Motion Control Systems Safety Methods

motion control safetySafety in motion control is often considered a necessary productivity-killer. Something that needs to be done but should be done in a way that impacts operations as little as possible. This is not the case in today’s manufacturing environment.

New technology and new engineering concepts are finding ways to use manufacturing safety as a tool to boost productivity. Specifically, there are two types of safety methods being implemented by manufacturers that have shown promise as roadmaps for safe, efficient motion control.

Internal and External Safety Methods

In today’s motion control applications, safety features are implemented in two different ways. The safety method a company chooses has significant implications on productivity as well as motion control design.

Internal safety methods involve motion control systems with safety mechanisms integrated into the automation device. The sensor and feedback systems are built into the motion control device by the supplier. These are typically used in material handling and packaging applications, as well as metalworking machines.

External safety methods are when the safety mechanism, often an encoder or other feedback system, is purchased and implemented separately from the motion control device. This method is typically deployed in autonomous transport systems, machine tools and servo presses, and retrofit projects.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Internal and External Safety Methods

Internal safety methods are beneficial because everything you need comes in one system from one manufacturer. It’s easy to use, there’s little room for user error, and manufacturers understand their own equipment better than anyone, so they are best positioned to design safety features for motion control devices.

The major downside of internal safety methods is that the predesigned safety mechanisms may not fit your budget or application needs for productivity.

External safety methods, on the other hand, provide great flexibility in potential safety solutions. A safety mechanism separate from the motion control device allows room for scalability, but also allows for future retrofitting of equipment, which maximizes ongoing investment in automation.

The disadvantage of external safety methods is the time required to set up an external safety mechanism, as well as continued maintenance and repair of that system to keep safety at peak levels.

Safety in motion control is important. While it must be addressed properly, it doesn’t have to be a drag on productivity levels. When you incorporate either internal or external safety methods, you position your company for success.