As the planet continues to evolve almost continuously, the same can be said at a granular level – the day-to-day processes that are the driving force behind the most innovative inventions that we see on our shelves or through shop windows. Smart factories help to streamline those daily processes, helping businesses improve their efficiency and flexibility by integrating an interconnected network of robots, AI, machine learning, automation and IIOT (industrial internet of things) into the workplace.
According to Globe News Wire, the smart factory market is expected to double between 2023 and 2032, from 107 billion dollars to 256 billion dollars. This highlights the growing importance of smart factory equipment, machinery and technology over the coming decade. However, although smart factories allow for more automated processes, the risk of injury or accidents is still present. To combat this, Japanese company IDEC has some innovative safety products like enabling switches, sensors and warning systems to ensure worker safety and well-being in smart factories. We will explore those products later in this article.
The Importance of Safety in Smart Factories
Safety is of utmost importance in smart factories. With the increasing integration of advanced technologies and automation in the manufacturing industry, prioritising the safety of workers and the overall workplace environment is crucial. While smart factories bring tons of benefits, they also introduce new risks and hazards that need to be effectively managed.
One of the key reasons why safety is paramount in smart factories is the presence of robots and automated machinery. These machines are designed to perform tasks with precision and speed, but they can also pose serious risks if not properly controlled. From collision hazards to entrapment risks, workers need to be trained on how to operate and interact with these machines safely. Additionally, safety measures such as emergency stop buttons, safety barriers, and sensors should be implemented to mitigate potential accidents and injuries. Read on to discover some of IDEC’s smart factory safety solutions.
Enabling switches are used for performing safe human-robot collaborative work. They allow you to create a system in which a robot only moves when lightly pushed in an intentional manner by a human. The robot stops when the operator’s hand is removed due to a spontaneous movement when there is some imminent danger to a person or the operator grips tightly due to perceived danger or similar circumstances. This means that the robot only moves while consciously being moved by a person in the work environment. Additionally, you can install safety laser scanners on the robot to serve as presence detection sensors so that high-speed operation can only be performed when no workers are within the robots’ operating range.
In addition to IDEC enabling switches being compliant with international standard IEC 60947-5-8, they have been designed for safety with full consideration of ergonomics. Select the product from their large and varied lineup to match your work environment.
Safety Laser Scanners
By using IDEC’s SE2L Safety Laser Scanner together with collaborative robots, robot operation can be switched to low speed or stopped when human presence is detected. Operation is performed at high speed if no human is nearby in order to allow robots to operate with maximum productivity. You can also set the operation to change to low speed or stop according to the distance of the detected human. For example, you can set it so that the operation changes to low speed when a human is detected within a three-metre radius and stops when detected within a one-metre radius. This provides flexibility of use to match the corresponding production process.
Robot Warning Systems
In production processes such as car body assembly at automobile manufacturers, maintenance personnel must confirm that robots are stopped before entering an area guarded by safety fences to perform maintenance work. However, even though a robot might be temporarily stopped, mistaken operation or similar error can result in sudden robot operation, possibly causing an accident and human injury. To counter this type of risk, UL standards require the use of indicators that clearly differentiate whether the robot status is “Safe stop (servo power is off)” or “Dangerous stop (servo power is on)”.
Conventionally, robots with safety check pilot lights installed have been covered with waterproof/dustproof boxes if they are used in environments where water and dustproof performance is required, such as painting processes. However, this method results in the box decreasing the visibility of the pilot lights.
Pilot lights that had water and dustproof measures without obstructing visibility of the lights while also reducing time, effort and costs would enable manufacturers to provide better products and allow users to work in a safer environment. IDEC’s LH1D Surface Mount Indicators provide robots with benefits for both manufacturers and users. Due to their conformance with IP67, it is not necessary to sacrifice visibility of the pilot lights by installing a box or other method as water/dustproof measures. Additionally, the two-screw installation and selection of cable lengths (1, 3, or 5 m) provide easy installation regardless of the robot size. This solution solves all the existing issues of reduced visibility, installation time and effort and increased costs.
In conclusion, safety should always be a top priority in smart factories due to the unique risks introduced by advanced technologies. By proactively addressing these risks through comprehensive training programs, implementing safety measures for robots and IoT devices, and establishing proper protocols for handling hazardous materials, manufacturers can create a safe and productive environment for their workers while harnessing the benefits of intelligent manufacturing systems. IDEC provides numerous products that ensure worker safety and comply with regulations.