Wireless Technology – Changing the Face of Safety Applications
Over the past decade wireless technology has increasingly been used in machine safety applications. Today, wireless solutions adhere to stringent safety standards, and new technologies have overcome challenges that have hindered adoption in the past. Together with ensuring operator safety, wireless remote control systems create significant competitive advantage through increased mobility, reduced installation cost and time, and benefits of preventive maintenance. In a new white paper, Schneider Electric considers the impact of wireless technology in safety applications.
The primary purpose of machine safety components and solutions is to protect the workforce that closely interacts with machinery. Areas and processes that represent a hazard to machine operators and engineers need to be safeguarded. In the past this was largely done using guarding, which physically stopped anyone from getting close to the hazard. Later, electronic safety components like safety light curtains or opto-electronic devices to detect the operator’s presence started to be used for certain safety applications. This reduced the need for physical guards. In addition to safety, these electronic components also provided other benefits (such as reducing installation time while increasing operator mobility). Such technologies inspired the train of thought that a safe machine or process could be leveraged to increase productivity and operator efficiency.
The latest stage of that evolution is the new generation of wireless remote control systems now available in the marketplace. These new solutions introduce the notion of mobility and they offer higher levels of flexibility and safety for plant floor operators. The paper explores how modern wireless implementations can benefit user safety and boost productivity. The benefits of wireless technology in safety applications are numerous. Whilst improving safety of operators, there are significant advantages in terms of efficiency, cost, installation time and diagnostics. For these reasons, machine builders and end users are accelerating their use of wireless technologies in order to enhance their competitiveness. Areas considered include:
– Operator proximity and mobility
– Installation & maintenance
– Challenges and Solutions
– Radio Transmissions
– Functional Safety
– Requirements of hoists and cranes
– Future Compliance
In the realm of machine safety applications, wireless technology is beginning to emerge as a core technology. Limitations of the past have been overcome and numerous advantages are now available to both end users and OEMs.
The use of wireless remote control systems in critical safety applications, which integrate emergency stop functionality, will increase in applications where operator mobility is beneficial to both safety and productivity.
Safety must remain the primary reason for adopting wireless remote control systems.
However, OEMs and end users should also consider factors such as reduced installation time and costs, improved operator mobility, and increased insight as to machine or process performance (preventive maintenance). Combined, these factors offer significant competitive advantage over a wired solution.
The challenges that have historically inhibited adoption of wireless technology have been addressed, and assurance can be given as to reliability of solutions, security of networks and running time of the remote control device itself (in-line with relevant standards). With upcoming legislation aiming to further clarify different levels of safety stop, and Schneider Electric already conforming, the benefits of wireless safety continue to grow, signalling the end of wired control in applications where safety and mobility go hand in hand.
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