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Make machine safety a design stategy

Make machine safety a design stategy

Crouzet Automatismes designs and manufactures automation control components for use in industrial and commercial applications. The products use three complementary technologies: electronics, electromechanics, and pneumatics. The company has 2,000 sales and service outlets throughout the world, generating sales of more than 160 million Euros.

Design News: Are machinery manufacturers giving proper attention to safety?

Fuentes: Most important European manufacturers pay proper attention to safety, but they do not always give proper solutions to this essential requirement because safety standards are complex and difficult to understand. I think dedicated, well-trained engineers for safety problems would improve safety integration. As safety is a part of the strategic orientation of our development, Crouzet is ready to help machine manufacturers offer complete integrated safety solutions to this essential requirement via safety relays, switches, control relays, push buttons, and so on.

Q: Are risk assessment directives such as EN 954 adequate for the industry, or do you think additional standards need to be written?

A: I think EN 954 directives are adequate. Additional standards would not bring anything more in terms of safety, and the additional features would disproportionately increase machine costs.

Q: How well do you think European machine builders are doing in conforming to the safety standards, as compared to machine builders in Asia or North America?

A: When comparing safety implementation on machines from different origins, the contrast is obvious. North America is now getting much closer to the European safety standards than it was a few years ago, and Asia is also strongly developing the implementation of safety on its machines. But European machine builders care more about operator safety than any other manufacturers in the world; this is probably because European countries introduced safety requirements prior to other countries. Complying with safety requirements must of course be done at acceptable prices, and most machine builders in Europe do not compromise with safety.

Q: How will the Year 2000 impact machine safety?

A: As safety is until now mainly based on conventional technologies, we do not think that the Year 2000 will be more or less dangerous than any other year. Therefore, this will not affect machine safety.

Q: Is machine safety an issue for product design engineers, or is it better handled by the technicians who build and install the equipment?

A: Safety implementation is a very large scale problem involving many different people. Engineers must take safety requirements into account before designing the machinery. Safety, however, doesn't only depend upon the design engineer, or on the technician. Each is directly involved in the safety process, and the end user as well as the machine operator have to be concerned by this in order to guaranty a high level of safety all along the development and the life of the equipment.

Q: What impact do you think device level buses, such as AS-i bus, will have on machine builders? On machine safety?

A: Device level buses, such as AS-i Bus, will certainly improve the flexibility given to the machine builders during the design and development process. Moreover, this gives supervisors a complete over-view and control of the machine. The response of the system will then be improved in terms of speed, maintenance, reliability, and even failure mode possibilities with the final advantage to lead to more cost effective equipment without lowering safety requirements.

Q: Do you see any other technologies that will make machines safer?

A: The downsizing of electrical and electronic components involves much lower power consumption. Soon, most machines will be powered by very low voltages at very low intensities, and this will obviously make equipment safer in terms of electrical hazards. In addition, electronic developments will also help design engineers to get new features integrated within the components, helping them achieve higher levels of safety at similar, or even lower, costs than today.

Manuel Fuentes joined the Crouzet group in 1965 at its Spanish subsidiary in Barcelona. Twelve years later he was managing the office, a position he held until 1986. Following this he became managing director of the Automation Components Div., based in Valence, France. Fuentes has been president of Crouzet Automatismes since 1993.

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