New ISO Robot Safety Standards Published!

August 30, 2011

by Jeff Fryman , Director, Standards Development, RIA

For several years now, I have been informing you of the progress in the revision of the International Standard for industrial robot safety, the ISO 10218 standards. I am pleased, actually very pleased to announce that the ISO 10218-1 standard for the robot, and the ISO 10218-2 standard for the robot systems and integration were both

Jeff Fryman, Director, Standards Developmentpublished effective 1 July 2011. This is indeed a milestone accomplishment. A very dedicated group of international experts, robot, engineering and safety, have been meeting regularly since 2001 to produce this revision of the old 1992 standard. Speaking of the ISO team, they have not quit work, but have moved on to new deliverables for the safety of industrial robots. I will be reporting on this work in the future.

What does the publication of new ISO standards mean for the ANSI/RIA R15.06? The R15.06 drafting committee has been working in step with the ISO team to provide comments and input to the ISO standard with the goal of adopting the international standard as the basis for the next revision of the American National Standard. This means the basic language; the basic technical requirements are now set for the revised R15.06. Since the ISO standard only looks forward from the date of publication, the issues to be resolved by the R15.06 drafting committee have to do with any guidance for existing robots and robot systems, particularly those that do not meet the technical requirements of the 1999 edition of the standard. The unique requirements for the United States, mostly directed to the end user, must be added, and the added annexes updated.

One World; One Standard
We are pleased to announce that the R15.06 team in the U.S. and the CSA Z434 team in Canada have reached agreement on publishing a combined standard for industrial robot safety which includes the full requirements of the ISO 10218-1, ISO 10218-2, R15.06 and Z434. This globally harmonized document resolves differences between requirements in the U.S., Canada and around the world. One document valid world-wide!

The new standard will be significantly more comprehensive than the 1999 edition, and will introduce some exciting new technical capabilities for robots and robot systems that did not exist or were not feasible when the 1999 edition was written. The document has been rewritten and reorganized, but all of the basic safety requirements from the R15.06 and Z434 you have worked with for years are now global requirements. Currently compliant installations remain compliant with no need to make changes until you want to take advantage of new features, modify or move an existing cell.

What Changed?
Everyone is anxious about change and wonders what the changes in the standard may be. If I had to pick one notable change, it is about risk assessment. The new standard requires a risk assessment be accomplished when designing and integrating new robot systems and assigns responsibilities for them. The R15.06 and Z434 will also include an update of the popular risk assessment methodology offered in the existing standards. The new standard includes a lot more detail on what is expected in a risk assessment and what considerations need to be included. This is a direct acknowledgement that it is not practical to offer prescribed safeguarding requirements for every possible robot system design in an industry standard. Every work cell is different, and the detail requirements of the cell have to be individually reviewed. Through a comprehensive risk assessment, the proper safeguarding requirements can be determined and implemented to assure personnel safety in the work place.

What’s new?
I will pick two significant items that I think will enhance worker productivity while still delivering a reliable level of safety for the system. One is called safety-rated soft axis and space limiting. This is the enabling technology for the other – collaborative robot operation. The safety-rated soft axis and space limiting allows positive control of the robot location and thus the safety for the worker. It allows areas in the robot restricted space to be designated inclusive or exclusive by limiting the motion of the robot. Previous case studies presented about robot systems using this technology have suggested floor space savings on the order of 30% and cost savings $125K per robot system.

Collaborative robot operation reintroduces the “man-in-the-loop” in the production cycle of the robot system operation. The 1999 standard eliminated a feature called continuous attended operation. It was considered unsafe with the level of safety technology and sensors of the day. The last ten-plus years have seen a dramatic increase in safety technology, machine control and now safety-rated software. I had the pleasure of assisting in demonstrating the collaborative robot operation concept at the RIA booth at the Automate 2011 show in Chicago last March. I hope that you had an opportunity to observe that. In addition to improving productivity, the collaborative operation can save costs for fixtures. This is all impressive considering the improved level of safety provided to the worker at the same time.

National Robot Safety Conference XXIIIWant to learn more? Please join us for our annual National Robot Safety Conferencethis in Knoxville, Tennessee, September 19-21, 2011. We have a complete program that highlights important features and requirements in the new standard presented by some of the key persons responsible for the new standard. More details on the conference, including sessions, tabletop trade fair, registration, hotel information and more, can be found at or call RIA at 734/994-6088.

I hope to see you in Knoxville! Until then, be safe.


Dead at 99, George Devol’s Legacy Lives on in Robotics Industry

August 24, 2011

By Brian Huse, Director, Marketing & PR, Robotic Industries Association

All of us in the robotics industry and in the world of manufacturing can celebrate the life of George C. Devol, who invented the first industrial robot (the Unimate) and has died at the age of 99. His legacy goes beyond robotics but he is known especially for his patent on “Universal Automation.”

To this day robotics is a driving force that can propel a child’s interest from kindergarten through college and into the working world where robots are deployed for an ever growing array of applications. George Devol nurtured his own interest in how things work to legendary status without ever acquiring a college degree, however, today many in the collegiate ranks are learning about advanced manufacturing thanks to Mr. Devol’s work.

Advanced manufacturing (which quite often includes robotics) is a worldwide phenomenon that is found in factories where the home language is Indo European (English, Spanish, French, Russian and others), Sino-Tibetan (Chinese and others), Semitic, Korean, Japanese and beyond. Many of the world’s people are employed in the business of robotics which as an industry is a mere 50 years old.

His story is elegantly told in the New York Times, as noticed by Don Vincent, Executive Vice President, Robotic Industries Association (retired). He asked that we at RIA share this article: “George C. Devol, Inventor of Robot Arm, Dies at 99.”

Make it In America – A Book You Should Read Now!

August 9, 2011

By Jeff Burnstein, President, RIA

I was talking to 2011 Engelberger Robotics Award winner Henrik Christensen the other day about our efforts in Washington when he suggested I read this book by Andrew Liveris, Chairman and CEO of Dow Chemical Company.

I recognized Liveris’ name because he is the co-chair of the new Advanced Manufacturing Partnership that the Obama administration recently created and plans to fund to the tune of $500 million. This was announced at the same time as the new National Robotics Initiative, and I remember wondering who Andrew Liveris was.

I’m wondering  no longer — the guy has great ideas on how to reinvent manufacturing in the  United States  First he lays out why manufacturing is so critical to our success as a nation, then he outlines what we need to do in order to revive it and why it has to be done now, before it’s too late.

As we watch the partisan political fighting that often seems to hold our government hostage, consider these insights from Liveris:  “…it’s a false choice to say you can be either pro-business or pro-government. The old ways of thinking don’t apply to the new global economy. Indeed, today more than ever before, being pro-government is a prerequisite for being pro-business. They must work in concert.” Then, later “We cannot afford to get stuck in the same tired old debate between pure free-market philosophy and state socialism – as if those are the only two economic models from which to choose.”

He compellingly outlines that it is global competition, not gains in productivity (in other words, don’t blame automation) for the manufacturing job losses the U.S. has suffered   He then asserts:  “We aren’t losing manufacturing jobs because we are getting better at this stuff. We are losing them because we aren’t competing for them, because around the globe, other countries have stepped up to attract companies to build facilities in their cities, while the United States has wrongfully assumed that its status as the world’s only superpower would somehow save the day. An Economic Policy Institute study concluded that as many as 1.78 million jobs lost since 1998 in manufacturing were due to the trade deficit – the direct result of competing against imports from other countries any suggestion otherwise is simply not tethered to reality.”

Finally, he lays out an ambitious agenda for short-term and long-term steps the U.S. can take to revive manufacturing. He outlines five key objectives: making it easier for businesses to keep or locate their operations in the U.S.; remake the manufacturing sector with a focus on advanced, high-value products; create an economy that can sustain itself, and can, in turn, produce long term job-creation and economic growth; prepare the next generation’s workforce for the changing economy; and improve America’ global competitiveness, both in the short and long term.

I urge you to read the book to find out what Liveris proposes to accomplish these objectives. He has the President’s ear, and you’re going to want to know what he’s whispering!