The trend toward safety networks aboard Ethernet has continued to grow significantly. It is now getting integrated into the control network, and safety devices and safety systems are becoming more compact, easier to program, and, in many cases, more cost-effective.
Integrated safety comes with a number of benefits, many of which are highlighted in the slideshow below. Safety standards can be integrated within the system, including those that validate the system to meet regulations such as the recent European machinery directive. These often require validation that can be programmed into the safety software.
While safety networks have become more complex, they have actually become simpler and easier for plant operators to deploy. The simple user interfaces help to reduce implementation time, thus reducing costs. While the software and networks are easier for the user, they have grown in scale and complexity to include tools such as diagnostics and prognostics.
Machine safety has also seen advances. Safety networks are helping to reduce collisions through the use of electronic safety curtains and virtual safety walls. The machinery is also isolated in its safety pocket so a shutdown due to a break in the safety curtain shuts down the individual machine, not the entire line.
Click the image below to start the slideshow.
Siemens' TIA Portal
Siemens created a Safety Advanced program within its TIA (totally integrated automation) portal. The goal is to help users integrate safety functions into standard automation processes. The safety feature was designed for intuitive operation and quick entry in the generation of fail-safe programs. The library concept was created to simplify the validation of safety-oriented applications. (Source: Siemens)
Rob, I can buy what you say. But to make the predictive systems themselves work, you need a highly trained operator/programmer/(Engineer?). Companies do not offer enough compensation for the skill level required to maintain the maintenance system.
Safety as a product goes back to the Saw Stop table saw technology that was looked at last year. That is a product that people pay a premium for just for the extra safety. Consumers also pay a premium to for extra safety features in vehicles.
It's unfotunate that there are so many activities like this that are critical but costly and don't necessarily result in a visible bootm line benefit so it's easy to short cut and not spend the money that needs to be spent.
Companies say safety is important but rarely spend the money to have top notch servicers that can maintain the equipment.
Yes, you're right about that, TJ. Some automation vendors (as well as machine producers) are offering maintenance services to their customers. I'm not sure whether that brings down the price (they say it does), and I'm not sure how much this model is getting adopted.
I agree, Tim. Consumers will definitely pay for such features if their own safety is at risk. Interestingly, employers won't always pay for that safety unless unless they are potentially deemed liable.
You're right about that, Chuck. I worked briefly at a stamping plant that had stamping machines that required you push two button to activate the stamp action -- thus making sure your hands were out of the way. However, if you didn't hold the sheet metal in position, there were stamping errors. So, they asked employees to hold the metal in position and push one of the two buttons with your forehead.
That's amazing, Rob. I wonder if those stamping machines enjoy the same legal situation as table saws, i.e., "use it at your own risk." In legal cases involving table saws, lwyers hav traditionally argued that users understand the propensity of sharp to edges to cut.
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