Sick area protection improves workplace robot safety

Robots are important tools for improving productivity and having robots and people working in closer proximity is inevitable. For manufacturers and workers to enjoy this collaboration requires improvements to workplace robot safety. However, people and machines working together requires simple safety solutions that protect workers without losing productivity gains.

Minimising these risks is normally through inherent safety measures, or by employing additional measures. Training and common sense alone are not enough, so SICK has developed a simple to implement, regulatory-compliant safety protection system. One example is the Called SICK Safe Robotics Area Protection, it enables unrestricted safe access to fence-less robots.

Workplace robot safety

The Safe Robotics Area Protection solution is ideal for both machine builders and for production teams looking to boost the productivity of their existing robots. It is also suitable for automating existing processes like machine tending, pick and place assembly and materials loading and unloading.

SICK Safe Robotics Area Protection is a convenient and easily-integrated safety system for cooperative human robot applications. It satisfies Performance Level PLd/SIL2 in accordance with EN ISO 13849-1/EN62061.

It uses a SICK safety laser scanner with a SICK Flexi Soft controller to enable dynamic protection of the monitored area. This unique turnkey solution integrates provides unrestricted access to the robot. It allows someone to inspect the operation of the robot or machinery, or to insert or remove work-pieces.

Configuration of the area comprises of two field sets, each having a non-safe warning field and a safety-rated protective field. Programming of the field sets allows dynamic selection so that the robot slows to a safe speed as a person enters the warning field. Infringing the protective field safely stops the robot.

If the risk assessment allows it, when the person leaves the hazardous area, the robot can restart at a reduced speed. Once all the warning and protective fields are free, it returns to its original working speed. As a result of this dynamic field switching, stop-times fall and the operator work flow unhindered. Moreover, the worker remains still fully protected against hazardous movements in proximity of the robot’s working range. Furthermore, minimising stops also reduces machinery wear, leading to less maintenance and improving the total cost of ownership.

SICK Safe Robotics Area Protection

Comprehensive testing of the SICK Safe Robotics Area Protection ensures it is ready for use. Using the factory configured and tested software function blocks, integration of the SICK system fits seamlessly into the controllers of all standard industrial robots.

Redeploying robots around the factory demands an adaptable system. The Safe Robotic Area Protection system’s versatility adapts to new working situations. It does this by taking account of non-safe automation and safety-related functions running simultaneously. Adding additional safety devices, or additional safety functions become necessary during operation, they are easily integrated.

The SICK Safe Robotics Area Protection Package comprises either a SICK microScan3 core with 5.5m radius fields for larger areas, or a S300 mini remote for 3m radius fields, with a SICK Flexi Soft modular controller.

The Safe Robotics Area Protection package is available as a single bundle for integration with most existing industrial robot controllers. The Flexi Soft controller is expandable and programmable to allow the integration of additional devices. These could be further safety laser scanners for additional robot applications, or other safety devices such as safety light curtains, emergency stops or Interlocks for other safety applications.

Importantly for productivity, using workplace robot safety means a worker approaching the machine no longer triggers a complete shut-down. It simply initiates an appropriate reduction in the working speed, or adjustments to the directions of movement.