Lighting is no longer just a device to light up the night. As Steiner’s experienced lighting consultants and application engineers advise, it can increase productivity, improve a person’s mood and health, help monitor machinery, promote communication and more.
These concepts were clearly highlighted in a recent Banner Engineering newsletter, in which the company discusses “Four Ways Lighting Solutions Support Lean Manufacturing in the Pharmaceutical Industry.” The paper explores how the “right kind of industrial lighting can help increase efficiency and reduce material waste while ensuring product quality and compliance with FDA regulations.” In each case, the right lighting is available for purchase from Steiner Electric.
In its first example, Banner looks at how the uniform illumination of LED lights, as compared to the flicker of fluorescent bulbs caused by intensity changes, allows an inspector to detect minute particulates reliably and efficiency.
In example 2, pick-to-light sensors are used in a kitting assembly application. As the kit assembler takes a part in sequence a beam is broken. The controller then determines if the correct component was selected and if it was selected in the correct order.
Indicator lights can be used to streamline communication in a pharma factory. As described in example 3, they can be used to indicate environmental status such as temperature and humidity. Green indicates the room is within normal limits. Red means a potentially out-of-control situation. A more typical example would be when assistance is needed on a machine, perhaps one that is operating unattended. Green means the machine is performing with-in specification, yellow is a warning that it is approaching upper or lower control limits, and red indicates the machine is out of specification.
Lastly, Banner Engineering looks at how wirelessly connected lights enable overall equipment effectiveness. Tower lights equipped with wireless communication capabilities display a visual indication of an event for immediate action; plus, they can transmit wireless alerts to operators outside of the visual range.
For assistance with general lighting inquiries or more specific project needs please contact us or call 1-800-STEINER (783-4673) to speak with an experienced Steiner lighting application engineer.
With the increasing use of automation, requirements for protecting machinery and operators have evolved and become more complex. The improper use of machines can lead to safety hazards when the correct operating protocols are not followed. Thankfully, advancements in technology have allowed for integration of protection devices into the work process, helping to reduce safety risks and improving productivity.
In this blog we’ll define machine safety and take a look at the 5-Step Process to Safety, as well as look at ways of assessing risk, which was originally presented by Fortress Interlocks at Steiner’s 2016 Automation Technology Summer Symposium.
Defining Safety and Assessing Risk
Safety is the freedom from unacceptable risk as defined in IEC 62061 with respect to machinery operation. This provides a definition of safety in terms of risk, and makes clear the importance of assessing risk to achieve safety. [i]
Since the key term in the definition is “unacceptable risk”, a value on a range that determines the threshold between acceptable and unacceptable needs to be established. Various standards can provide guidance on how to determine when acceptable risk has been achieved. Keep in mind that acceptable risk may differ between organizations, so this value is not purely defined in any standard or methodology. The main takeaway is a threshold should be identified prior to starting a risk assessment.
We can also define risk in terms of the following equation.
The severity of possible damage + the probability that it will occur = risk in terms of the respective hazard.
To measure the probability, we would need to look at a few factors:
frequency and duration of exposure to the hazard
available options for avoiding the hazard
the probability of an event that can cause the damage to occur
Breaking Down the 5-Step Process to Safety
Step 1: Risk or Hazard Assessment – This initial step requires the limits of machinery to be determined. Next, the hazards are to be identified, followed by estimating and evaluating the risk. Once all these items have been established, if the risk has been adequately reduced, the first step is considered complete.
Step 2: Safety System Functional Requirements – After assessing the risks, the next step identifies how the machine is supposed to operate in each mode of operation for each person that uses the machine. It identifies special modes such as safe-speed, zone control, etc. In other words, the second step is to confirm that the machines are doing what they are supposed to be doing.
Step 3: Safety System Design and Verification – Evaluate the risks and select control measures for the machine. For instance, if the overall system stopping performance is greater than the access time, a prevention device such as an interlocking guard with guard locking can be added. When applied, opening of the guard shall be prevented unless all hazardous functions covered by the guard have stopped. The goal is to protect both the process and to protect people.
Step 4: Safety System Installation and Validation – Document all stages, design a validation plan, test the installation safety functions and record the results and issue documentation.
Step 5: Maintain and Improve Safety System – A study by the HSE found that more than 50% of all accidents occur during maintenance and machine modification, so the safety cycle process must be used during machine upgrades.
The 5-Step Process to Safety provides a framework for identifying potential machine operating risks and mitigating the occurrence of safety issues through preventative measures or other actions. The process is continuous as risk findings must be regularly reviewed. Once an action is taken to remedy an identified risk, that action must be monitored to confirm the potential risk remains at an acceptable level and no other issues have crept into the process that may have raised the risk level.
For more information on automation and machine safety and to speak with one of our application engineers please call 1-800-STEINER (783-4637).
[i] “Why Do We Need Safety?” Henry Toal.: Fortress Interlocks, 2016. PPT.
Fuses and Circuit Breakers both serve the same purpose – which is to protect electrical circuits by preventing overloads that can cause fires. They both interrupt the flow of electricity, but in very different ways from each other. While a fuse is made of a piece of metal that melts when overheated, circuit breakers on the other hand, have internal switch mechanisms that can be tripped by an unsafe surge of electricity.
Fuses can be quicker for interrupting the flow of power, but when they melt they must be replaced; circuit breakers on the other hand just need to be reset. When comparing the two, we’ll take a look at some of the major advantages and disadvantages between fuses and circuit breakers to distinguish between them.
Fuses come in different types – for both residential and commercial use. The most common type is made from a metal wire or a filament that is enclosed in a glass or ceramic and metal casing. In residential homes, the fuse is usually plugged into a central fuse box, where the building’s wiring passes through. When electricity flows, the fuse will permit the power to pass unobstructed across the filament between circuits. If overloads occur, the filament melts and stops the flow of electricity.
It will take some time for the filament to melt, and therefore any power surge is stopped. When a fuse is blown, it is to be discarded and replaced with a new fuse. There are different voltage and ratings that are available which handle different capacities of electricity. The best fuse for a circuit is usually one that is rated for slightly higher than normal operating current.
Circuit Breakers have two different ways of working – the first is through the use of an electromagnet and the other is through the use of a bi-metal strip. In both instances, when turned on, the breaker allows electrical current to pass from a bottom to an upper terminal across the strip. Once the current reaches any unsafe levels, the magnetic force of the solenoid or strip becomes strong enough to throw a metal lever in the switch mechanism, breaking the current. The other option that can happen is that the metal strip can bend, throwing the switch and breaking the connection.
In order to reset the flow of electricity, the switch can just be turned back on. This reconnects the circuit. Circuit breakers in many cases are found in a cabinet of individual switches known as the breaker box. This simple switch action allows for an easy turn-off for individual circuits in a house when needed for working on a wiring in the location.
Circuit breakers have other applications, such as using for ground fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI. The function of this is to prevent electric shock, rather than just overheating. It breaks the circuit in an outlet if the current gets unbalanced. It can be reset by the touch of a button, and is generally useful in kitchens or bathrooms, where electrocution is a risk from the use of electrical appliances near water sources such as sinks or faucets.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Fuses are more inexpensive, available at nearly any hardware store. They react quickly to overloading, offering more protection to sensitive electronic devices. The only problem in this is that if the circuit is prone to surges that regularly cause fuses to blow, then the quick reaction to the overloading can be a disadvantage.
When fuses are blown, they need to be replaced. This can be difficult, especially in a dark room, or if the replacement fuse is not available at the time of need. In many instances, too, people find themselves replacing a fuse with the replacement fuses that actually has a higher voltage or current rating that is too high for the application or need – which can then cause an overheated circuit.
Fuses are generally speaking, easy to see which switch has been tripped, and which would need to be reset. The average homeowner would find it safe since there is no doubt about choosing the right fuse rating and all of the electrical connections are in the breaker box.
The disadvantage to using a circuit breaker is that it can be more expensive to install, repair and replace. Circuit breakers won’t react as quickly as a fuse in power surges. This means it would be possible that electronics connected to the circuit could be damaged by energy that is just let through. It can be more sensitive to vibration and movement, which may allow for a switch to trip for reasons that are unrelated to electricity overloads.
Circuit breakers and fuses are not interchangeable for all power applications. For instance, a fuse should not be used in situations that require a GFCI. Electricians are best qualified to make decisions on whether a fuse or circuit breaker system is better for any particular instance or scenario or electrical installation. If you have any questions about a particular project and would like to know more, you can talk to an accomplished professional at 1-800-STEINER (783-4637).
Why do we need Safety Standards? For years, standards and safety have been developed and adjusted as time went on. Everyone at some point is careless, complacent, overconfident, distracted or fatigued. We sometimes take risks or misunderstand things. Because all of these human traits are ingrained in all of us, we need to make sure machines are safe and ready for use – which means we also need to consider processes which govern how we utilize machines in order to prevent accidents and injury.[i]
With the increasing use of automation, the requirements governing protection of machinery have changed and evolved. Technology advancements have allowed for the integration of protection devices into the work process, thus improving safety and productivity.
Safety is a basic need – the objective for safety equipment and safety standards is to provide the machine operator, personnel and others a safe environment when working with machinery. Managers are responsible for the safety of their employees. Most accidents are due to human error, which is why safety procedures need to start at the executive level and be adopted throughout the entire organization.[i]
In this article we’ll cover safety functions of Pneumatic technology, as covered by ASCO at Steiner’s 2016 Automation Technology Summer Symposium.
The first steps are taken by the machine operator and OEM to analyze the possible risks that are associated with the design of a machine. The risk assessment and analysis gives information that is required for the risk evaluation. This allows the operator or OEM to determine ultimately whether or not a risk reduction is required.[ii]
The process of risk reduction allows for the OEM to eliminate the potential risk that is found in the assessment. If the areas of risk cannot be eliminated, they are to be addressed with safety-related components.
A risk graph provides guidance when looking at the safety risk and safety function. The graph should be considered for each Safety Function identified as part of the risk assessment and risk reduction process.
Safety System Architectures and Categories
There are three architectures of elements – The Input Element, the Logic element and the Output element. The Input element includes Gate Switches and Light Curtains; the Logic element includes Safety PLC and Safety Relays and the Output element includes valves and motors.[ii]
There are four categories – Category 1, Category 2, Category 3 and Category 4. Category 1 systems rely on reliability data of components or well-tried components. With Category 1 there is no diagnostic monitoring.
Category 2 systems rely on Category 1 data plus feedback monitoring and periodic testing of safety functions. Category 3 systems rely on Category 2 data plus redundancy. In Category 3 safety systems, most faults are detected. Category 4 systems rely on Category 3 data plus greater diagnostic monitoring – in which all faults are detected.[ii]
Methods of Pneumatic Implementation
There are three main methods of satisfying a pneumatic Safety Function, including: Discrete components, Point-of-use “Dump” style units, and Manifolds with integrated Safety Functionality.[ii]
Discrete components have individual valves and pressure switches. Switches are limited to a single motion and can be used for multiple motion elements or actuators. These discrete components can be adapted to various pneumatic safety functions. Discrete pneumatic components are best used on single axis or individual motion elements in order to satisfy a pneumatic safety function. The pneumatic components are considered Safety Related Parts of a Control System.
Point of use “Dump” style units are individual assemblies that are made of redundant units to provide safe release of energy in the form of air. These are best used on Lock-Out Tag-Out (LOTO) applications. These type of units can be used to release or “Dump” the pneumatic energy to a gated machine in most instances.[ii]
Finally, manifolds with integrated safety functionality are manifolds that have the ability to satisfy many pneumatic safety functions while providing that function for multiple motion elements, or actuators. These Manifolds are best applied for the following:
Multiple axis of motion (actuators)
Requires Safe and Non-Safe Valves or motion
Requires additional pneumatic features such as regulation, speed control or circuit manipulation
Requires different safety functions on the same manifold
Requires a Fieldbus interface
Safety functions are defined by the Risk Assessment or Reduction Process.
Machine Safety is a systematic approach
A Pneumatic safety function doesn’t always need to trap energy – there is a safe stopping of motion and a safe return to the home position
Indirect monitoring or pressure sensing, can provide the highest level of direct current
Protective devices should be integrated into the control system. Control systems are made of input elements, logic units and power control elements in addition to the actuator or work element. Safety-related parts of the control system should safely perform normal functions. Because of this, special requirements are placed on their reliability and resistance to failures. Safety standards and devices allow for an increase in the attempt to prevent injury. Because all humans can be careless, forgetful or distracted, it is important to implement and follow standards and procedures.
For more information on automation safety and to speak with one of our application engineers please call 1-800-STEINER (783-4637).
[i]Guidelines for Safe Machinery – Six Steps to a Safe Machine. N.p.: SICK Sensor Intelligence, n.d. PDF.
[ii]Machine Safety and the Integration of Pneumatic Technology. N.p.: ASCO Emerson, 2016. PPT.
Automation software is the brain behind the brawn of today’s integrated manufacturing operations. Powerful robotic arms and speeding conveyor belts tend to get most of the attention, yet the ones and zeroes of computerized automation programming are what makes the efficiency of modern industrialization possible. On the other hand, good old fashioned human intelligence is sometimes the best answer to solving manufacturing challenges. Often, it’s a combination of both that’s best, a mix of automated and manual operations.
How do contemporary captains of industry choose the ideal strategy for their industrial niche?
The primary question for anyone who wants to explore integrated industrial automation is: Why?
What are the goals you hope to achieve through integrated manufacturing? The answers should be clear, as the initial investment is considerable. However, with the right strategy and the right product, the long term benefits are undeniable. That’s because automation can provide significant cost reductions that compound over time, offering permanent returns on the initial investment. Labor costs are the most obvious reductions most people notice when considering automation. Direct labor costs such as wages, health insurance, and holiday pay are expenses that automation can negate. Not as obvious, however, are the indirect labor costs that are avoided, such as reduced part waste due to operator error, improved product quality thanks to automation accuracy, and improved manufacturing time as shift changes, break times, and training sessions are virtually eliminated.
Other than the occasional need for mechanical and software engineers to troubleshoot a rare problem, automated systems operate tirelessly year after year once they are up and running.
Besides reduced costs, there are other benefits of automation to consider. For example, inventory stores can usually be significantly reduced because the manufacturing process flows easily from one station to another, rather than accumulating parts in batches, only to sit idle as they wait for the next operation. Additionally, quality can be inspected in an ongoing manner. Piece part rejects are eliminated because the automation software is able to detect if any individual part fails to meet the necessary standards to continue along the manufacturing chain. The subjective judgment of human operators is avoided in favor of the precision that automation provides. Finally, all of this information can be accumulated by the automation software for later analysis.
Every integrated industrial automation system should include ongoing support and analysis.
Automation systems are completely dependent upon sensor technology to function. In order to achieve the benefits of an automation system, such as resource conservation and predictable quality, sensors provide measurement signals that can be read by people and instruments. Because of their integrated nature, automation and sensor technologies have evolved together over time. Continue reading “Precision in Automation”
Today’s smart phones make Star Trek’s communicators seem unimaginative. Of course, the opposite is true. Imagination is at the heart of the inspired technology we enjoy. While Kirk’s flip-phone may have already gone out of style, we shouldn’t get cocky. Spock’s tricorder still looks like magic to us today, the way flip-phones and automatic doors once did.
Consider for a moment the beauty of fluid automation. Don’t laugh! While we can’t pause to enjoy every flower, it is still wise to enjoy the occasional sample. That’s because the experience is a treat for the mind, an invitation to cultivate a sense of wonder.
Through the practice of “lean manufacturing” techniques, today’s manufacturers are realizing increased value in their businesses due to reduced material and labor costs. Lean manufacturing techniques are geared toward increasing operational efficiencies, primarily through the reduction of waste, and are generally most effective when implemented before a plant has ever broken ground. Continue reading “Factory Efficiency and Innovation”