Self-awareness: The New Safety Feature for Robots


By Brian Huse, Director, Marketing & PR, Robotic Industries Association – sponsor of Automate 2011

A robot that is aware of its actions is one of the new technologies you will see at Automate 2011 at booth 1164 (Robots Standards Booth). When the robot in this booth moves it not only goes to a point in space as directed by its controller but it monitors trajectory. Variations between planned and actual paths can shut it down.

In this case we are talking about robot arms mounted in the traditional way. But that can be on a gantry, a rail or a pedestal. Industrial robots have gained a lot of mobility in the last few years, and because they are so dynamic it is important to protect workers with barriers or safe motion technology (even a “stationary” robot can range quite far in its work envelope).

Strong and fast, you don’t want to be in the same workspace as today’s robots unless you protect yourself through compliance with the ANSI/RIA national robot safety standard. Dubbed R15.06, this standard has been updated and now allows for safe motion technology that enables workers to teach a robot with hands-on guidance.

If you visit the Robot Standards Booth you’ll see that teaching the robot by hand is much easier than it sounds. You need only show it three points on a part and let the robot calculate the rest. In our example, the enabling technology is a scanner that maps the part and allows the robot to plan an exact path based on the map and the three points you teach it.

Many robots are big and the need for safeguarding is obvious. But what if it is a small, “human scale” robot. Something on a lab bench maybe. How dangerous can that be, right?

Okay, what if this hypothetical “little robot” is wielding a knife or laser cutter or is used to beam gamma rays. (People are inventing new uses for robots all the time!) It is not the robot that always represents an immediate threat – sometimes it is the application. A robot that knows when it is off course and stops is safer for the people around it whether it is carrying hundreds of kilos on an end-effector or microbes in a cleanroom.

Find out more about the advances in robots and human collaboration as well as the new safety standard that enables greater flexibility through safe motion technology. Robotic Industries Association invites you to visit its standards booth at Automate 2011 so you can stay at the forefront of innovation.

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