Machine Safety: Has the era of cageless robots begun?

Could safeguarding become a requirement of the past? Baxter who? See the list of technology highlights in the past 40 years. Is OSHA keeping up with manufacturing technology innovations?

12/27/2013


Michael Lewis, senior mechanical engineer with Rethink Robotics, said his company uses SolidWorks. Here he demonstrates Baxter, Rethink Robotics’ easy-to-teach, low-speed, collaborative robot. Courtesy: CFE Media’s Mark T. HoskeCould safeguarding become a requirement of the past? Have we arrived at a time to be amazed at every turn? Has technology advanced over night surprisingly to most of us? Baxter who?

My career, and possibly yours, has seen significant technological advancements throughout industry. Some highlights include:

1. Programmable logic controllers (PLCs)

2. Robots

3. Networks

4. Drive systems

5. Safety automation

6. Safe wireless

7. and now, collaborative robots… like “Baxter,” from Rethink Robotics.

These highlights I’ve witnessed cover the past 40-plus years. However, during the same period machine guarding has always included “hard guards” to protect humans from hazards and possibilities of injury. As technology has advanced, design standards like IEC 61508 have been developed for hardware and software based devices intended for safety applications, that is, safety PLCs. Still, as safety automation devices ramped into the market after 2002, hard guarding for machine safety continued to be required as a solution for safety compliance.

Baxter on the job kitting parts at a plastics manufacturing facility. Courtesy: Rethink Robotics

Until now! Has “Baxter” introduced industry to a new level of innovation leaving hard guarding in the sunset? Control Engineering’s article on Jan. 24, 2013, “Baxter the robot,” by Peter Welander, points out that man can now work in a collaborative way shoulder to shoulder with Baxter without hard guards – cageless. Does this also mean that robotic standards like RIA 15.06 or ISO 10218-1 will allow collaborative robotic applications for safety compliance? [See other articles linked below about robotic safety.]

Can the horseless carriage of OSHA’s 29 CFR Regulations keep up with this evolution in machine safety innovation? The majority of OSHA’s regulations are still worded today as they were created in the 1970’s despite the innovations cited above.

What are your thoughts regarding the future of cageless machine safety? Is this a sign that hard guarding might be phasing out in the future?

Has this presented you with any new perspectives? Do you have some specific topic or interest that we could cover in future blog posts? Add your comments or thoughts to the discussion by submitting your ideas, experiences, and challenges in the comments section below.

Related articles:

Baxter the robot,” by Peter Welander, Control Engineering

Safety and control in collaborative robotics, by Tanya Anandan for Control Engineering

Universal Robots collaborate outside enclosures, edited by Mark Hoske, CFE Media

Machine Safety: Updating ISO 13849-1 & compliance for robots

Contact: http://www.jbtitus.com for “Solutions for Machine Safety”.



No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
2016 Product of the Year; Diagnose bearing failures; Asset performance management; Testing dust collector performance measures
Safety for 18 years, warehouse maintenance tips, Ethernet and the IIoT, GAMS 2016 recap
2016 Engineering Leaders Under 40; Future vision: Where is manufacturing headed?; Electrical distribution, redefined
SCADA at the junction, Managing risk through maintenance, Moving at the speed of data
Safety at every angle, Big Data's impact on operations, bridging the skills gap
The digital oilfield: Utilizing Big Data can yield big savings; Virtualization a real solution; Tracking SIS performance
Applying network redundancy; Overcoming loop tuning challenges; PID control and networks
Driving motor efficiency; Preventing arc flash in mission critical facilities; Integrating alternative power and existing electrical systems
Package boilers; Natural gas infrared heating; Thermal treasure; Standby generation; Natural gas supports green efforts

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
This article collection contains several articles on the vital role of plant safety and offers advice on best practices.
This article collection contains several articles on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and how it is transforming manufacturing.
This article collection contains several articles on strategic maintenance and understanding all the parts of your plant.
click me