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Machine Safety: Networks can enable advancements in machine safety

Networks have seen significant advancements over the past 10 years to include safety certified networks. Have these technological achievements really advanced machine safety?

May 06, 2014


Courtesy: Control Engineering Machine Safety Blob, JB TitusNetworks have seen significant advancements over the past 10 years to include safety certified networks. Have these technological achievements really advanced machine safety?

My first response is yes. Because safety certified networks have provided the ability to display fault and status diagnostics which in many cases did not previously exist. Here’s the simple explanation. Safety automation can be described as any combination of safety programmable logic controllers (PLCs), safety inputs, safety outputs, safety rated devices, standard devices applied with redundant application, safety certified software, and a safety certified network. Wow! And, all or part of the aforesaid replaces conventional components and point to point wiring.

Ah ha; this is the key! Replacing electro mechanical components, like safety relays and a lot of hard wiring, opens the door for new diagnostics for existing safety functions. That alone, in my opinion, is an advancement in machine safety. These diagnostics provide key information to personnel for minimal trouble shooting time and to correct unplanned machine downtime issues. The control system can then be reset enabling continued production.

And now the next point. If you can connect the safety related parts of the control system via a safety certified network, you now have a fully integrated safety control system. Some advantages of these systems include built in features like:

1. Watch dog timers

2. Diversity of code

3. Data integrity checks

4. Internal health checks with diagnostics, and

5. Component addresses within the control system.

This last item is critically important because even devices in series can now have a physical address for annunciation and trouble shooting. These are but a few of the features, advantages and benefits that safety certified networks bring to machine safety.

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:

Machine Safety: enhanced safety networks, the Internet of things, and autonomous safety

Machine Safeguarding Solutions, a case study by ARC

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



For more than 30 years, J.B. Titus has advised a wide range of clients on machine functional safety solutions, including Johnson & Johnson, Siemens, General Motors, Disney, Rockwell Automation, Bridgestone Firestone, and Samsung Heavy Industries. He holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Oklahoma University in industrial management and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University in marketing and finance. He is a professional member of the American Society of Safety Engineers and is OSHA-certified in machine guarding. Titus is also TUV-certified as a Functional Safety Expert and serves on several American National Standards Institute, National Fire Protection Association, and National Electrical Manufacturers Association national safety and health standards committees. Reach him at jb(at)jbtitus.com and via www.jbtitus.com.