Man vs. machine. Keeping your employees safe when working alongside robots
In 2015 intelligent robots are going to play a major role in manufacturing. Robots are becoming increasingly ever present on manufacturing production lines and even more are coming out from behind their cages to work closely with human employees. While this technological development brings huge advantages to the manufacturing sector as a whole, it also raises fresh health and safety questions.
Manufacturing Global takes a look at the measures that manufacturing managers and execs can take to avoid robot-related accidents when humans are sharing the same workspace.
1. Carry out comprehensive risk assessments: Before employees begin working alongside robots its critical to scope out any potential hazards. Safety risks will vary depending on each robot and application so a comprehensive risk assessment is required for every individual system. In the risk assessment its important to also consider non-routine operating conditions, for example operators entering the cell for programming, maintenance, testing, setup, or adjustment tasks.
2. Brush up on your regulation knowledge: Know the rules and current legislation surrounding health and safety, robotics and system integration.
3. Use simulation software to test robotic concepts: As well as flagging potential new-build issues, software can model all of the variable robotic movements, obstacles and potential collision scenarios, in a 3D virtual world. This saves both time and money, while enlightening management about potential safety hazards and concerns.
4. Know your system and introduce safeguards: Seek expert guidance when building a safety related control system (SRCS) early in the design phase. There are many different concepts to consider, including whether your SRCS should be a dedicated system or integrated within your robot controller or robot safety software.
5. Ensure employees receive regular training: Ensure employees receive regular training and have access to the necessary protective tools and equipment. Forewarned is forearmed and this level of understanding will help reduce the risk of human error and accidents.
6. Consider software-enabled technology: Using software to monitor safety is an efficient way to ensure man and machine work in harmony. For example, machines can be programmed to monitor a robot’s position and speed, creating a more controlled and safe environment.
7. Create adaptive zones: It is now possible to programme, enable and disable the zone that a robot can or cannot enter, depending on the task in-hand. By creating boundaries and ‘robot-free zones’ employees are much safer on the production line.
8. Define maximum robot speed: Often, accidents occur when machines are moving at fast speeds. When members of the workforce are working in close proximity to a robot, its wise to limit the speed in which they operate.
9. Compliance with machine safety standards: It should go without saying (we will say it anyway) but it’s critical all machines are maintained to current safety standards. Old, poorly functioning systems are a far greater risk to employees on the ground.
10. Stay on top of your safety requirements: In today’s fast-paced manufacturing environments, robotic work cells and plant layouts evolve quickly. It means constantly revisiting and modifying your safety considerations.
Hexagon Revolutionises Manufacturing Design Process
A global leader in sensor, software and autonomous solutions, Hexagon recently announced that complex CFD (computational fluid dynamics) simulations can now be completed with the help of the world’s fastest supercomputer, Fugaku. Before this breakthrough, CFD simulations were far too expensive and time-consuming to run. Now, however, engineers can use these high-detail simulations to explore new ideas, iterate their designs, and optimise next-gen aircraft and electric vehicle manufacturing.
Thanks to Hexagon, manufacturers can now analyse what they’re up against before starting their build process—with one-third the energy use of traditional simulations and a fraction of the cost. This is only the latest step in Hexagon’s mission to use design and engineering data to speed up smart manufacturing. As the company wrote: ‘The idea of putting data to work is part of Hexagon’s DNA’.
What Are CFD Simulations?
Simply put, they’re simulations so complex and powerful that engineers usually have to spend hours upon hours simplifying their designs. 90% of an engineer’s time can centre around this task—but not with Fugaku-powered simulations. Now, original designs can be fed into the simulation software, reaching a much closer approximation of reality.
With the ARM-powered Fugaku supercomputer, Hexagon’s Cradle CFD clients can now reduce simulation cost, conserve valuable energy, and integrate high-detail simulations into their daily operations. At a time when the automotive and aerospace industries are racing to bring safe and sustainable transport options to market, in fact, CFD simulations could be the key to success.
How Does CFD Change the Game?
As auto manufacturers transition to electric vehicles, they must understand how design adjustments will affect the vehicle in real-time. Instead of physically iterating their blueprints, they’d rather work it out in theory. With CFD, engineers can now pre-test critical safety, performance, and longevity features—for example, how aerodynamics will interact with energy efficiency, or how thermal management will operate under a range of parameters. Essentially, CFD simulations speed up the design process and cut down on costly mistakes.
Said Roger Assaker, President of Design & Engineering in Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence division: ‘Simulation holds the key to innovations in aerospace and eMobility. Advances such as the low-power Fugaku supercomputing architecture are one of the ways we can tap into these insights without costing the Earth, and I am delighted by what our Cradle CFD team and our partners have achieved’.
How Did Testing Unfold?
- Prototyped a typical family car. This is only possible with enhanced computing power. The car model consisted of 70 million elements using 960 cores and was simulated until it reached a steady-state using the RANS equation over 1000 cycles.
- Simulated transonic compressible fluid around an aeroplane. Made up of approximately 230 million elements, the simulation used 4,000 nodes using 192,000 computing cores and relied on 48,000 processes via Message Passing Interface (MPI).
Tomohiro Irie, Hexagon’s Director of R&D for Cradle CFD, commented on the recent progress: ‘I expect that these technical developments will contribute to making the power of Fugaku more accessible for general use, bringing huge freedom and improved insights to engineering teams solving tomorrow’s problems today’.
Overall, Hexagon intends to continue driving product innovation forward, with smart manufacturing that adapts to conditions in real-time, pursues perfect quality, and optimises designs for zero waste. And there’s little doubt about it. With 20,000 employees in 50 countries, coupled with Fugaku’s supercomputing capabilities, Hexagon is uniquely poised to succeed.