companies have an initial onboarding email, but they fail to keep in contact with users going forward, especially with inactive users. This is a big mistake. Your inactive users are a very important audience to win over.

How you can benefit from something similar:

If smart onboarding is essential to your business, you should create a sequence for all new users. If your product is fairly simple, you can use the above email as an example, and educate users of your value propositions to entice them to log back in and get started.

What about onboarding for more complex products? In your first email, you’ll want to hit on the main value of your product. In subsequent emails, you should introduce readers to increasingly more advanced features.

Instead of just setting this up as a drip, you can trigger your onboarding emails based on user activity and behavior. For example, a user who has used the core feature more than 3 times (or simply logged in more than 3 times) will get the next email in the sequence to learn about the next feature.

Meanwhile, a user who hasn’t logged in again since signing up will be reminded of the core value propositions of the product.

Email automation allows you to cater your messaging to what a customer needs, when they need it. Hopefully, these email automation examples and the triggering criteria behind them help inspire you to set up similar automations of your own.

Did you know? GoSquared is launching Marketing Automation to help you put your website analytics and customer insights to work.


The smart manufacturing that is heralded as the future of manufacturing is centered on increasing productivity and efficiency while reducing downtime and operating costs. Many companies are still stuck in the past and running outdated operations. The practical advice on how to actually get started on building the factory of the future while call for solving process problems before adding a layer of advanced automation tools..

advanced automation, automation technology, smart manufacturing technology, plants, robots, planning, specifications

Creating a successful smart manufacturing deployment requires fixing process problems ahead of time and including all stakeholders. (Image source: Applied Manufacturing Technologies)

Adding smart technology without solved process issues just causes more problems. “The increase in computer power allows us to take advantage of automation technology. Because of this, we’re seeing an exponential change in automation,” Michael Jacobs, president and CEO at Applied Manufacturing Technologies, told Design News. “Companies need a structure process to make the changes. You can just plop automation on a poor process.”

Jacobs explained these principles early this summer at the Atlantic Design and Manufacturing show in New York City in the session, Getting Started on the Factory of the Future.

Jacobs described the issues that arise when automation is added weak processes. “We were called into a manufacturer that has a high number of SKUs. They were sending the SKUs to the wrong customers,” said Jacobs. “They wanted us to bring an automated printer into the operation. They saw it as a silver bullet. Yet they were still sending the wrong products to the wrong customers. They hadn’t fixed their process. We recommended that they solve their process problem before adding anything new.”

One common problem Jacobs sees is the purchase of new equipment without a plan to make the new equipment useful. “In the 80s when robots were being widely adopted in the auto industry, we saw companies trying to use robots to solve process problems. We’re seeing it again,” said Jacobs. “Companies are ordering robots that end up sitting on the plant floor in their packaging. The boss saw it at a trade show and it was only $40,000, and it was easy to configure, so they just added new technology to their poor process.”

Getting the Specs Right on Automation Technology

Part of a sound strategy of adding smart technology is to do it with the right specs. Yet the specs can’t be too ridged. “Many companies buy automation with new specifications. If you do write a spec, don’t have unduly high specs,” said Jacobs. “A customer asked us for a water jet process. Their specs were so tight, no company in the industry could meet it. We relaxed the specs and found success.”

The specifications need to be developed with the intended result in mind. “With the complexity of automation, we recommend you write specifications that are realistic. Write them with the end in mind, write them to meet the goals that you choose,” said Jacobs. “You have to include this as a structured engineering process. You turn the plant’s needs and wants into engineering structure. Then you can clarify the objectives. Once you’ve done that, you can develop key decisions and actions, and you can balance objectives with continual input from plant managers.”

Getting the Buy-in From Everyone Involved

Beyond just the plant managers, Jacobs recommends that all stake holder be involved in the adoption of new technology. “It’s crucial to have representation from all stakeholders: safety, maintenance, sales, IT, product IP, and engineering process experts – all who are affected,” said Jacobs. “We document all of the objectives and prioritize them. We share that with all stakeholders to get input. That gives us the true priorities. We force priority input from all stakeholders. We must get their buy-in to develop the true objectives.”

By all stakeholders, Jacobs emphasizes that companies should not neglect to involve those from sales. “In one instance sales was not included. Without input from sales, the managers decided not to use a specialized package. That decision was a no-go for sales,” said Jacobs. “Deciding all of this with everybody involved is critical. This inclusion process also helps get to a language that all of the stakeholders understand. This saves time and money. The objectives answer the why questions. You then can schedule and use the objectives to determine expected payback. Then as you move forward, you can measure if you’re getting your payback.”

Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 19 years, 17 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years, he was owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.

Drive World with ESC Launches in Silicon Valley

This summer (August 27-29), Drive World Conference & Expo launches in Silicon Valley with North America’s largest embedded systems event, Embedded Systems Conference (ESC). The inaugural three-day showcase brings together the brightest minds across the automotive electronics and embedded systems industries who are looking to shape the technology of tomorrow.

Will you be there to help engineer this shift? Register today!


Here are 10 companies in the enterprise VR space that everyone should be paying attention to for the rest of this year and on into 2020.

  • Enterprise virtual reality is having a busy year in 2019. With new companies, new hardware products, and updates from established companies, we’re seeing more and more applications for VR emerge in commercial spaces ranging from product design to healthcare and even skilled labor and trades. More and more companies are aiming to leverage VR to transform the way engineers and designers work forever.

    Here are 10 companies in the enterprise VR space that everyone should be paying attention to this year and on into 2020.

  • Fundamental Surgery

    A good deal of work is being done in the area of applying VR to medical training. But London-based Fundamental VR is adding a new dimension to VR for medical training by developing systems that also offer haptic feedback to users. Through a partnership with Seattle-based HaptX, a maker of innovative haptic gloves, Fundamental VR is currently deploying systems that allow for realistic touch interactions in virtual training environments in medical institutions all over the world.

    (Image source: Fundamental Surgery)

  • HP

    While companies like Oculus (Facebook), HTC, Sony, and Samsung have focused their VR efforts primarily in the consumer market, HP stands out as one of the few big-name tech companies going exclusively after the enterprise VR market. While its flagship VR products – the HP VR Backpack and the recently released HP Reverb headset can be applied to consumer and entertainment applications, the company has made no bones about being primarily concerned with creating products for design and engineering workflows. The HP Reverb (shown above) in particular is a high-resolution headset designed with engineers and designers in mind – making the resolution and comfort needs of its target audience its highest priority.

    (Image source: HP)

  • HTC

    Long viewed as the main competitor to Oculus in the VR entertainment sphere (particularly in PC gaming), HTC added a new wrinkle to its traditionally consumer VR-focused product portfolio with the release of the HTC Vive Pro. The Vive Pro was HTC’s first VR product targeted at the enterprise market – offering a 78% increase in resolution over the original Vive headset. HTC’s aim with the Vive has been to attract enterprise users interested in users interested in virtual collaboration and product design as well as other application.

    In 2019 the company released an upgraded version – the Vive Pro Eye (shown above) – with integrated eye-tracking technology from Swedish company Tobii. Using Tobii’s infrared tracking system, the Vive Pro eye can allow users to move about and control VR environments hands-free using only their eye movements.

    (Image source: HTC)

  • Mechdyne

    Iowa-based Mechdyne focuses on large-scale VR systems for smart manufacturing and other enterprise applications. The company deals more specifically in cave automatic virtual environments (CAVEs) – systems that create virtual environments via room-scale projections on walls.

    One of its products,the Powerwall, is a VR display system that projects 3D visualizations onto an 8 x 14-foot wall and onto the floor in front of it. By wearing shutter glasses users can explore virtual environments such as factories at room-scale with the sensation of standing in the actual space. The system lends itself to interactive training as well as data analysis and visualization.

    (Image source: Mechdyne / Thomas Motta)

  • Neurable

    Boston-based Neurable is taking an innovative approach to control schemes for virtual reality – mind control. The company has developed an EEG headset that can attach to a VR HMD such as the HTC Vive to allow users to control applications using only their thoughts. The hope is to not only create easier and more efficient means of control for VR users but to also allow better access for the disabled, provide user insights, and create whole new applications for VR.

    This year the Neurable debuted a new software product, Neurable Analytics, that “provides neural insights for objective feedback in human insights, design, and immersive training applications.” The software uses machine learning to classify EEG signals and can be used in applications including market research, product design, and high consequence training and industrial safety.

    (Image source: Neurable)

  • Oculus

    Facebook-owned Oculus is the company that brought VR back onto the map. In the past, Facebook has offered business packages of the Oculus Rift. But now rumors are circulating that the company may be looking to launch enterprise editions of its VR hardware in the near future.

    In 2018 the company released the Oculus Quest (shown above), its first standalone VR headset (requiring no wires or a PC). The headset offers resolution and specs comparable to some of the latest PC-tethered headsets and has become one of the best-reviewed standalone units on the market since its release.

    In 2019 the company released the Oculus Rift S to mixed reviews. While the Rift S included next-generation features such as inside-out tracking it was not the giant leap forward in innovation many were hoping. However, that still hasn’t stopped many from eagerly anticipating a true follow up to the original Oculus Rift.

    (Image source: Oculus / Facebook)

  • SE4

    Based out of Tokyo, SE4 specializes in creating software for robots that operate in high-latency environments, where it may be difficult to operate them remotely. Most recently, the company has developed a robot operating system that combines, VR and machine learning and AI to accelerate remote robotic control in applications such as excavation and construction. Rather than training robots in a 2D environment or via tedious programming, SE4’s solution allows robots to be trained via simulation in a 3D virtual environment. A user performs the task in VR and the AI extrapolates that task into a sort of to-do list that the robot is then able to execute, even remotely.

    The company also has larger ambitions and is targeting its software solution at robots deployed in space. If SE4 has its way, we may someday be using VR to help robots build colonies on Mars.

    (Image source: SE4)

  • VR Electronics

    London-based VR Electronics is the manufacturer of the Teslasuit – a full-body haptic suit that provides wearers with a sensation of touch in VR via electrostimulation. The suit can also capture biometric data, which the company says can be used in personalized experiences as well as training, performance, and healthcare applications by providing feedback on the wearer’s key health indicators, stress levels, and even emotional state.

    The Teslasuit also doubles as a motion capture device and can be used in related applications.

    (Image source: VR Electronics)

  • VRgineers

    There are many VR headset makers on the market, but very few are creating devices specifically aimed at professionals like engineers and product designers. But Prague-based VRgineers does just that. In the 2018 the company released the VR Hero 5K – a powerful headset with a whopping 5K video resolution (that’s 2.5K per eye). The company soon followed that up with the XTAL (shown above), another 5K headset that added a slew of additional features including eye tracking and an integrated Leap Motion sensor for tracking hand movement without the need of any external controllers or sensors. The company’s headsets are spec’d and priced at a level targeted at large organizations, where VRgineers is aiming to become a go-to supplier for VR headsets for training, product development, and other engineering applications.

    (Image source: VRgineers)

  • VRSim

    VRSim creates interactive tools aimed at training workers in skilled trades and professions. The latest version of the company’s SimSpray software is an HTC Vive-compatible VR painting tool targeted at the coating and paint industry. SimSpray creates VR simulations applicable to a variety of sectors, including automotive and aerospace, and gives users a realistic experience and feedback, complete with paint finishes and even defects.

    (Image source: VRSim)

Chris Wiltz is a Senior Editor at    Design News   covering emerging technologies including AI, VR/AR, blockchain, and robotics.


Opto 22 has released the white paper, “Meet the Future: Edge Programmable Industrial Controllers,” which discusses how controls engineers can use PLCs to meet the demand for obtaining, using and sharing data. The white paper focuses on three main communication challenges: complexity, security, and expense.

Opto 22, EPIC devices, edge devices, ARM, Linux devices, PLC, IoT, edge computing, control engineers
The edge-based PLC was created to include a number of functions needed for network-based data capture, from traditioanl automation through IoT applications. (Image source: Opto 22)

IoT and other data-intensive automation applications usually require many steps and a lot of middleware: hardware, drivers, parsers, and custom software. These steps tend to be time-consuming to set up, difficult to maintain and change, and create major security concerns. This white paper was designed to explain how a new kind of industrial controller—an edge programmable industrial controller, or EPIC—can simplify and secure automation and IoT projects in a manner designed to reduce cost and complexity.

Realtime-Control for Traditional Automation

The edge-based PLC was created to include a number of functions needed for network-based data capture. “With the EPIC, bunch of pieces and parts have been stitched together to achieve an objective. Until now it’s been many systems pulled together,” Benson Hougland, VP at Opto 22, told Design News. “It’s been a dramatic shift to get all of these functions into a single design. It brings together performance and complexity as well as security. It’s about getting where it needs to be simply.”

EPIC devices are also used to provide real-time control for a variety of traditional automation applications. EPIC devices allow users to connect legacy systems and smart systems, get data, transform it into actionable information, visualize it on an HMI., and perform real-time control. “We’re starting to see other vendors take the same approach of combining functions on edge PLCs,” said Hougland. :You have to think things through and throw out what you thought you knew and start from scratch. These edge devices are innately expandable. We built it on a platform that is well known, using an ARM processor on Linux.”

Using ARM and Linus for Compatibility and Expansion

The ARM and Linux offers a wide range of compatibility across automation systems. “The reason for ARM is that it’s commercially available and it runs cool. The Linux it gives you the capability to expand,” said Hougland. “Off-the-shelf processors with an open source platform gives you a lot of capabilities for future growth on the same hardware system. It’s a full circle from 25 years ago with PC control.”

Opto 22 created the white papers to give users a view into the value of a multi-function processor that operates on the machine level. “The reason for the white paper is to try to introduce the notion there is a new type of system to address the IoT and combine it with control,” said Hougland. “You can’t just be call it a PLC or a PAC. It has become complicated. It’s a PAC, a database, and an HMI. Past descriptions don’t work to describe this device. The white paper helps define what the device is and why you would use it.”

The white paper can be downloaded here.

Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 19 years, 17 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years, he was owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.


Industrial Ethernet communications technology is continuing to morph and adapt to the demands of a future Internet of Things (IoT) world with the ongoing development of Single Pair Ethernet (SPE) and IEEE 802.3cg standards. Developments within the automotive industry are identified as a key driver of the technology with the use of Ethernet for vehicle cameras, diagnostics and security expanding into potential solutions for driverless technology.

Belden, Ethernet, networking, standards

The expected growth rate of Industrial Ethernet from 2010 to 2025 is projected to be 280%. (Image source: Belden)

IEE 802.3 Ethernet Standards

The goal of new SPE technology is to connect devices at 10 Megabits per second over up to at least 1,000 meters, and offer the option of Power over Data Lines technology (PoDL) for remote power that would be especially useful in hazardous environments.

According to a new Belden white paper, Single Pair Ethernet (SPE) technology together with Time Sensitive Networking (TSN), offers a new, unique SPE protocol for encoding and scrambling data, enabling industrial and process networks to achieve lower electromagnetic interference (EMI), lower cost, reduced cabling weight, and higher bandwidth.

“One lighter, thinner cable that is still capable of Power over Data Lines (PoDL) and that will have a signal and power reach up to 1000 meters is arriving now. This will be one cable and one network type that any sensor or actuator can get power from, and any sensor or actuator can talk to,” the report stated.

Another key advantage of the move to single twisted pair is that is offers an ability to reuse existing cables, and especially Foundation H1, HART, PROFIBUS PA and 4-20mA connections. Benefits include an enormous installed base of Single Twisted Pair, usually shielded and sometimes certified, in the field. Lengthy fieldbus cables are expensive to install (often in filled conduit) and end nodes would be easier to replace.

Advanced Physical Layer

Related work is ongoing to create an Advanced Physical Layer (APL) for Ethernet that can be used in process automation and instrumentation to connect field devices in remote and hazardous locations. Cooperative work between industrial standards development organizations including ODVA, the FieldComm Group and Profibus and Profinet International (PI) is focused on a goal to ensure that all technologies and standards will be compatible with their respective protocols (EtherNet/IP, HART-IP and PROFINET).

APL is a ruggedized, two-wire, loop-powered Ethernet physical layer a910BASE-T1L with extensions for hazardous areas. The technology is intended to enable direct connection of field devices to Ethernet-based systems utilizing a switched architecture that eliminate unwanted interference between devices connected to the same network.

New IEC Cable Standards

New cabling standards, including IEC 61156-13 and IEC 61156-14, are another area that is under active development. New standards are intended to describe symmetrical single pair cables with transmission characteristics up to 20 MHz over a distance up to 1 kilometer (km) to support 10Mbps for mainly industrial applications.

Belden affirmed that these cable types “are intended to be used for shielded channels, and may also support remote powering. Part 13 can be used for horizontal floor wiring, thus the specification for it to have a solid, annealed copper conductor, and a nominal diameter between 0.64 and 1.7 mm. Part 14 is intended for work area wiring and stranded wire, so it is in flexible materials.”

SPE Technology Partnerships

TE Connectivity (TE) and HARTING have also announced a technology infrastructure partnership to set Single Pair Ethernet as its de facto infrastructure solution to enable IIoT applications.

The current expectation is that 802.3cg 10Base-T1, for distances up to 1 km, will be released later in 2019. The overall timeline for SPE technology is that there will be a continual move beyond 2020 toward rapid growth and deployment of Industrial Ethernet networks incorporating new breed of native Industrial Ethernet smart devices.

Al Presher is a veteran contributing writer for Design News, covering automation and control, motion control, power transmission, robotics, and fluid power.

Drive World with ESC Launches in Silicon Valley

This summer (August 27-29), Drive World Conference & Expo launches in Silicon Valley with North America’s largest embedded systems event, Embedded Systems Conference (ESC). The inaugural three-day showcase brings together the brightest minds across the automotive electronics and embedded systems industries who are looking to shape the technology of tomorrow.

Will you be there to help engineer this shift? Register today!