By switching from analog to digital metering solutions, Firestone Textiles in Woodstock, Ont. was able to cut down on its energy usage and shave thousands off of its energy bills. For more energy management tips and tricks, check out the upcoming May issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.  [More]
A Canadian boxboard manufacturer is at the forefront of making high-speed equipment safe, with help from Rexroth’s innovative Safe Motion technology.   You don’t want to mess with a die cutter.   “It’s probably the most vicious thing you can imagine,” says Corey Mackenzie, Electro-Mechanical Engineering Technologist with the Cascades Boxboard Group, a division of Cascades Canada. “It moves at almost 6,000 RPMs, running around the speed of a household blender. If you got your hand in there, it’s not going to be an injury you walk away from.”   That’s why safety is the number one priority at Cascades’ plant in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada. The plant prints cereal boxes, coffee cups and packaging boxes for a number of different consumer goods. Their presses and die cutters must work at high speeds, cutting the products in perfect synchronization.   But those speeds don’t always equal safety, and that just isn’t an option for Cascades.   “There is no way, at the end of any shift, Cascades, from the Corporate level on down, want anyone of our employees to get hurt” says Eric News, plant manager of the facility. “Truly responsible management must take that into account. You should be taking every precaution along the way.”   That doesn’t mean productivity and safety have to be mutually exclusive. The team at Cascades recently learned that new technology exists to allow them achieve the speed and productivity they need, while still providing the utmost safety for operators.   The discovery started after Cascades purchased a used high-speed printing press from a company in England, and needed to retrofit a die cutter onto the line. They arranged for an integrator from the United States to integrate the die cutter with the press, but when the system arrived, they discovered it wasn’t going to be up to the challenge. A need for speed — and safety When it came time to integrate the die cutter system with the press, Mackenzie found that two major issues arose. One was that the drives were too slow for the press to be able to reach top speeds, even though it was a new drive and control system.   “It didn’t have any functionality and the drives were erratic,” he says. The drives were meant to synchronize the die cutter with the printing press, but the drive system simply couldn’t keep up with the press.   The second challenge was safety. Because the die constantly cuts boxboard and cardboard packaging, residue builds up. To clean it, operators would have to stop the machine, clean part of the die, re-engage the machine, rotate the die, turn the machine back off, clean another section, and so on until the die was cleaned. The time-consuming process not only caused downtime, but there was potential for an operator to disregard the rules and not turn the machines off in an effort to speed up the process.   The system also uses small cameras to make quick adjustments to the dies, and those cameras need periodic adjustment and cleaning. Operators have to be allowed into the area while the machines are running — something the original drive system was unable to allow.   Mackenzie came to the conclusion that the control system they had ordered to help integrate the press and the die cutter just wasn’t going to work.   “We took that control system and, basically, threw it in the garbage,” Mackenzie says. “We said, ‘we’ve got to make this a lot safer for our employees.’”   A true integration Mackenzie and News turned to a local Bosch Rexroth Certified System Integrator, Automated Products and Supplies (APS) to help resolve those two major challenges. Mackenzie worked closely with APS’s Trevor O’Meara to find a new drive system that would allow the press to reach top speeds and integrate both safety and ergonomics.   O’Meara, too, understood how important it was to integrate safety into the control systems. “Safety is legislated, mandated and monitored in this country,” he says. “If you don’t have safe equipment, you have to upgrade it to be safe by the new standards.”   The first step was to install new drives — this time choosing ones that were properly sized to ensure the press could reach full speeds. O’Meara and Mackenzie worked closely with Bosch Rexroth Canada’s engineers to select a 3 axis Rexroth IndraDrive system with Synax control.   With the drives now able to bring the press up to speeds of approximately 1,500 feet per minute, it was time for Mackenzie and O’Meara to turn their attention to safety. Allen Rutherford P.Eng, senior applications engineer with Bosch Rexroth Canada, had the answer: safe motion.   Bosch Rexroth’s Safe Motion technology provides advanced safety functions that Cascades could integrate directly into the IndraDrives. The Safe Motion technology complies with the latest international standards for safe stopping and safe motion.    The team implemented Rexroth’s IndraDrive based Safe Motion technology, enabling all three axes to stay powered up but still lock out safely. It allows operators to get into the machine and make the needed adjustments without shutting down the power. The great teamwork and cooperation between Cascades, APS and Bosch Rexroth, along with Rexroth’s easy to apply Safe Motion technology, resulted in a successful upgrade.   “The black-box external type of safety system can cost big money and be a nightmare to commission,” Rutherford says. “This commissioning was very easy since there is no programming required. We simply parameterized the Safe Motion parameters and in four hours the system was up and running.”   Full speed ahead Once the new press and die cutter were properly integrated, and the drive and control system was up and running with Safe Motion, Cascades was soon able to realize the benefits of the installation. Those benefits include:   • Increased speed and decreased product rejects. The new motors and drives are sized more accurately, which Mackenzie says helped them increase the speed of the press and decrease the amount of  product rejects. The Synax synchronization system from Bosch Rexroth also helps the press and die cutter work in tandem to ensure a perfect product almost every time.   • Increased productivity for operators. The system’s Safe Motion gives operators access to the machine for adjustments and maintenance without having to turn off the power, which saves time for the operators. And the less time it takes to adjust or maintain the machine, the more time that machine can be running.   • Engineered safety in the control system. The new system no longer has to rely on operators performing in a safe manner. With Safe Motion, safety is integrated directly into the press and die cutter, making it virtually foolproof. “If the operator has full access to his machine and can make adjustments, his job is a lot easier,” Mackenzie says. “He just has to worry about making the right adjustments. He doesn’t have to worry about getting in there safely.”   In the end, Cascades found it could have both safety and performance without compromising a thing. “In this case, you can have your cake and eat it too,” says News. “You can create the safest possible environment you can, and still improve productivity.”   Bosch Rexroth Canada is the Canadian partner company of Bosch Rexroth AG, one of the world’s leading specialists in the field of drive and control technologies. Under the brand name of Rexroth the company supplies more than 500,000 customers with tailored solutions for driving, controlling and moving machinery used in industrial and factory automation as well as in mobile applications. Bosch Rexroth is a partner for industrial applications and factory automation, mobile applications and using renewable energies. As The Drive & Control Company, Bosch Rexroth develops, produces and sells components and systems in more than 80 countries. In 2008 Bosch Rexroth AG, part of the Bosch Group, achieved sales of around 5.9 billion Euro with 35,300 employees.   For more information please visit: www.boschrexroth.ca
When it comes to machine safety, many companies have machinery that does not comply with the current safety standards. Much of this equipment was installed or modified prior to the creation of the current standards of today. With the increased enforcement of employer due diligence in the workplace, many companies do not realize the impact of not developing and implementing realistic budgets and timelines to achieve the desired results. Increased inspections pressure some companies to skip key steps, leading to cost overruns, interruptions to production and employee resistance. Establishing a joint health and safety committee (JHSC) is the first — and most overlooked — step when creating a solid foundation for maintaining and improving plant safety. It is responsible for establishing a program that is integrated into the daily activities of the company and is responsible for creating and maintaining its health and safety vision statement through training, audits and detailed record keeping of the group’s ongoing activities. Although some may consider this to be an underlying, or “soft,” cost it certainly is a real cost and should be considered an ongoing overhead cost for safety budgets. Once the JHSC has been established, its first move will be to audit all plant machinery and machinery processes, which will identify the hazards, improve employee training and provide guidance for management to allocate funds and resources. This internal audit is a necessary activity of the JHSC responsibilities. At this point, the company would be required to perform an external audit, which involves a risk assessment or Pre-start Health and Safety Review (PHSR) of each of the machines. A third-party professional engineer conducts this audit to ensure the company is applying the required standards as set out in its provincial health and safety PHSR guidelines. In Ontario, for example, PHSR services are performed in accordance with the interpretation of the most current document. This is outlined in the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Regulation 851, Section 7. Its cost can vary from $1,500 to $5,000 depending on the complexity of the equipment being assessed. As well as internal and external audit deficiencies, an organization may also have deficiencies identified by Workplace Safety and Insurance Board inspections. The above-mentioned information is now taken into consideration to create a priority list and implementation schedule. Based on the urgency created by all of the combined audits, budgets now need to be created to address the requirements. Machinery that does not meet the standards set forth in specific machinery standards, such as CSA Z142-02 Code for Power Press Operations, CSA Z432-04 Safeguarding of Machinery and CSA Z434-03 Industrial Robots, may require any one or combination of physical barriers (guarding), light curtains, safety interlocks and control-reliable safety circuits and/or safety controllers. The identified equipment can now be accounted for as part of your budget development. However, the costs to install and integrate the mechanical devices and electrical controls are often overlooked. Generally, this cost is 1.5 to two times the cost of the components therefore, it would be fair to say that $10,000 in component costs would be an additional $5,000 to $10,000 to integrate. (These additional costs would be for millwright, electrical and programming services required for any given installation.) Once you have established the priority, what is required to meet the standards and the actual component budget, you must consider the process and timeline for implementation. Understandably, the timeline is mainly determined by the priority and the urgency, which is driven by the level at which the machinery is exposing a hazardous condition to the employee. If a machine is presenting a life-threatening hazard, it will usually be immediately tagged out and rendered inoperable until such time as it is brought up to compliance. In other cases, a reasonable time frame will be allotted to implement the required changes prior to a subsequent inspection. In either case, interruptions to production can be more costly than the safety upgrades and compliance themselves. Part of the implementation schedule should take into consideration planned production down time: • What is a reasonable time frame to make the changes? • Can you plan it around scheduled maintenance? • Can you shift production to another machine? • Is this machine going to affect production of another machine or process? In some cases, upgrading safety will change the manufacturing process or workflow. These changes may be as simple as transportation of product from machine to machine or having machine operators perform work tasks differently. No matter the case, new equipment and/or training will need to be provided to integrate the required changes and these costs must also be accounted for. Of course, any successful upgrades in safety need to have total acceptance by management (the money), the JHSC (the process and compliance) and the employee (the acceptance to change). Harmony between these groups will guarantee a successful implementation and ensure a safe work environment for all. Dave Lawson is the vice-president and general manager of Advanced Motion & Controls Ltd. in Barrie, Ont. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
This year, with all of the economic challenges facing manufacturers, staying competitive is going to require cost reductions, increased productivity and efficiencies, innovation and the adoption of new technologies to help achieve these goals. We asked five industry experts to name the top five technologies and trends that will impact Canadian and worldwide manufacturers in 2010 and beyond. Author and Topic Index Jim Pinto 1. Industrial wireless. 2. Embedded intelligence and M2M. 3. Cloud computing and software as a service (SaaS). 4. Plant and factory security systems. 5. Robots are coming. Eric Byres 1. Industrial security and safety integration. 2. Industrial wireless. 3. Virtualization. 4. Industrial cloud computing. 5. Host Identity Protocol (HIP) for control systems. Marc Ostertag 1. Integrated safety. 2. Energy-efficient drive systems. 3. Predictive maintenance. 4. Remote machine monitoring and maintenance. 5. Embedded communication services. Anders Lif 1. Usability enhancements. 2. The integration of the “top floor and shop floor.” 3. Convergence of IT and SCADA. 4. Mash-ups. 5. Shrinking workforce tech. Sal Spada 1. Adaptive production machinery. 2. Design tools integrated with automation for mechatronic optimization. 3. Robotic safeguarding solutions. 4. Sensor networks become viable options. 5. Motion control safety functionality improves machine utilization. Jim Pinto Jim Pinto is an industry analyst and commentator, writer, entrepreneur, investor and futurist. Read his predictions, as well as excerpts from his book, Pinto’s Points, at www.jimpinto.com. 1. Industrial wireless. Wireless is an enabling technology for new applications beyond just wire replacement. The new ISA standard has finally been tested and approved; this will, hopefully, stimulate broader applications for a variety of end users. My hunch is that new applications, with changed processes and procedures, will adapt to the new wireless capabilities. This could generate revenue breakthroughs for burgeoning wireless networking technologies waiting in the wings. We’ll see more wireless products announced in this coming year, and it could spark a new phase of growth that will re-energize industrial automation. 2. Embedded intelligence and M2M. The “pervasive Internet” is still emerging, and in spite of the economic slowdown, will burst through in the coming decade with a plethora of products and applications. Embedded intelligence and connectivity is what machine-to-machine (M2M) is all about. Large assets will include self-monitoring procedures, reporting up the hierarchy with information such as uptime and downtime, diagnostics, usage and failure patterns, and more. All this invisible information about assets, costs and liabilities will become available at an affordable price, generating new revenue growth for leaders. 3. Cloud computing and software as a service (SaaS). This is a burgeoning new area in the commercial and office business environments, and growth will spill over into factories and process plants. All but the most critical components will be run “in the cloud” — it’s simply a matter of how local or how distant the hardware and software resources are located. The switch to cloud resources will occur because of the growing obsolescence of capitalized hardware, plus continuing support for rapidly changing software. Something’s got to give, and what will change is the mix of local, capitalized hardware and software versus cloud resources. Albeit with some lag, industrial automation will follow the growth in this fast-growing arena. 4. Plant and factory security systems. Most of today’s automation and control systems use the same hardware (Intel), operating system (Windows) and communications (Ethernet TCP/IP) as broadly deployed personal, corporate office and administrative networks. This generates steadily increasing problems. Worms and trojans can enter through mainstream operating systems and software, plus there may be deliberate external or internal intrusion. Good network security environments include high-security routers and firewalls that block outside intrusion but do not affect required performance. Automation-systems security has become an urgent issue, perhaps even a critical one. Providers of effective security protection solutions and services will generate good growth over the next several years. 5. Robots are coming. Robots with integrated vision and touch dramatically changes the speed and efficiency of new production and delivery systems. Robots have become so accurate they can be applied where manual operations are no longer a viable option. The biggest change in industrial robots is that they will evolve into a broader variety of structures and mechanisms. In many cases, configurations that evolve into new automation systems won’t be immediately recognizable as robots. For example, robots that automate semiconductor manufacturing already look quite different from those used in automotive plants. Eric Byres Eric Byres, CTO of Byres Security, is an expert on SCADA and critical infrastructure security. He has been responsible for numerous standards, best practices and patents for industrial networks. 1. Industrial security and safety integration. In many companies, there is a growing realization that industrial safety and industrial security are actually two sides of the same coin. Whether the cause is an unsafe act or a security breach, the impact is the same — personnel safety is in jeopardy. Adopting a common methodology for both is more cost-effective engineering. Expect to see combined safety-security consultancies to dominate the SCADA/process security markets and the emergence of new audit and analysis methods that tightly integrate safety and security on the plant floor. 2. Industrial wireless. This has been on everyone’s lists for several years now, yet product in the field has always seemed to be another year away — so why include it again? Because with the ratification of the ISA100.11a Wireless Systems for Industrial Automation: Process Control and Related Applications standard in September and the release of a WirelessHART Device Registration Procedure document in August, it means real products for both wireless standards are going to start appearing in earnest. Once they do, then we will see wireless migrate from a curiosity to a core technology on the plant floor. 3. Virtualization. A virtual machine (VM) is a software implementation that executes programs just like a physical machine. For example, my laptop contains several VMs that act as virtual PLC programming and network analysis laptops; they allow me to keep my personal computer, my office computer and my field laptop all independent (making application conflicts far less likely and my regular PC far more efficient) yet only carry one laptop. But the real benefits are in server applications: you can replace dozens of lightly loaded “hard” servers with one powerhouse server and then run multiple applications in their own VM. It is having a major impact on automation, and the cost savings in hardware and management can be enormous. 4. Industrial cloud computing. While there is little chance that we will soon see the direct control of processes (no cloud PLCs), there are lots of support applications in industrial plants where cloud computing makes sense. For example, today’s long-term data historians and asset management systems can be situated on servers almost anywhere in the company intranet, so pushing the data storage and access out to secure, externally managed server in the “cloud” is not a big technical shift. The challenge is trust. As standards develop for ensuring good third party management of data and engineers realize the real cost of maintaining a secure server and trust those whose only job is maintaining that server, the shift will happen. 5. Host Identity Protocol (HIP) for control systems. Every list needs a long-term, crystal-ball prediction, and this is mine. The trouble today with the Internet (and TCP/IP in general) is that it is too easy to impersonate any device or person on the network and send spoofed and harmful messages — just look at your spam folder. HIP is a new protocol that will allow devices to automatically prove their identity in a secure manner. Once their identity is proven, they are allowed to access other systems and services based on the rights associated to that identity. Marc Ostertag Marc Ostertag is the North American president at B&R Industrial Automation. 1. Integrated safety. Safety will further progress to an integrated part of the control solution. Besides the obvious benefits, such as reduction of wiring, project commissioning and maintenance, this will really start to change the way machines react to various safety-related events, such as breach of light curtains, etc. Machines will be able to react smarter by going into a safe state versus coming to a grinding halt. In the end, this not only increases the safety of the machine but vastly reduces downtime — and this is where the smarter safety will very quickly pay off. 2. Energy-efficient drive systems. Energy efficiency will continue to be a major driving factor for all industries. The biggest source for energy losses is in motion-related system parts, such as servo drives. While it has become common practice to link servo drives and help share one drive’s excess energy while braking with another drive that is accelerating, the new generation of drive systems can take this further and put energy back into the power grid. Such drives with power factors close to one will greatly reduce the energy used by manufacturing lines. The savings realized per year quickly outgrow the cost of the drive system by a large margin. 3. Predictive maintenance. More and more we will see machines that can monitor their actual state with regards to maintenance. The big driving factor here is downtime versus uptime. Every time a machine requires unscheduled maintenance, the costs are huge since most are part of manufacturing lines that are consequently shut down. If, for example, the machines that had to be shut down could have already announced their maintenance needs, all service work could be executed at the same time. This reduces lifetime costs by a huge factor. The technology is there; it requires machine builders and end users to define the execution. 4. Remote machine monitoring and maintenance. This is not a brand-new technology, per se — it has been around for years. Most control systems will have the functionality built-in to allow for remote access in order to be able to monitor the machine and troubleshoot any potential problems. Unfortunately, in many cases the machines are not hooked up to the company-wide Intranet and even if they are, they often are not granted any outside access. What is needed is a sensible policy at the site that takes security concerns into consideration as well as trying to reap the potential benefits remote access promises. 5. Embedded communication services. More and more, PLCs are becoming more intelligent. One good example is integrated communication services, such as OPC servers embedded in the PLC. This brings the realization of site-wide data connection and data collection to the controller level and can, in many cases, make additional PCs obsolete. It also allows for a much cleaner integration and thus helps make processes and operations more transparent. Anders Lif Anders Lif is the global director of product and industry marketing with IFS, which offers a range of ERP and manufacturing software solutions. 1. Usability enhancements. Designing business applications for improved efficiency lets IT support departments and manufacturing staffs handle greater responsibility with the same or fewer staff. Human-computer interaction has become an important science when designing IT systems for optimum usability and for driving employee efficiency as an important part of the system design. We have seen usage of systems increase after usability enhancements as well, with more than 100 percent following the redesign of an OEE (overall equipment effectiveness) software module, which allows a manufacturer to get more value from their investment. 2. The integration of the “top floor and shop floor.” This has been discussed and developed for at least the past decade, but there are more and more examples of integrations between automation equipment and business applications that really make sense. The classic example is predictive or condition-based maintenance, but you will also start to see examples where you are able to automate administrative work processes based on data exchange between PLCs and business applications. 3. Convergence of IT and SCADA. IT systems are getting more and more “real time.” Even if we never talk about micro seconds update in business applications, we have access to information in a much more transparent way than before — and this also drives a redesign of the user interface to deal with more information in the same screen. IT systems are looking more and more like SCADA systems as speedometers, trends and different graphical representations are used to illustrate more complex data patterns. 4. Mash-ups. These integrations of business software and web functionality will become more and more frequent. An example is the mash-up combination of existing Internet maps, like Google Earth and Microsoft Bing, with work order systems in an EAM/CMMS application. Suddenly, users are able to see work orders plotted geographically across a map, enabling much more efficient planning for field service technicians performing after-sales service at customer sites. Mash-ups are often a cheap way of creating new functionality by combining already-existing technologies and solutions in new ways and can be expected to be more common in the coming years. 5. Shrinking workforce tech. In Western economies, the baby boomers are about to retire, leaving a smaller generation to replace them. This leaves many companies in an interesting situation, but IT and automation can help them handle the same (or more) work with fewer people. Manufacturers will also need to capture the “tacit knowledge” of their retirees through social networks or Web 2.0; tools like forums, wiki articles, blogs and other devices are all great at involving and engaging people in debates where their tacit knowledge is released and stored for future reference. These are also becoming an interesting part of the business-applications design in upcoming years as they prove to be an efficient way to interact and collaborate within companies and over borders. Sal Spada Sal Spada is a senior analyst with the ARC Advisory Group. His focus areas include motion control, material handling, machine safeguarding, robotics, servo drives, and packaging machinery and operations. 1. Adaptive production machinery. In practice, there are innumerable process issue considerations to take into account when seeking to implement a solution. The complexity of the process is the primary reason major CNC suppliers won’t get directly involved with adaptive machining solutions. The issues with regard to tooling include tooling profile, tooling coatings, tooling variation, work piece material, work piece material variation, machine tool characteristics and surface finish quality. These process variables are not an area of expertise for the CNC suppliers, so major CNC suppliers do not want to get engaged directly with the end-use manufacturer. 2. Design tools integrated with automation for mechatronic optimization. Mechatronic support services include comprehensive simulation tools for testing primary as well as alternative machine concepts. Such tools create a virtual machine environment to test a prototype and production machine performance. In this phase, machine builders can run tests for machine cycles, sectional speed capabilities, bottlenecks and safety. As a result, machine builders can modify or configure machines for optimum performance and high productivity. Mechatronic support services can not only eliminate the need for building multiple physical machines prior to production, but can also speed actual machine deployment. 3. Robotic safeguarding solutions. Robotic suppliers are introducing innovative solutions that provide protection from the inside out rather than the pervasive outside-looking-in approach. These innovations are based on the concept of “work envelope limitations,” which is more akin to a designed-in safety approach, than an add-on safety approach. A designed-in safety approach provides an opportunity to improve the productivity of the work cell by constraining the movement of the robotic arm based on the location of the production worker and the perimeter fencing. 4. Sensor networks become viable options. IO-Link is a low-cost, point-to-point wired sensor network that offers improvements in deployment, continuous operation, and diagnostics for the most widely used types of sensors. An IO-Link sensor transmits standard digital or analog output signals and provides additional serial data communications with the control unit as master to exchange parameters such as the measuring range, sensitivity, time delay and operating mode. Because the serial data transmission needs no additional wires and the output signals are compatible, it is possible to use standard cables and connectors and combine or mix IO-Link devices with standard devices. 5. Motion control safety functionality improves machine utilization. Integrating safety functionality into servo drives and other motion control equipment is one of the most intriguing drivers in the machine safeguarding market. Embedding a safety controller and safe I/O right into a servo drive eliminates the need for a separate safety controller and I/O. Safety functions are integrated directly into the drive, eliminating the need for external power contactors and speed monitoring equipment and enabling local control. Many view this trend not as a threat the machine safeguarding market, but as a move toward incorporating increasingly more safety functions in machinery.
Okay, you’ve tackled PLCs, and now you can program them with one hand behind your back. So what’s next? What’s the next logical challenge? Think SQL and relational databases. Why? You’d be amazed the similarity; it’s the next logical progression. You might ask how it is they’re even related. For one thing, relational databases can sort of be an extension of PLC memory. There, live values can be mirrored bi-directionally. Historical values and events can be recorded there as well. But operators and managers can interact with them, too. I’ve spent more than 20 years of working, living, breathing and thinking PLCs, but during the past six years, I’ve delved heavily into SQL and learned a lot about relational databases. I’ve discovered that working with SQL is remarkably similar to working with PLCs and ladder logic. SQL has four basic commands and about a hundred different modifiers that can be applied to each, which can be applied in various ways to achieve all types of results.  Here’s an example: Imagine effluent from a wastewater plant with its flow, PH and other things being monitored and logged. That’s what you typically see. But now let’s associate other things with these, such as discrete lab results, the name of the persons who did the lab work, the lab equipment IDs and calibration expiration dates, who was on shift at the time and the shift just prior, what their certification levels were, what chemicals where added and when, who the chemical suppliers were, how long the chemicals sat before use, and so forth ad infinitum. All of this becomes relational data, meaning that if it’s arranged properly in tables, you can run SQL queries to obtain all types of interesting results. You might get insight into the most likely conditions that could result in an improper discharge so it could be prevented in the future. In my explorations of SQL, I found myself looking at the layout of my tables and evaluating the pros and cons of each layout. I massaged them, turned them on their side, upside-down, and finally ended up with the most appropriate arrangement for my application. And similar to PLC programming, I explored innumerable what-if scenarios. I was struck by the amazing similarity in my approach to developing solutions for PLCs. This has been a lot of fun — in fact, exhilarating — just like PLCs used to be. It’s the next logical progression, you know. SQL is a high-level language that isn’t very hard to learn, and you can be very clever with it. I prefer to think of it as a natural extension to my PLC programming skills. Now that you have the machinery running, what did it do? Furthermore, relational databases and SQL pull people and processes together. Machines don’t run alone; they’re merely part of a containing process and that process was devised by people. SQL and relational databases form the bridge to integrate processes, machinery and people together. I don’t believe a COTS (commercial-off-the-shelf) package can do it any more than you could offer a COTS palletizer program and have it be of any use. It just doesn’t work that way. Every machine is different, and every business process is different. That’s where the SQL comes in: it has to duplicate or augment existing process flows and these are intimately connected to the machinery. And that’s why the PLC programmer is best suited to implement solutions involving PLCs and relational databases. So where do you start? I would suggest picking up a book at the bookstore, like one of those Dummies books, then download and install the open-source MySQL database server along with the MySQL Administrator and Query Browser. It only takes a few minutes to install and then start playing. At the end of an evening, you’ll probably be very excited with all of your newfound knowledge and be thinking of endless ways to employ it in your own field of practice. Happy SQLing! Steve Hechtman is the president of Inductive Automation.
In Manufacturing AUTOMATION’s 2009 readership survey, an overwhelming majority of readers said they were planning to buy safety products in the upcoming year. Due to this strong interest, we invited six industry experts to our first ever machine safety round table at our office in Aurora, Ont., in September. The discussion covered several topics, from standards and productivity issues to the legal ramifications of non-compliance. With the current economic challenges affecting manufacturers, many participants were concerned people were putting safety on the back burner to concentrate on short-term goals. Each invitee — some coming with a legal perspective, and others with expertise in product development or system integration — brought their own experiences to the table in a lively two-hour discussion. In our online coverage, we have exclusive video clips on each of the topics of discussion, located on each topic page. To watch all the video in one go, browse our video gallery. Jump to the topic of your choice: • Page 1: INTRODUCTION • Page 2: STANDARDS & HARMONIZATION • Page 3: RESPONSIBILITY & LIABILITY • Page 4: PRODUCTIVITY STANDARDS & HARMONIZATION Canadian companies use CSA and ISO standards — but they also use ANSI, ASME and EN, among others, and even internally developed standards. This multitude of standards can create an environment of confusion and anxiety, so the first topic of discussion was harmonization, the process of developing an agreed-upon global standard for machine safety and guarding. Walter Veugen from Veugen Integrated Technologies Ltd., a system integrator specializing in press safety controls and other machine control systems, talked about his experiences on standard committees. He and round-table participant Jim Grube, product specialist from Siemens Canada, had just spent the last 2½ years participating on the CSA Z142 power press standard. Veugen also spent three years participating on the U.S.’s ANSI B11.1, B11.2 and B11.3 power press standard, “and it was the first one in the group of ANSI standards to address harmonization. That standard started about four years ago; three-quarters of the way through, we approached CSA to ask whether they would be able to open the power press standard so that the technology new to industry would be addressed in Canada as well as the U.S. We were very vocal on harmonization. … If we have our way, I think within the next three to four years, you’re going to see harmony within Canada, the U.S. and Europe for safety circuit requirements.” VIDEO: Our experts examine current safety standards and the push toward harmonization: Calvin Wallace, a sales manager with Beckhoff Canada, agrees that progress is being made. “I know CSA is working very hard to harmonize its standards, and every year it’s getting easier and easier for Canadian manufacturers and machine builders. Most of the standards are being adopted from the U.S. and Europe. For sure, harmonization has started, and I think it’s got some momentum.” Grube believes that harmonizing certain standards — building standards, for instance — will be more difficult, “but machinery, typically, whether you have a robot here or in Germany, all have the same issues.” Allen Rutherford, a senior applications engineer with Bosch Rexroth Canada, had first-hand experience battling a client over what standard to use. While performing a pre-start safety review (PSR) and overhaul on Japanese presses at a major automotive company, the client's No. 1 guideline was its U.S. corporate standard. “So we were a year discussing what standard we were going to use,” he says, “and of course I’m pushing CSA Z142. … And as we got into it, every step of the way — every design change that was required for safety — they wanted us to use their corporate standard, which wasn’t anywhere close to the level CSA was. So it was constant battle. However, just following a standard may not be good enough. Safety for machinery in the majority of Canadian workplaces comes under the jurisdiction of provincial occupational health and safety legislation. Some standards have been referenced in legislation; however, not all regulators have adopted all standards across the country. In fact, there are no CSA safety standard references in Quebec. Jeremy Warning, a senior associate in the labour and employment law group with Heenan Blaikie LLP and a former prosecutor with the Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL), says the courts don’t enforce the technical standards — they enforce the legislated standard. “The approach that’s taken by the courts — especially in Ontario — is very, very strict when talking about equipment guarding in particular,” he says. “The courts define a machine to be guarded when you have prevented both intentional and inadvertent access to a moving part. So, in guarding equipment, you have to factor in for the both the accidental access and the intentional access to that moving part. “I think it’s always good practice to follow the highest standard you have as a model to guide yourself, but then there’s going to have to be an ongoing review to determine whether or not that standard is sufficient for the work that’s done in the workplace and how that equipment is actually used on a day-to-day basis.” Regarding liability, Dominic Caranci, a safety product manager with Omron Canada, says he tells customers that standards are 100-percent voluntary and that it comes down to due diligence and who holds liability. “The company running that machine is liable for any accidents that happen, and if they decide a CSA standard is appropriate or an ANSI standard is appropriate — or their own in-house standard is appropriate — I guess if they can stand up in court and defend that to what is in law then they can pick whatever standard they want.” However, he adds, “Harmonization certainly makes it easier.” Wallace then adds that one of the big pushes toward harmonization is coming from global machine builders, who want to be able to build a standard machine and change as little as possible from a safety perspective when selling around the world? “I know some machine builders are also concerned about increased legal exposure in the U.S. if they’re already shipping safer machines to Europe or elsewhere.” Grube echoes this statement. “That’s a much more global market when you have the ability to move these fairly valuable pieces of equipment. And from an engineer’s point of view, I think I would rather know one standard than 20 standards.” He also talks about a simple formula for success to applying standards to machines: “Safer machines equals fewer accidents; fewer accidents equals increased productivity, lower insurance costs and happy employees, which all point to a successful business. It does take some time to become skilled regarding standards, but as with anything, the more you learn the more comfortable you are with the topic.” However, sometimes finding exactly what is needed isn’t as easy as, say, clicking a mouse. Rutherford relays his experiences sifting through standards online: “I just went to go find a standard [online], and I found one — it looked like it was the right one, so I bought it. And it was totally wrong. … It’s tough, especially when you open up a page and there’s 50 of them, and they all relate to the same topic, so it’s like, ‘Gee, which one do I buy now? They’re all worth $150.’ I’m buying standards every time I click my mouse. It can be a nightmare, especially if you’re just getting started.” So where does one start? “You start in your own plant,” he continues. “Go out in your own plant, find out what you’ve got and learn what’s there from when people before them put into place, and learn the ‘old way,’ because the ‘old way’ will tell you a lot, and get you started, and it will say you’re compliant with such and such, or their health and safety committee has approved it based on a standard. Go read the standard it was originally accepted to — what’s the next version from there?” Assessing risk Veugen takes a moment to talk about how standards have to be written to appeal to several different readers involved in making critical safety decisions, each with varying levels of technical knowledge. These include health and safety committee members, engineers, maintenance workers and, in most cases, production. “So you have four different groups of people with the [safety] specialty on their plate — but it is not necessarily their expertise.” “Sounds like a risk assessment team,” Caranci adds. Veugen nods. “Exactly, but if they don’t know how to do a risk assessment and they don’t understand machinery or guarding or safety circuit performance levels…” Caranci jumps in. “It’s getting to the point now where manufacturers in Canada need to start considering having a safety engineering team to not only look at these standards but to evaluate their old machinery. Guys who are as equally important to the facility as production.” Several members agree, and he continues: “The stature of safety is becoming so much higher at the manufacturing level — you see it everywhere. Standards are being continually evolved, and they’re getting much more stringent. Without having that knowledge base, manufacturers are opening themselves up to who knows what kind of litigation.” RESPONSIBILITY & LIABILITY With the advent of Bill C-45, the issue of an employer’s responsibility to his or her employees has become even more critical (if it wasn’t already). Starting things off, Veugen related to the group his experience with retrofitting a piece of machinery that had undergone a PSR by an engineer. However, to him, the PSR was not an adequate scope of work, “just a letter saying the machine’s not safe and that we’re supposed to interlock it. … So the customer comes back and says, ‘You know what, just do what the pre-start says, ’cause if you do, then the engineer will come back and stamp it and say it’s not going to endanger a worker.’ Once again, we say, ‘We’re not comfortable doing that. We don’t believe that’s true.’ And he says, ‘Well, all we want to do is legally cover our butts.’ His question was, ‘If we have an engineer’s report that says the machine is safe and someone gets hurt, we’re not liable, are we?’ ” Warning responds that it may prevent penal liability but may not prevent an order to get the machine up to code. “They may well have some difficulties depending on what [an] investigation reveals because you’ve now advised them that the PSR is not effective. Whether the PSR come into play depends completely on the facts of the case.” VIDEO: Legal expert Jeremy Warning analyzes the legal ramifications of Bill C-45: On Dec. 7, 2007, Transpavé Inc., a Quebec manufacturer, was the first to be convicted of occupational health and safety criminal negligence causing death, two years after a 23-year-old employee was killed after entering equipment that was jammed; the equipment was equipped with a light curtain, which failed. The Criminal Code had been amended in March 31, 2004, to include Bill C-45, which established the duty of an organization to take “reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm” to workers and others. “The genesis of C-45 was the Westray mine disaster,” Warning explains. “The legislative changes that were made were such that it made it possible to apply the criminal negligence provisions in the Criminal Code to organizations and individuals for workplace health and safety issues and accidents where you have the ability to direct someone to do work and how they do work. So what it means to employees and organizations, in theory, [is that] there is the potential criminal liability if you have workplace accident. And I say ‘in theory’ because, to date, there have only been two prosecutions under Bill C-45; only one resulted in a conviction on a criminal change, and that’s the Transpavé case. … They pleaded guilty and were fined $110,000. “We don’t know the full extent to what this criminal liability means,” he continues. “It’s on the books, it’s available for the police and the Crown to use in the circumstances they deem appropriate; however, experience to date suggests that Bill C-45 has not displaced the provincial or the federal health and safety legislative regimes, and those are, right now, still the main implements of penal liability.” The advice Warning typically gives to clients is that meeting safety-standards obligations at the provincial or federal (if federally regulated) level will take care of C-45. “C-45 is a criminal negligence charge,” he finishes. “It requires the Crown to establish a marked departure from the ordinary standard. If the organization and the individuals within it are complying with the legislated requirements, it will be difficult for the Crown to establish that there has been a marked departure.” Making excuses — and changing a culture “I think they’re taking it seriously but not acting on it seriously,” Caranci adds about companies’ legal responsibilities, “and they’re using the current economic state as an excuse. A lot of places we’re going, talking to our customers, they claim to fully understand the importance of safety, but they all give us the same answer: ‘When we start making money, we’ll spend it.’ And until that day comes — which is not today, for these companies — they are very reluctant. “And,” he adds “they’re really careful about what they expose to us as an outside party in their facility.” Grube explains how the consequences of delaying such safety implementations could result in losses in productivity once equipment is forced to be shut down. “I think it’s even more important for manufacturers to be safe in today’s current economy. Companies have let go of many people and therefore any lost time accident can really impact production. There is no time to train and no one to replace the injured operator/maintenance person. And the value of the dollar puts even more pressure on the manufacturer to get the product out the door.” “I totally agree, too,” Caranci says. “But when we’re talking about five, 10, and 20-man shops — little press shops, little metal-fab shops or small Tier 1-type companies — they’re struggling. And asking them to spend another $50,000 or more on a safety upgrade, as much as you throw at them information-wise, they just don’t buy it.” So are manufacturers taking their responsibility seriously? “I do not think people go to work and think they will be hurt by machinery,” Grube says. “Just as no one expects to get into their car and get into an accident. Safety needs to be present 100 percent of the time. The company needs to live and breathe safety.” “That’s a pretty good analogy,” Rutherford says, “but how many of us would buy a car without air bags?” Some companies are putting their employees behind a the wheel of a car without air bags, and Warning addresses how this kind of complacency sets in. “One time, someone does something that’s not quite keeping with the health and safety standard because it’s easier one day, it’s faster, seems like it’s low risk — and, if that practice continues and expands, it erodes  the culture and, eventually, you get into a situation where workers are using their discretion about when they will abide by the safety standards in the workplace. “I think to maintain [a vigilant workforce] requires a very vibrant culture in the workplace that is focused on safety, and that has to start at the top, and it has to constantly be reinforced.” Continuing along these lines, Wallace mentions resources available to manufacturers. “There are some organizations – the IAPA [Industrial Accident Prevention Association] is one – that go into companies and try to assist them with setting up processes like that and help keep that culture vibrant.” Warning adds to this point: “There are also numerous consultants with health and safety backgrounds that can be brought in to design programs and assist with rolling them out, reinforce them.” He also says they can use consultants to do random internal inspections so they can find out where the inefficiencies are. “This is all part and parcel of the due diligence that’s required should you have an event. You will need to be able to explain your procedures and policies … to avoid or defend any charge that may be laid.” PRODUCTIVITY When talking with customers, Caranci says there are three things to talk about. If appealing to a potential client’s softer side (“Do you want to be the one to call the family of Joe who just got hurt?”) and introducing them to recent cases on the MOL’s website don’t do the trick, he bring up the financial benefits. “The financial side … works really well with the business managers of the company because they just see safety as a capital expense,” he says. “Put it in their mind that a safe plant will get you lower insurance premiums, reduce your financial and production risk; and an accident will cost you much more than they probably realize.” Veugen agrees, saying, “It’s important not to look at safety as a burden but as an opportunity to update old equipment.” Rutherford adds that if a company was spending the money performing a safety upgrade, it makes sense to make every aspect of the machine better, too. “If we’re going to do safety, let’s see if we can make it a more reliable machine and run better. If we’re going to spend the money on that, let’s make it run faster, let’s make it run smarter.” Sometimes just doing anything, instead of doing something correctly, can be a waste. Caranci quoted his favourite statistic: 80 to 85 percent of all light curtains are installed incorrectly; safe distance is either calculated incorrectly or more commonly not calculated at all, or they are not wired incorrectly. “Just trying to get a checkbox on a safety list,” he concludes. And given the ever-increasing selection of differently priced products in the market, Grube says a good place to start is with a risk assessment. “Without risk assessment, you could be over designing your safety system and flushing money down the drain or, even worse, under designing.” In his opinion, the CSA Z460 Control of Hazardous Energy standard contains very good info on risk assessment, with a nine-step approach explained in Appendix C. The process typically involves reviewing the operation of the equipment, identifying associated tasks and potential hazards and using these to complete a risk estimation. VIDEO: Legal expert Jeremy Warning analyzes the legal ramifications of Bill C-45: “By using risk assessment, newer standards and integrated solutions, the designer will have many more flexibilities,” he says. “Safety will become an intrinsic part of every machine and not an add-on. The first step of risk mitigation for the OEM is to remove any hazards from the design at the beginning. The remaining hazards must be mitigated using guards, safety control systems, secondary safety protection [glasses, gloves, etc.] and processes. Time and time again, I see a small investment in safety that can pay off in the future. The cost of an accident can be much higher than the cost of the upgrade. Not to mention the human cost.” According to Wallace, automation is able to mitigate a lot of the risks. “Sometimes the only practical way of running a machine safely is to increase the automation — no question.” However, Rutherford blames a lack of good, solid planning on people’s tendencies to think only in the short term — a practice exacerbated by the current economy. “People are thinking in two to three-year increments; no one is thinking 20 years down the line anymore. … When automation first came in, everyone had a long-term path; it was to put robots in, and then they’d do this, and then do that. Safety should be a huge part of a long-term plan.” He follows this with a question to readers: “How many companies are currently planning for new technology, like safe motion on servos, for the future?” “Believe it or not,” Veugen adds, “safety is new to a lot of people. It’s an anomaly of the 2000s.” But he still believes the level of expertise is growing. “The industry has gotten a lot, lot better, but it still has a long way to go.”
Our experts look at the technologies and trends to watch for in 2010.
Our experts examine current safety standards and the push toward harmonization.
Our legal expert analyzes the legal ramifications of Bill C-45.
Our experts talk about education and long-term safety planning.
Our experts discuss how to improve productivity with safety and avoid complacency.
Running down and torquing the lug nuts that hold the wheel to the hub is seemingly one of the simpler aspects of building an automobile, but it has proven one of the most difficult to automate. This is a difficult manual job, as well, because of the size and weight of the nutrunner and the need to tighten the nuts on two wheels in approximately 40 seconds. If the position of the lug nuts is known, a robot can easily position the nutrunner to deliver the needed torque. The problem is that typically the vehicle is only roughly positioned by a conveyor and the wheels themselves are free to rotate, tilt, and turn. Therefore an ordinary blind robot would never be able to find the nuts. Radix Controls in Oldcastle, Ont., successfully automated this application by using a vision system to determine the position of the wheel including its fore and aft and side-to-side positions and three rotational axes. With this information, the robot can easily move the nut runner into the exact position and tighten the nuts. Automating this application made it possible for two people to move from difficult and stressful jobs to more proactive roles. “As far as we know, this is the first time this application has been successfully automated with the use of machine vision,” said Shelley Fellows, vice-president of operations for Radix Controls. Challenge of automating difficult manual task The automotive assembly plant involved in this application builds vehicles 24 hours a day with just-in-time production scheduling. In a previous assembly line station, two operators (one on each side of the vehicle) place wheels onto the four hubs. The operators then place a nut on each wheel stud and turn the nut a few times. The assembly line conveyor then moves the vehicle to the next station where the lug nuts are manually torqued down. In the past, an operator on each side of the vehicle would locate the first tire, guide the nutrunner into position, torque the nuts down, move to the second wheel, guide the nut runner into position, and torque the second group of nuts. The operators have only 43 seconds to complete this entire operation. “The nut runner is heavy, unwieldy, and generates a lot of counterforce,” Fellows said. “As a result, this is a very physically demanding job that is prone to workplace injuries. All of the major automobile manufacturers have tried to automate this job but they have run into some very significant challenges. These challenges arise from the fact that the vehicle cannot be repeatably positioned on the assembly line.” The conveyor moving the vehicle is not accurate enough to position the vehicle in the line of travel axis — the x axis — nor in the axis perpendicular to the line of travel–the y axis–accurately enough for a robot to position the nutrunner on the nuts. But even if the conveyor was more accurate, the wheel has the potential to rotate in three different axes. It can be turned slightly to the left or right, tilted, (also known as camber) and rotated around the axles. All five of these axes of motion must be precisely known for the robot to position the nutrunner with the required degree of accuracy. Adding to the challenge is the fact that the plant produces vehicles with a wide range of wheel types that are intermixed on the production line. Developing machine vision application “This application is impossible to automate unless the robot can reliably and repeatably locate the nuts,” Fellows said. Radix Controls took on the challenge of developing a machine vision application that could determine the position of the nuts in five different axes within a few seconds as needed to meet the cycle time requirements. The innovative application relies upon two Cognex In-Sight 5403 vision systems to locate each wheel. Radix selected In-Sight because it provides a complete solution in a modular package that does not require any additional hardware or other equipment. The 60 x 110 x 80 mm package of the vision system easily fits within the tight confines of the manufacturing plant. The In-Sight 5403 model was selected because it offers a resolution of 1600 x 1200 pixels and an image acquisition time of 15 frames per second; it is ideally suited to meet the high accuracy and short cycle time requirements of this application. The vision application relies on Cognex’s unique PatMax pattern matching technology to quickly locate the wheel in the image. PatMax can be programmed to recognize any pattern simply by highlighting the pattern in an image taken by the camera. Radix engineers programmed PatMax to recognize each of the wheels used in the plant. The system has been set up so it can be easily programmed by plant personnel to recognize new wheel types. The information backbone that runs the assembly line communicates with the vision system to let it know which type of wheel will be on the next vehicle and the vision system loads the appropriate program. Cognex’s circle finder tool is then used to precisely determine the location of the center of the axle. The company’s edge tools inspect the feature in the center of the rim to determine the angle of rotation of the wheel. When the first image is taken, a laser generates a crosshair on each wheel. Then the first laser is turned off, a second laser generates another crosshair from a different angle and a second image is acquired. The edge tools are then used to inspect the crosshairs in each image. The coordinates of the crosshairs are passed to a program written by Radix for the camera that uses the differences between the crosshairs to calculate the angles at which the wheel is turned and tilted. The system then passes this information to the controller of a Fanuc robot. The robot swivels its wrist to match the angles to which the wheel is tilted and turned and rotates the nutrunner to match the wheel’s angle of rotation. Next, it guides the nutrunner square onto the lug nuts. The nutrunner is cycled and tightens the nuts to the proper torque in a few seconds. The robot then moves to the other wheel on its side of the car and, again, guided by the coordinates and angles provided by the machine vision system, places the nutrunner onto the lug nuts and tightens the nuts. The application has been in operation for 18 months with greater than 99.6-percent uptime (including system errors like missing tires, water on tires, etc.). Calibrating the robot to the vision system The ability to quickly calibrate the robot to the vision system is important because of the potential for the vision system to be bumped by equipment moving in the area. The operator actuates the calibration command on the vision system which determines the centerline position of the wheel relative to its own coordinate system and sends the coordinates to the robot controller. The operator then jogs the robot to position the nutrunner on the wheel and the system determines the offsets between the robot’s and vision system’s coordinate systems. By entering the offsets into the robot control system, the complete coordinate system used by all of the vision systems and the robots in the cell are then synchronized. The workcell is fully calibrated in less than a minute with the custom features on a specialized calibration target, and completes the automatic dynamic calibration sequence in under two seconds per cycle. Radix Controls provided the vision-guided robot application as part of a complete solution including: programming; custom lighting design; integrated robotic communication and robot programming; and, full controls design including safety controls, coordinated installation, startup and systems training for operators, maintenance and engineering. “The key to successfully automating this application is the coupling of machine vision and robotics to accurately and repeatably guide the robot to the proper position,” Fellows said. “Automation provides a substantial cost savings to the automobile manufacturer and also improves quality by ensuring that the lugs are repeatably tightened to the proper torque.” www.radixcontrols.com www.cognex.com
Muting, applied in numerous safety-related automation applications with light curtains, is the temporary suspension of the protective field for access guarding into a danger zone without the safety outputs turning off. Muting is always started by at least two independent sensor signals, typically with the use of retro-reflective sensors. By allowing transported material faster access into or out of a danger area without interrupting material flow, muting provides productivity gains in the automation process and guarantees personnel protection at the same time. The two most common types of muting solutions are two-sensor parallel and four-sensor sequential. Figure 1 shows an example of four-sensor sequential muting at a robot station, accomplished with four inductive muting sensors (MS1 to MS4) that are activated in sequence by the carrier. This type of muting is used when each piece of transport material has the same dimensions and enough space is provided for entry and exit. In this case, the muting controller checks only the sequence of the sensor activation/deactivation; the time interval between the sensor signals is not that important. Two-sensor parallel muting, shown in Figure 2 in a palletizer system, is activated by two muting sensors, which cross over each other. Note that the crossover point in the “X” made by the sensors is located inside the “danger” zone. This is done to eliminate tampering and ensure valid muting signals during the transit. Both sensor signals (MS1 and MS2) must be activated within a prescribed time, basically instantaneously. This type of muting is frequently used when the dimensions of the transport material are not consistent or where space is at a premium. As it stands, an AS-i (Actuator Sensor interface) system can easily incorporate safety components by adding an AS-i safety monitor to the system. However, adding the muting functionality to the safety monitor is the next step that will provide an especially flexible automation solution to the growing AS-i installed base. The required sensor equipment is made up of muting and safety sensors, which are directly polled by the AS-i interface and then analyzed by an AS-i safety monitor. An example of a cost-effective Safety At Work AS-i solution would be to lay the yellow AS-i flat cable on one side of the system and the passive elements on the other, selecting retro-reflective light beam devices as muting sensors and a transceiver-type light beam safety device with a deflecting mirror. Connecting the muting sensors, muting start/restart button and muting indicators would be done with standard AS-i input and output modules. The standard light beam safety device would be selected with an integrated AS-i interface and then connected to a safe AS-i input module. To achieve safety Category 3 or 4 in accordance with EN ISO 13849-1, MS1 and MS2 muting signals with a two-sensor parallel muting solution would use separate standard AS-i input modules. An optional configuration could have a muting sensor via a standard AS-i input module and a second independent software signal via the AS-i master output bit. With a four-sensor sequential muting system, the muting sensor signals (MS1 to MS4) would be integrated with two separate standard AS-i input modules (MS1/MS3, MS2/MS4). Optionally, two signals (MS2, MS3) can be transferred via a standard AS-i input module, and two independent software signals (MS1, MS4) can be transferred directly by the control unit via the AS-i master. For the muting start function and the muting status indicator, the same AS-i slaves can be used where possible to reduce costs. In the past, a separate muting controller had to be integrated into the system by an additional safe AS-i input module. This is no longer necessary. The safety monitor, with muting functionality built in, can now monitor and evaluate the muting equipment. One distinct system advantage, depending on the number of AS-i addresses, is that several muting areas can be configured and monitored by a single AS-i safety monitor. The configurable muting modes can be changed at any time with the safety monitor configuration software (ASIMON). This would reduce the number of components and result in a simpler and faster system to start up and maintain. With muting functionality available in AS-i safety monitors, existing and potential users of AS-i now have a cost-effective way to add muting solutions while still maintaining personnel safety and increasing system productivity. Mark Smokowicz is the lead product manager and safety products manager for Leuze electronic, which serves Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. Leuze is a long-standing AS-i SaW consortium member and will release a certified version of the AS-i safety monitor with muting functionality.
All participants of Manufacturing AUTOMATION's 2009 machine safety round table this fall were asked what technology or trends they saw as important in the upcoming year. The results were varied, but reducing costs and ever-increasing legal enforcement were two standouts. Jeremy Warning, a senior associate with Toronto's Heenan Blaikie LLP, saw increased regulation and enforcement as a key trend. While on Ontario’s Ministry of Labour website, he noticed the total amount of fines collected in recent years, with a jump from $12 million in 2007-’08 to $28 million the next year. “And I don’t think this a trend unique to Ontario,” he added. “Jurisdictions across the country are increasing the penalties available under provincial legislation related to health and safety. It’s something that’s going to pervade across the country because the jurisdictions look at each and they will change to keep pace.” Number of convictions and amount of fines per year in Ontario   2005-’06 2006-’07 2007-’08 2008-’09 No. of convictions 326 856 1,191 1,303 Fine amount $6,069,251 $8,821,380 $12,007,535 $28,272,120 Jim Grube, safety systems product specialist with Siemens Canada, mentioned control-reliable circuits. “Tight integration of new safety technologies, such as safety networks, safety PLCs and safe drives, allows the application to be more flexible.” At Siemens, they believe all devices will have some type of safety in the future, so they have their Totally Integrated Automation concept that includes safety PLCs, wireless safety, wireless HMIs with safety, safety rated drives and servos. Allen Rutherford, senior applications engineer with Bosch Rexroth Canada, brought up putting cameras inside danger zones. “So leave the guard in place and look at the monitor. Your touch screen can have little webcams showing you inside the hazard zone, and you can do first-diagnosis right there without putting yourself in harm’s way at all.” As well, he mentioned how web, email and pager technology are helping keep supervisors informed when safeties are violated. And finally, he had to mention safety PLCs, which aren’t new “but have recently become more widely implemented.” Making use of one product in many ways was on Walter Veugen’s mind with logic-based safety. “You can have light curtain protecting three different modes of operation," said the president of integrator Veugen Integrated Technologies. "A light curtain has three different functions depending on what the machine is doing.” “Another trend that’s starting to emerge is safety being considered earlier in the design stage … before the machine’s even built,” said Omron Canada safety product manager Dominic Caranci said. “I know that’s a long way from being adopted into North American [standards and] culture, but it’s one of the things [with its] origins in Europe.” For Beckhoff's Calvin Wallace, “Safety PLCs and safety networks are a trend to look for because you can distribute your safety I/O throughout the machine or your line on the same Fieldbus as non-safe I/O and servo drives. This technology continues to drive the cost of safety down while significantly simplifying your control architecture.” Caranci agreed. “The key point there is that the price of all the safety technology is drastically coming down. … And as the costs of these products are going down, we’re seeing them being used in non-safety applications, which inherently improves the reliability of whatever that application is.”
Canadian press brake manufacturer Accurpress created its first tandem press in response to a customer’s request. The customer didn’t want to buy an expensive custom machine with the sole purpose of bending longer parts, which would rarely have operated at full capacity. The end result was anything but an awkward monolith taking up space. The company, with a manufacturing location in Surrey, B.C., set out to develop a tandem machine by coupling two of its Accell press brakes, using the “master and slave” principle. “It was clear to us that the coupling should be via the control system,” says Alex Kvyatkovski, R&D team leader at Accurpress, referring to the machine’s PC-based control from Beckhoff Automation. His team achieved the coupling with Beckhoff through real-time Ethernet. To switch from simplex to tandem, all the operator has to do is select tandem mode on both machines, specify which is “master” and which is “slave,” and upload the recipe to be processed to both control computers. In tandem mode, the two machines operate as one and can bend sheet metal components with a length of up to 14 metres. Beckhoff control technology synchronizes the two machines and controls the bending process, including the associated material handling equipment. Each press has a C6240 control cabinet industrial PC (IPC) from Beckhoff using Windows as operating system, and the TwinCAT automation software platform. Beckhoff CP7037 control panels with TFT displays are used as the human-machine interface (HMI). EtherCAT links the input/output (I/O) level with the control system. PC-based control Until 2001, the Accell, Accurpress’ most advanced press brake, used a controller designed specifically for press brakes. While its performance was satisfactory, it was costly and had limited programming flexibility, which Kvyatkovski found presented “significant obstacles” to maintaining a competitive edge. Accurpress had experimented with using computers to control machines and tried different approaches. “While some people back then unfairly thought of computers as unreliable, we nevertheless started using them in ’96,” Kvyatkovski says. “So by 2000, when we saw what Beckhoff had to offer, we jumped on board right away.” Beckhoff’s philosophy is essentially PC-based control, and doing more control with less hardware. A single industrial PC can do the work of multiple PLCs while also controlling motion and running HMI. For Accurpress, PC-based control was a cleaner, more cost-effective solution than using hardware PLCs, and much less expensive than the original controller. Just one centralized controller can be less costly because it has fewer proprietary components than the PLC. It also means less programming. “Typically, you only have to program that one controller versus multiple hardware PLCs,” says Shane Novacek, Beckhoff’s marketing communications manager. “You program the IPC once and you don’t have to worry about getting that code to several other controllers, because the IPC is an all-in-one, multitasking device.” None of the benefits of PC-based control are lost when the machines are in tandem mode. Real-time Ethernet coupling gives the presses precision, repeat accuracy and process reliability. Whether in simplex or tandem mode, it operates with a bending speed of 20 mm/s and a parallelism accuracy of ±0.01 mm, made possible by closed-loop servo hydraulics technology, controlled by the IPCs. The controllers of the coupled Accell press brakes communicate via the publisher/subscriber model, creating a permanent bidirectional data link. The two machines can exchange information on set and actual position, velocity, recipe step, job and machine status, and special key positions. Even in tandem mode, Accurpress machines have almost unlimited flexibility that comes from having a clean hardware architecture and open TwinCAT automation platform. Different recipes with different start on target positions allow different angles. Though 90-degree angles are the most common, the machines can handle much more complex 3D shapes. “Some angles are 90 degrees, some obtuse, some acute,” Kvyatkovski says, “but you can also do a lot of what’s called ‘fade-away bends.’ ” He says a boat manufacturer uses Accell machines to make fade-away bends that are 120 degrees at one end and roughly 170 at the other. Accurpress can adapt any press to customer requests without special hardware and can modify or complement functions with minimal effort. Customers enjoy a shorter-than-average lead time: only two to three months for major customization requests. He adds that such flexibility would not be possible with an off-the-shelf controller from a third-party vendor and that “several lucrative machine orders would be lost as a result.” PC-based control brings similar benefits in assembly, packaging and converting, plastics technology, food processing, automotive and tire, alternative energy technology, semiconductor, wood, timber and other areas. Because this type of system is compatible with Windows, a user could use it in conjunction with Excel spreadsheets, e-mail or SMS alerts to maintenance crews. And there’s no need for those proprietary hardware cards that are installed in a controller to manage data in the Fieldbus language — a simple Ethernet card will do. “With EtherCAT you’re able to get very, very rapid communication at microsecond level speeds for passing data from device to device,” Novacek says. For manufacturers that want to try EtherCAT but are already equipped with machines that use DeviceNet cables, a complete retrofit isn’t necessary. Master and slave gateway terminals would allow data to pass freely from an EtherCAT device to a DeviceNet-enabled machine. Safe motion control Tandem press brakes are a cost-effective way to bend materials of otherwise unruly proportions. “Anything big, long and metal,” says Alex Kapulnik, who is Kvyatkovski’s engineering partner at Accurpress. He has seen the machines joined in twos, threes and even fours to manufacture submarine hulls for the military as well as the long metal casings that house cables in construction projects, and agricultural equipment, such as the rotating part of a combine. Tandems, and often “tridems,” are also used for light pole or flagpole manufacturing. Poles can be octagonal or, in a process called “bumping,” multiple small bends can create a rounded look. Accurpress recently mounted a sheet follower at the front of its Accell press brake to handle materials too heavy for an operator to lift. TwinCAT software synchronizes the motion with the press via an electronic axis, and the sheet follower safely and precisely lifts and lowers heavy materials. The Accell machine further reduces operator intervention by making on-the-fly adjustments while metal is being formed. TwinCAT calculates bending positions automatically and coordinates the motion control. Built into each press brake is safety control in the form of TwinSAFE, described as follows on the Beckhoff website: “The TwinSAFE safety PLC communicates with the industrial PC, safety inputs/outputs, safety-related drives, and safety sensors through the Safety over EtherCAT protocol.” “In tandem mode, both machines are synchronized to run in parallel, but the same safety controls on each machine take care of safety,” Kapulnik says, “and the machines are in compliance with safety standards in Europe, Canada and the U.S.” Kvyatkovski says customers have now come to expect the flexibility they have experienced using tandem press brakes with a PC controller. “More and more, we find that press brake users are seeking synchronized presses like ours,” he says, “while traditional PLCs and proprietary designs are quickly losing favour.” Michelle Morra is a freelance writer based in Toronto.

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