Safety First – Increasing Worker Safety Through Automation
Over the past 30 years, there have been only 27 robot-related workplace deaths according to OSHA incident reports. That is a relatively low number compared to the 4,585 overall fatalities recorded by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics during this time period. Of course, an ideal work environment wouldn’t have any accidents. While we haven’t quite reached this goal, automation seems to be a step in the right direction.
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The Customer’s Needs
Our customer came to us to help them resolve the issue of worker safety. They had a worker manually loading pallets coming off a continuous conveyor belt during a 24/7 work schedule. The person(s) would end up lifting boxes up to 30 lbs. for an eight-hour shift, leading to several types of possible injuries.
Project: Design, build and test an automated palletizing system
Our customer had an existing palletizing operation that required workers to continually lift and stack heavy boxes. They ran three shifts and were finding it impossible to find workers who were willing and able to perform that task for any length of time without associated stress or repeated motion injuries. The solution needed to fit within their existing footprint without sacrificing their safety protocols.
Result: RG Group designed and implemented an automated system utilizing the FANUC M710iC Dual-Sided Palletizer.
The robot is set up within a station that allows the operator to enter the work cell while the robot is palletizing. This is possible because of several critical safety protocols that have been put in place. The first is the area scanner and light current sensors. They manage both vertical and horizontal safe zones. If these zones are crossed in any way, the robot immediately stops.
The second is FANUC’s Duel Check Safety, or DCS System. The DCS is a motion safety system that executes position checks as well as safe zone checks. These checks ensure operator safety within a blocked safe zone. This creates automatic robot movement restrictions which allows continuous operation.
RG Advantage: The system was designed to work a 24 hour shift with no downtime! It will handle several different size or shaped boxes and is easily configurable with a simple HDMI interface.
The end result is a system that satisfies the safety and labor concerns of the customer and has a fast ROI payback of only 18 months.
FANUC M-710iC Dual Sided Palletizing Automation Cell
The six-axis M-710iC/45M robot is a member of the family of M-710iC material handling robots with payload capabilities ranging from 12 kg to 70 kg. The robot provides high-speed operation, a 2606 mm reach and 45 kg payload. Its slim wrist, rigid arm, and compact size allows it to work well in tight spaces. The robot’s long reach and six-axis articulation make it a good choice for palletizing, packing, bin picking and other applications found in warehousing, logistics and e-commerce.
Conducting A Safety Assessment
Article written by: Mike Kunkle (MEK Consulting)
Industrial Robot Safety Consulting
Today’s manufacturing environment is demanding reduction of the robotic manufacturing footprint to conserve costly factory square footage, thus reducing operating overhead costs. As a result, we are seeing more and more fenceless robot installations.
Safety-rated soft axis and space limiting is an optional feature on today’s robots which is widely accredited with saving millions of square feet of manufacturing floor space. This feature, has the ability to set a safety-rated soft limit point, where a stop is initiated, or it might ensure that the robot does not move beyond a set limit.
Conducting a robot risk assessment in accordance with the ANSI/RIA R15.06-2012 Safety Requirements for Industrial Robots and Systems and the RIA TR R15.306-2016 Task-based Risk Assessment Methodology will assure risk to workers has been reduced to an acceptable level.
This palletizing system is employing Fanuc’s DSC which is their terminology for Safety-rated soft axis and space limiting. A limit has been set to ensure that the robot does not move beyond a set area. Four laser safety scanners have been integrated into this system to work in conjunction with DCS. These laser scanners keep unauthorized personnel from getting into harm’s way, but in conjunction with a request to enter gate box will allow the operator to safely remove a pallet of product from one system loading zone, while the robot can keep palletizing product in the other zone. The fence panels of the system were put into place in order to keep people taking factory tours from interfering and slowing down production. Their safety has already been considered and assured with the use of the safety laser scanners.
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