MINNEAPOLIS — A challenge of collaborative functions in industrial automation is making sure that a person can enter a work cell safely with a minimum of reduced function. One of the selling points of collaborative robots is that they are safer to operate around people than conventional industrial automation. Sensor maker SICK recently introduced its Safe Robotics Area Protection systems to add perception-based protection.
Safe Robotics Area Protection is intended to provide machine operators with unrestricted, yet safe, access to a robot’s working area at any time, by adapting the operating conditions to the position of the person. These adaptive perception capabilities can reduce the risk of accidents and improve productivity, claimed SICK. The safety system can thus reduce downtime and optimize the ergonomic and process aspects of the operator’s workflow, the company said.
Safe Robotics Area Protection controller and scanner
The safety system consists of a Flexi Soft safety controller and a safety laser scanner. The scanner can be either the space-saving S300 Mini Remote for shorter scanning ranges or the microScan3 Core for larger monitoring fields, said SICK. SRAP satisfies the criteria of Performance Level PL d in accordance with EN ISO 13849-1.
Safe Robotics Area Protection is a complete turnkey solution that is ready to use in no time at all, said SICK. With prefabricated and tested software function blocks, the safety system can be integrated seamlessly into the controllers of all standard industrial robots.
In addition to easy configuration, uses can adapt SRAP in line with additional safety functions. This enables robots to adapt quickly and effortlessly to new production conditions, safety requirements, and protective field conditions.
Safety and productivity in harmony
Safe Robotics Area Protection combines the functions of the S300 Mini Remote or the microScan3 Core scanner with the possibilities offered by the Flexi Soft safety controller. This means that, based on the monitoring situation at the robot, differently dimensioned field sets can be equipped with warning and protective functions in the laser scanners. They can be dynamically adapted in line with a detected worker position.
Depending on how close the person is to the robot, the sensors cause the robot’s movement to either reduce or stop via the Flexi Soft safety controller. For example, a person may need to insert or remove work pieces. If the worker then leaves the monitored area, the safety system automatically starts performing sequence monitoring. Provided that this monitoring satisfies the requirements for operating the robot safely, the robot is first started up at a reduced speed.
The robot would then returns to its original working speed once all the warning and protective fields are free again. Human workers would be constantly protected against hazardous movements whenever they enter the robot’s working area. At the same time, the automated restart reduces downtime once a worker leaves the hazardous area, allowing for greater productivity, said SICK.
Versatile, integration-friendly, and future-proof
SRAP makes it possible to factor in new working situations and conditions. The system can also account for unsafe automation functions being carried out simultaneously with safety-related functions in the way that they have been prefabricated and tested. This allows SRAP to be integrated into the most commonly used varieties of robot controllers with minimum integration work, using the function block provided.
If other safety devices are added or additional safety functions become necessary during operation, these can be integrated easily later on, making SRAP a sound, future-proof investment, said SICK.
The Robot Report is launching the Healthcare Robotics Engineering Forum, which will be on Dec. 9-10 in Santa Clara, Calif. The conference and expo will focus on improving the design, development, and manufacture of next-generation healthcare robots. Learn more about the Healthcare Robotics Engineering Forum, and registration is now open.