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, Below is a link to a recent article from Siemens on the benefits and security implications of using wireless for safety. Not sure how they would answer the specific question you raise, although I suspect that key safety functions are always hard-wired as well. Good question.
A huge key moving forward could be continued innovation with software technologies such as the work being done by ODVA with CIP Safety, PROFIsafe and developments such as openSAFETY. In addition to more powerful solutions, the emphasis on ease of implementation and driving toward more standards could really make a difference in this area.
Yes, good points, Apresher. From what I hear, your last point is particularly important. Any implementation that is easy (relatively) and meets standards is looked on favorably. Plants want complex tools that don't require complex programming. Suppliers are getting good at adding complexity to the system without adding complexity for the end user.
Absolutely, Rob, integrating safety more closely into the control software solution versus a separate system should produce solutions that are easier to implement and maintain. Needs to be simple and straightforward.
Looks that way, Apresher. This seems to match a trend I'm seeing in a lot of areas of automation and control. A lot of the complexity is programmed in by the supplier. More and more it seems control technology is plug and play. There seems to be less heavy lifting for the integrator and the plant techs. Devices and systems are getting more complex, while they're getting simpler for the end user.
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