Safety Starring in Efficiency and Sustainability Roles

Individual Machine Safety Becomes Intertwined with Issues of Overall Functional Safety, as Well as Efforts to Improve Efficiency, Reduce Scrap and Improve Sustainability

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Protecting people and assets has been safety's longstanding supporting role, so it may be surprising to many folks that safety is taking center stage in more efficiency and sustainability projects and programs.

"Safety is no longer just about the safety of individual machines. It's also becoming about improving overall functional safety, efficiency, reducing scrap and improving sustainability," says Tim Roback, safety systems marketing manager in Rockwell Automation's control and visualization division. "This means that safety is becoming an integral part of many machine-building efforts earlier in the concept or design stages, and then also throughout the whole life cycle of those machines."

Roback conducted tours of Rockwell Automation's established and emerging safety solutions on the exhibition floor at its Automation Fair 2009 event this week at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, Calif.

So just how does safety enable sustainability? Roback explained Rockwell Automation's development of zone-control solutions, which increase safety by allowing power down or slow sections of their machines, also use energy more efficiently. This means operators users can work more intimately with these machines, but do it safely and now save energy at the same time.

"Also, in control systems for robots, users that previously had to employ separate standard controls, robot controls and safety controls can now use a GuardLogix controller to do all three jobs," said Roback. "This also saves on energy and expenses, and reduces footprint space in cabinets and elsewhere."

One of the newly released products enabling Rockwell Automation's zone-control efforts is its Allen-Bradley GuardMaster Minotaur MSR57 speed-monitoring relay, which enables common-speed monitoring across three platforms, checks the direction in which its machine is running, and also can shut the machine down if needed. As a result, it allows operators to run their machines in safer, limited-speed modes.

Roback added that MSR57 and Rockwell Automation's other safety devices can be especially helpful to users once they've gone through the process of performing a risk assessment of their machine, production line or process application. "A good risk assessment usually includes evaluating severity of possible injuries or damage, frequency of occurrence, ability to avoid incidents, learning about and complying with standards, and then deciding what integrity levels are needed to achieve required safety."

Roback added that Rockwell Automation's services and support division also has more than two dozen certified functional safety experts, who can help users develop and perform their risk and hazard assessments, design reviews and conduct arc-flash analyses, as well as perform twelve other related services. These include circuit evaluation, system architecture development, system wiring design, safety standards compliance, validation, start-up and onsite support, training and performance, and technical support for new equipment. "These can really help many users get over the hump of transitioning from the old way of doing things to the new way," added Roback. "Doing a good risk assessment also can help them get a broad-based team in place, understand the concepts and objectives of each member, and then better identify hazards and protect against them more effectively."

Besides its many services, Rockwell Automation also has developed and made available its product library file designed for use with the SISTEMA calculation tool. Developed by Germany's BGIA organization, SISTEMA automates many required safety calculations.

Some of the other safety products that Rockwell Automation exhibited at the fair included:

  • SmartGuard 600, a programmable safety controller designed for safety applications that require some complex logic. This allows more advanced safety functions. It features 16 safety-rated inputs, eight safety-rated outputs, and now an EtherNet/IP connection that supports standard CIP communication for connection to devices such as standard PLCs and HMIs. SmartGuard 600 controller also has a built-in DeviceNet port that can communicate via CIP Safety, allowing the controller to expand its safety I/O capabilities with Allen-Bradley Guard I/O modules.
  • Compact GuardLogix, which Roback describes as a "controller that does safety," and combines the primary and safety controllers in one box. It also can support 69 standard I/O points, as well as 256 Ethernet-based safety I/O points.
  • Allen-Bradley GuardLogix L43S and Allen-Bradley GuardLogix L45S programmable automation controllers (PACs), which bring together the standard control functionality of the Logix control platform, including a common programming environment, common networks and a common control engine. Ideal for mid-range applications, GuardLogix L43S and GuardLogix L45S PACs control up to eight axes of motion and support use of CompactBlock Guard I/O and Point Guard I/O on EtherNet/IP. This creates a new option for machine builders seeking cost-effective standardization on one integrated safety control platform. GuardLogix L43S and GuardLogix L45S controllers feature a one-out-of-two (1oo2) safety architecture and include ratings up to Safety Integrity Level 3 (SIL 3) and Performance Level e (PL e) functionality.
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