Rockwell Automation has released two new tools to help machine and equipment builders and manufacturers ensure they are designing and engineering their products more safely.
The new tools -- Rockwell Automation Safety Automation Builder (SAB) configuration software and Safety Functions pre-engineered design documents -- are aimed at helping those building machines and equipment to more deftly navigate the arduous process of designing safety systems, which is increasing in complexity as machines themselves become more sophisticated, Chris Brogli, a technical consultant at Rockwell Automation, told Design News. “As safety systems are designed to match contemporary machinery performance, they involve highly complex functions,” he said. “As a result, the design process itself can be a barrier to continuous improvement and confidence in safety solutions.”
Rockwell Automation’s new Safety Automation Builder tool helps automate the labor- (Source: Rockwell Automation)
Engineers typically go through a number of steps -- including printing machinery layout drawings; drawing hard and movable guarding; identifying potentially hazardous access points and required safety functions; selecting safety input, output, and logic devices; and calculating the achieved performance level (PL) for the safety-related control system -- just to come up with a handwritten list of required materials and safety calculations. Once this is finished, they then must transfer that list into documents, drawings, and reports that will inform the product’s design, Brogli told us.
The new SAB software automates and simplifies this process, shortening the length of time it takes and minimizing human error that can happen along the way. “It also helps engineers gain confidence that their safety systems meet required safety standards,” he said.
Specifically, the SAB tool guides manufacturers through the safety system design process by providing options for layout, as well as safety performance level (PL) analysis based on ISO 13849-1 using IFA’s SISTEMA (Safety Integrity Software Tool for Evaluation of Machine Applications). It also provides steps for selecting products using Allen-Bradley safety automation products. To do this, the tool enables users to import an image of machinery, and answer questions using a drop-down menu and help screens to identify and select the necessary safeguards. The software then organizes all product selections, generates a bill of materials, and compiles necessary data to populate SISTEMA, which uses an automatic calculation to indicate the attained PL of the safety system using ISO 13849-1. Users also receive a SISTEMA project file as part of the process.
The Safety Functions complements the SAB tool by providing pre-engineered design documents containing detailed information for each safeguarding method, including specific functionality, PL, and required input, logic, and output components. “After going through the SAB process, the user is able to select the appropriate Safety Function needed for a particular machine and combine it with the bill of materials to design a complete safety system,” Brogli said.
Thanks, bobjengr. It seems like you engineers are maneuvering a minefield when it comes to safety, and it seems that any tools that can help are certainly useful and needed. The only thing I wonder is why something like this didn't come along sooner, as you note that safety has been a concern for a long time and something that's difficult to navigate, especially for new engineers.
Elizabeth--excellent post. I definitely will take a look at this software. As a "brand-spanking" new engineer, my first design attempt was somewhat devoid of guards, shields, barriers, etc. There were "pinch-points" galore. Please keep in mind this was long before OSHA. Published safety standard were few and far between also. Luckily enough, I reported to a very experienced engineer. One that dealt with reality on a daily basis and understood the probabilities of injury during manufacturing processes. Needless to say, the design changed considerably and for the better. Software as mentioned would have saved me the embarrassment and a significant "do-over". Again, great post.
Recent changes in the machinery directive and safety standards are making the process more complex for machinery builders. Any tools that can help in this process will be welcomed by system engineers and safety personnel.
To be clear - SISTEMA is software made by a company other htan Rockwell (IFA as noted in the article). Rockwell provides data on their products to the SISTEMA software in order to generate the SIL rating. It's a good way for a somewhat independent verification.
The fact that something like SISTEMA is necessary should say something about how complicated safety has become.
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