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The Country's Most Innovative Manufacturing Technology (the country being Germany)

Hannover Diary, Day Two

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Opening Night at the Hannover Messe ("messe" is a German word which loosely translates to "Fair," hence the frequent reference to Hannover Fair as the title of this huge trade show, which draws upwards of 200,000 people) featured the presentation of the Hermes Award, a big-time technology and innovation prize worth 100,000 Euros. That's a pretty nice prize all by itself, but at the Hannover Messe, you also get to have the Chancellor of Germany hand you the prize, so obviously, they take their tech awards very seriously over in Deutschland.

This year, the award went to Zenergy Power Co., in conjunction with Bltmann GmbH, two German companies (I suppose that's redundant, since you have to be a German company to be eligible for the award). Zenergy and Bltmann came up with an induction heater, based partly on the Nobel Prize-winning work on high-temperature superconductivity.

Here's how the press release describes the winning entry: "The induction heater represents a revolutionary breakthrough in industrial extrusion. The induction heater makes extruded metal components used in the automotive and aerospace industryfor example, pipes, construction profiles, window and door frames or lightweight car bodiessofter and more ductile before the extrusion process begins. Conventional induction heaters generate electromagnetic eddy currents using copper coils and alternating current, but lose more than half of the energy deployed. The award-winning induction heater is equipped with superconducting coils that allow for an efficiency coefficient of over 80%. This is the first time that superconducting technology has been applied to a widely used industrial process, offering considerable energy-saving potential compared with conventional induction heaters. Thanks to this improvement in efficiency, an induction heater with a heating performance of 500 KW can conserve the annual energy requirements of 850 single-person households compared with conventional induction heaters."

That's a pretty impressive performance threshold, although this being an R&D award, it hasn't actually been tested in the field yet. Its first application will be at an aluminum profile pressing plant.

There were also four honorable mentions who didn't win the big prize (or the big payday) but who nevertheless at least got to sit in the audience and applaud politely, sort of like the losers do at the Academy Awards. Here's a capsule summary of the other nominees:

● a "Direct Pipe" process for single-phase underground pipe-laying, developed by Herrenknecht AG
● an oil-level sensor with four integrated measurement variables for monitoring the condition of hydraulic and lubricating oils, developed by Hydac Electronic GmbH
● DART field bus components, an explosion protection system which increases the intrinsic safety of high power-consumption components, developed by Pepperl + Fuchs GmbH
● and a sensor based on giant magneto-resistance which allows for the contact-free detection of pivotal and linear motion in mechanical and plant engineering, developed by Sensitec GmbH.

Congratulations to the winner as well as the nominees.

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