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Bauma China 2016

Highlights and lowlights

Happy faces after the Bauma China 2016, but also some unsatisfied exhibitors: The Chinese construction machine business is recovering, but slowly.

The Bauma China 2016 mirrored the slowly recovering Chinese construction machine business (Photo: Bauma China)

A few market-leading OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) did not show up for the Bauma China 2016: Caterpillar, Hitachi, Kubota, and Volvo were missing. Also, some of the exhibition halls were not completely filled-up. Nevertheless, about 2900 exhibitors showed their latest products and technologies. CAN in Automation (CiA) exhibited on the German pavilion together with several members (e.g. Brosa, CSM/Vector, Fraba/Posital, FSG, Graf-Syteco, Intercontrol, Kvaser, and STW). Several other CiA members such as Epec, Hirschmann, ifm, Moba, and Shanghai Smart Control were spread over the 17 halls. Visitors interested in CAN technology needed to walk with giant strides.

Whereas machinery sales in China are significantly down in almost all construction machinery product sectors, Off-highway Research identified a slight year-on-year increase in asphalt pavers of 4 %. In 2015 alone, 11000 km of new highways were built, which makes Moba – the market-leading supplier of CANopen-based leveling and control systems for pavers – smile. Of course, Chinese competitors such as Jiangsu Siming S&T exist, but their quality of sensor products is lower than the German supplier’s.

All the controller manufacturers suffered and are still suffering from the collapsing Chinese construction machine business. In 2015, the sale of road rollers dropped by 27,2 %, wheel cranes by 33,8 %, excavators by 41,4 %, loaders by 52,9 %, and tower cranes even by 60,5 % – just to give a few examples. This was an additional decrease compared to 2014, which was also a year of decreasing businesses. And worse, some customers (such as Sany) delayed payment of invoices significantly. Bankrupted companies paid not at all.

Nevertheless, Crosscontrol, Epec, ifm, Shanghai Smart Control, and STW are looking towards a brighter future. On the fairground, they discussed new projects and developments. The Chinese OEMs benefit from the central government’s Belt and Road Initiative. This refers to the Silk Road Economy Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. The strategy was launched in 2013 with the intention of promoting infrastructure business in the neighboring regions. Due to this initiative, Sany has managed to boost its sales in foreign countries and to reduce its reliance on the Chinese market.

The European controller suppliers were also looking at other markets, in particular at agriculture machines and harbor equipment such as straddle carrier and other container handling systems. Especially in spreaders, CANopen is the preferred interface. It is also used as an embedded spreader network. In order to serve the agriculture machines, the controller makers, for example Crosscontrol, have implemented ISO 11783, also known as Isobus. The company presented some I/O modules including the Crossfire SX available with J1939, CANopen, and CANopen Safety interfaces.

Functional Safety was an often-discussed topics. All Chinese OEMs interested in bringing their machines to Europe were looking for functional safe products. Of course, this includes host controllers such as the ones provided by ifm, Intercontrol, and STW. They feature Codesys (IEC 61131-3 compliant) and CANopen Safety. Hirschmann has offered CANopen Safety in its turnkey systems for crane overload and protection system for many years. Now, the Chinese OEMs like to develop additional functional safe sub-systems. Brosa, Fraba/Posital, FSG, and others had several interesting requests on their functional safe sensors. This included inclinometers, encoders, pressure sensors, and many others. Most of these products provide a CANopen Safety interface.

Information about CANopen sensors without functional safety was also requested. Fraba/Posital regarded the Bauma China 2016 as one of the best exhibitions of this year in Far East. The company showed a new inclination sensor based on MEMS technology for the first time. The inclinometer contains acceleration sensors in order to compensate for accelerations. Siko, another German sensor maker, presented a new stroke measurement sensor technology. In the moment it is limited to about 50 cm, but in the near future the measuring range will be extended. Nowadays, Chinese manufacturer also offer encoders, for example CiA member Gemple (GMS412 and GMX425). Gems Sensors offers CANopen pressure sensors compliant with CiA 301 and CiA 404.

Automotive companies increasingly also provide their products for the off-highway and off-road commercial vehicles. The big Tier1s such as Bosch and Continental have been doing it for a long time but smaller suppliers such as Marquardt also provide switches and keypads with CAN connectivity for construction machines. Construction and mining machines need not only simple human machine interfaces such as switches and instruments – there is also a demand for highly sophisticated full-color displays. In Shanghai, all controller manufacturers also presented programmable human machine interfaces and displays. Additionally, specialist suppliers exhibited their HMI products, e.g. CiA member Murphy.

Some of the shown instruments were equipped with CAN interfaces: Lyssen presented some with J1939 support. The company said that they offer CANopen interfaces on request. The Swiss company Pixy presented its CAN-connectable displays in Shanghai. The company had been mainly in the rail vehicle business up-to-now. This is another indication that the suppliers of different vehicle markets are looking for new business in the neighborhood.

Joysticks are another human machine interface often used in construction machines and other mobile machines. Many of these products come with CAN interfaces. Some provide J1939 support while others feature CANopen (CiA 401-2) compatibility. The next level would be a CAN interface for a seat with integrated joysticks, switches, LEDs, and keypads. CiA has already released a recommended practice for CiA 401-based operator environment sub-systems, for example operator seats as provided by Gessmann and Spohn+Burkhardt or even complete cabins.

Another class of HMIs is radio remote control systems. They normally provide a functional safe radio communication link between the sender and the receiver unit. The sender is often customized. The receiver can be connected to the vehicle or the machine’s embedded network. Most suppliers support CAN and some also offer CANopen connectivity. At the Bauma China, Autec, NBB, and several other European suppliers presented their products as well as a few Chinese companies, such as Shanghai Jijing Automation. Its T-B Model receiver supports CAN and CANopen.

Of course, the well-known suppliers exhibited their CAN-controlled hydraulics: Bosch Rexroth, Eaton, Sauer-Danfoss, and all the others were in Shanghai. The organizer of the exhibition counted about 170 000 visitors from 149 countries. Jun Qi, Chairman of China Construction Machinery Association, pointed out: “The success of the exhibition reflects the confidence of the exhibitors worldwide towards the Chinese economy as well as the world economy. It is beneficial to the faster, healthier growth of the construction machinery industry.”

Michael Minsky, Group Marketing Manager Far East of Bauer Equipment (Shanghai) Limited, commented: “This year the results are really good. Apart from domestic customers, we made contacts with clients from overseas markets like Australia, Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Dubai and Russia, and received many orders.” Jing Chen, Director of the President Office of Sany Heavy Industry, was also very pleased: “Bauma China is the most important exhibition to us. There are a lot of visitors this year. Visits to our booth have far exceeded our expectations.” The next Bauma China will take place from November 27 to 30, 2018.