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 Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners.
Control Engineering Leaders Under 40 identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Learn more about methods used to ensure that the integration between the safety system and the process control...
Adding industrial toughness and reliability to Ethernet eGuide
Technological advances like multiple-in-multiple-out (MIMO) transmitting and receiving
Virtualization advice: 4 ways splitting servers can help manufacturing; Efficient motion controls; Fill the brain drain; Learn from the HART Plant of the Year
Two sides to process safety: Combining human and technical factors in your program; Preparing HMI graphics for migrations; Mechatronics and safety; Engineers' Choice Awards
Detecting security breaches: Forensic invenstigations depend on knowing your networks inside and out; Wireless workers; Opening robotic control; Product exclusive: Robust encoders
The Ask Control Engineering blog covers all aspects of automation, including motors, drives, sensors, motion control, machine control, and embedded systems.
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
News and comments from Control Engineering process industries editor, Peter Welander.
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
This is a blog from the trenches – written by engineers who are implementing and upgrading control systems every day across every industry.
Anthony Baker is a fictitious aggregation of experts from Callisto Integration, providing manufacturing consulting and systems integration.
Integrator Guide

Integrator Guide

Search the online Automation Integrator Guide
 

Create New Listing

Visit the System Integrators page to view past winners of Control Engineering's System Integrator of the Year Award and learn how to enter the competition. You will also find more information on system integrators and Control System Integrators Association.

Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Control Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.