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The names of the companies shortlisted for this year’s HERMES AWARD have been revealed. An independent jury under the chairmanship of Dr. Wolfgang Wahlster, who heads the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), has nominated five companies for the 2016 HERMES AWARD. The five solutions developed by these firms will be presented at the formal Opening Ceremony for HANNOVER MESSE on the evening of 24 April. The winner will then be announced by Dr. Johanna Wanka, Germany’s Minister for Education and Research.

"The HERMES AWARD is the world’s most prestigious prize for industrial innovations. This year’s entries have demonstrated the truth of this once again. The five best entries will be announced in the presence of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Barack Obama. This means that all the nominated firms, and especially the winner, are guaranteed huge media exposure", says Dr. Jochen Köckler, member of the Managing Board at Deutsche Messe.

"The HERMES AWARD is the international Oscar for engineers, and this year, for the first time, 40 percent of the entries came from outside Germany. We saw an increase in submissions from companies in the USA as this year’s Partner Country. Most of the submissions addressed the big themes of the day, namely Industry 4.0 and energy systems for the future", added Dr. Wahlster.

The following companies were nominated for the 2016 HERMES AWARD (listed in alphabetical order):

BLOCK Transformatoren-Elektronik GmbH, Verden: The nominated product EasyB is a 1-channel circuit breaker system that can protect control voltages up to a total current of 80 A. The channels are automatically addressed during switch-on. So an additional and time-consuming operation to assign addresses manually is no longer necessary. All functional modules and electrical connections are housed inside a standard casing. Parametrization is done through the master computer, and changes can be made at any time. EasyB trips at just five percent excess current, and limits the output current to this level. The jury members were impressed by the innovative combination of extremely slim casing profile, very high current-carrying capacity, automatic addressing and additional switch-on function.

DDM Systems, Atlanta, GA, USA: This spin-off enterprise from the renowned Georgia Institute of Technology entered an additive manufacturing process for ceramics for the Hermes Award. The nominated product, known as LAMP System CPT6060, makes it possible to eliminate seven out of twelve process steps from the investment casting process. The jury was impressed by the high number of over two million parallel rays of UV light used in the photopolymerization process, which is responsible for the extremely high accuracy of ten micrometers achieved with large ceramic molds measuring up to 600 x 600 x 450 millimeters. The nominated product produces highly accurate integral-cored molds direct from digital data sets using 3D printing technology. This means that rapid prototyping and series production can be carried out in a single plant. Manufacturing costs can be reduced by 60 percent using this high-tech process.

Harting IT Software, Espelkamp: The nominated product, known as MICA, is an open, modular platform, designed for Industry 4.0 as a central element incorporating open hardware and software components. An innovative combination of established Linux technologies makes possible the virtualization of embedded devices. Hardware components – including user-customizable components ‒ communicate via USB, and MICA can be powered by Power over Ethernet (PoE). Each MICA unit contains a TPM chip and supports both SSL and VPN, so that secure authentication and communication for the MICA modules are fully supported. The jury was impressed by the concept of lightweight virtualization through LINUX containers, delivered – thanks to MICA – on a compact embedded device. MICA makes it possible to upgrade existing machines and plant with intelligence, opening the door to the transformation of existing factories into smart factories. This in turn enables many small and medium-sized businesses to make the transition to the world of Industry 4.0.

ITM Power, South Yorkshire, United Kingdom: The nominated project is a compact plant for the flexible, on-demand production of hydrogen and oxygen by electrolysis (power to gas). Electricity from renewable sources is converted into hydrogen or methane and can either be used to fuel suitably equipped vehicles, or – as methane – fed into the natural gas grid. Thanks to its compact design, the plant can be installed close to the point of use. As well as the system’s rapid-response (under one second) and self-pressurizing (up to 80 bar) capabilities, what impressed the jury were the compact dimensions of the plant and its high energy efficiency of 72 percent. The project thus contributes to the stabilization of gas grids as well as promoting hydrogen-based electromobility.

EngJ. Schmalz GmbH, Glatten: The product nominated for the Hermes Award is the VSi vacuum/pressure switch, the first to be equipped with both IO-Link technology and NFC technology. Consequently the user is able to view and adjust all key data directly via mobile devices such as tablets or smartphones. So production processes can be optimized or made more efficient locally, at the point of use. Errors can be more quickly diagnosed, analyzed and corrected. The modular switch has been designed to be Industry 4.0-ready, and makes an important contribution to predictive maintenance and the visualization of key process data via a wireless consumer device.