Jun 18, 2015 — Thanks to the RoboSAFE functions, Comau robots can interact with humans in a safer and direct way, without changing their operating performances

June 2015

Thanks to the RoboSAFE functions, Comau robots can interact with humans in a safer and direct way, without changing their operating performances.
The future of industrial robots is increasingly closer to mankind. This vision is supported by fast technological advances achieved through ‘safe’ applications, where the collaboration between humans and machines is made safer and easier, even during complex and burdensome production processes.This goal is also shared by the Comau Robotics division that, in the recent years, has been producing even more collaborative and human-friendly articulated robots.
Thanks to specific software and hardware components designed in collaboration with partner companies such as Heidenhain and B&R, Comau now offers its robots in a ‘safe’ version. The RoboSAFE functions adopted by Comau SMART robots allow companies to limit the speed and action areas inside the robotic cell, ensuring that the machine cannot impede the movements of the operators or be dangerous for them.

When humans work with robot

The RoboSAFE functions developed by Comau operate through the use of dynamic parameters which can be turned on or off in a flexible way. Security sensors detect the human presence in the cell and, when necessary, they slow down the robot movements or prevent it to enter into a given area without ever interrupting the production cycle. This allows the operators to enter the working area of the robot inside the cell safely and without operational pauses. This is an extremely important feature because, even in industrial applications where automation is particularly extensive, it is never possible to do completely without the contribution of humans.
RoboSAFE means that the robot can adapt to the presence of the operators on the line without being dangerous for their work and keeping the same productive efficiency - from the programming phase of the robot to the start of a production cycle, until service operations or technical interventions. However, these are not the only advantages of RoboSAFE. Controlling the speed of the robot avoids risky interactions between human and machine, and reducing its stopping space significantly increases the reaction time of the operator.

Safe even in 3D

The recent functional advances, thanks to which Comau robots can operate in the ‘safe’ mode, enable the operators to control the movements even inside the Cartesian space. The robotic cell is virtually divided in zones with different degrees of criticality, in which the robot can behave differently depending on the type of violation committed by the operator.
The development of the RoboSAFE functions has resulted in a safe limitation of portions of 3D space. If, for example, the operator accesses working areas which are considered non-critical, what is programmed is not the stopping of the machine, but only a reduction of its speed. The robot can then carry out its production cycle in an area of the cell, while the operator can access another one to take care of maintenance or solve technical problems.
The safe limitation of the Cartesian space provided by RoboSAFE acts through three different operating modes: the robot can be limited inside a specific area, it can be programmed not to invade an area defined as ‘forbidden’, or it can be enabled to generate a safe warning alert when the TCP is inside the workspace.Specific control parameters also allow a safe limitation of the movements of tools which may be used by the robot during the application. In addition, they can predict the stopping distance in advance with respect to the limit. This allows operators to simplify the risk analysis, which is an important part of the project for the safety of an automated cell.

A simpler factory

Optimizing the layouts of industrial plants by reducing their operational footprint results in more efficient work and sustainability for the companies. In this sense, the application of the RoboSAFE functions allows a rationalization of the work area occupied by the robot. This means that the robotic cell does not necessarily need to be protected by a cage as large as the entire operational area of the robot, and it can occupy a more compact space.
The use of Comau SMART robots in the ‘safe’ mode can efficiently solve the problems caused by the human-machine interaction that occurs during industrial applications. This enables the removal of physical barriers that were previously placed in the cell, thus saving space in the plants thanks to a more rationalized layout. This represents a very important added value for companies, which can now work in smaller spaces in complete safety.

Comau and the collaborative robot of the future

Comau’s collaborative robots require the use of specific management tools and controllers. In particular, a programming station and a control unit capable of interfacing with the machine in the ‘safe’ applications.There are no programming differences between a work cycle with a robot in the ‘safe’ version and a normal one. What changes is the presence of specific interfaces for the security parameters in the software of the TP5 and C5G, which can be activated and managed by the operator and enabled via computer.
Today, all the new Comau robots - including the new compact Racer 7-1,4 and Racer 999 - are designed to operate in the safety mode. In addition, there are other models with various payloads which will be redesigned.
Compared to what happened in the past, the RoboSAFE functions allow humans to be even closer to the machine during industrial processes. Yet Comau continues to invest in research to ensure that its robots can become even more collaborative and safe. In the future, for example, Comau would like to be able to control not only the speed and the workspace of the robot, but also its strength. The company also envisions a time in which it is possible to manage manage totally shared human-machine workspaces, where the machine can interact adapting autonomously depending on the proximity of the operators.

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