New Tools Ease Machine Safety Design

Rockwell Automation Releases Safety Automation Builder

By Aaron Hand

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Step 3 is design and verification, step 4 is installation and validation, step 5 is maintain and improve—and then it cycles back around to step 1 any time changes are made to the machine. "A lot of people don't do the validation and verification, but it's just as important as the design," Brogli said.

"Validation is the most important thing from a liability standpoint," Pienta added. "Just because it's a red device doesn't mean it's safe."

Tools Streamline Safety Engineering Tasks

To help users and machine builders through the necessary steps—bringing safety knowledge together to ease design and reduce engineering times—Rockwell Automation has developed a new piece of software that it showcased in its Safety Solutions booth. Safety Automation Builder (SAB) is a free software tool due for release in February 2013. It helps designers verify that a safety system meets all requirements, and also generates a bill of materials.

Users import a machinery drawing, at which point the software begins asking questions about risk assessment, functions, desired performance levels and more. Users can create their safety zones, pictorially showing pinch points, hazards, fixed and movable guards, etc., on the drawing, Brogli explained. They can select input, output and logic devices, dragging product images right onto the screen, he added. SAB will export the file to SISTEMA to show progress on how required safety levels compare with achieved safety levels. When everything is in order, the software can generate a bill of materials, including pricing.

Noting about 100 OEMs that came through the booth on Wednesday, Brogli said they can't wait to get their hands on the new software. Dan Pienta was in the Safety Solutions booth today, getting his first look at SAB. For him, the bill of materials functionality seemed to be particularly useful. There's so much variation in the types of devices available, he noted.

"It's very time-consuming to do all the research," he said, pointing out how easy the software would make it to pull together needed components and know exactly how much everything would cost. Pienta described machine engineering as a funnel, where there are ways to speed up production, but little that can be done to speed engineering time. "Anything we can do to open up that funnel is good."

SAB is particularly targeted at the OEMs, which are building machines every day and every week, Brogli said. He mentioned one customer, who spent seven days pulling together the safety components for his machine—printing out a drawing of the machine; marking hazards, guards, etc., on the drawing; designing the necessary safety; getting quotes for components; and more. Rockwell Automation put SAB to the task, and completed the job in 2.5 hours instead.

Supplementing SAB are pre-engineered complete safety solutions called Safety Functions. The first six are available from Rockwell Automation now, and 24 are planned in all, with the last of them released by mid-2013. The Safety Functions are designed to help users build a complete machinery safety system by providing detailed information for each safeguarding method. "There are 155 TUV safety experts within Rockwell Automation—more than any other automation company—and they're all chipping in," Brogli said.

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