Robot Safety Standards for Industrial Mobile Robots

industrial mobile robotsMobile robots are being adopted at breakneck speed, especially in the logistics industry, as their performance and ability to deliver ROI improve. Large companies with massive distribution networks, such as Procter & Gamble, have been leading the way in terms of mobile robot adoption.

Three types of mobile robots have proved the most effective for these big companies: large mobile platforms with high-payload capacities, smaller self-guided vehicles, and mobile manipulators (mobile robots with a robotic arm).

The rise of mobile robots, and their simultaneous convergence with industrial robot technology, has left a huge gap in robot safety standards. The need for industry standards for safe operation of mobile robots is only growing as they continue to be adopted at faster rates.

What Robot Safety Standards Currently Exist for Industrial Mobile Robots?

The closest guide for safe operation of mobile robots is the ANSI/ITSDF B56.5-2012 Safety Standard for Driverless, Automatic Guided Industrial Vehicles and Automated Functions of Manned Industrial Vehicles. The only other relevant safety standard is the ANSI/RIA R15.06-2012 Industrial Robots and Robot Systems – Safety Requirements.

While both safety standards are important, there are gaps that fail to cover some of the latest technology. As mobile robots become more autonomous, correct their path while in motion, and gain new features and functions such as robotic arms, new safety standards are required to ensure the wellbeing of other laborers.

What Robot Safety Standards are Being Developed?

The Robotic Industries Association (RIA), along with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and a number of key industry representatives, have teamed up to develop safety standards for industrial mobile robots.

The first two parts of the safety standards, outlining guidelines for robot manufacturers and system integrators, is expected to be drafted by the end of 2017, and the final standards document is expected to be published in early 2019.

As far as safety standards writing goes, that timeline is extremely fast and reflects not only the urgent need for safety standards but the expectation that industrial mobile robots will continue to be implemented at a rapid rate.

The safety committees have a lot of important questions to answer in a small period of time, with major safety consequences on the line. Despite this daunting challenge, those involved in the process believe they will be able to finish a comprehensive set of guidelines on time.