Collaboration? Yes, but safety first!
Production process automation with the help of industrial robots has shaped the production landscape sustainably over the last decades. Work steps that were completed manually by expert personnel in the past, were transferred to highly specialized handling robots.
With respect to occupational safety, this usually means partitioning in the form of separating safety fences. It had to be ensured at all times that no personnel was within the operating range of a robot. Although this ensured safety technology to be implemented easily with respect to an occupational safety-related risk assessment, the enormous space requirement for a robot workstation according to this concept represented one of the most serious disadvantages.
Furthermore, the developments of the last years has clearly shown that the optimum degree of automation of some production processes is actually a combination of automation and manual labor.
Thus, today’s catchword is human-robot collaboration (HRC). With HRC, employees are supported in their handling tasks in many ways by so-called collaborative robots. For example, the robots assume handling of heavy components in several subsequent orientations and enable optimum working for the assembly personnel.
In this scenario, completely new requirements arise on the now collaborative robot with respect to occupational safety. Collision prevention and detection, torque monitoring, and force limiting must now reach a similar safety level as the separating safety fences surrounding the working range before.
Intensive studies were required to define safety and test requirements that, once met, ensure that HRC workstations will comply with occupational safety requirements. As renowned manufacturer of force measuring technology, GTE Industrieelektronik GmbH has been involved from the beginning in the production of measuring systems for collaborative robots.