SICK Automation supplied and installed remote safety laser scanners and controller at Swedish robot company OpiFlex. The order and installation took place subsequent to a collaborative effort between SICK and OpiFlex in realising a safety solution for movable robots without safety fences. The safety laser scanners and controller provide the required communication to slow robot functionality, or even stop them, when a person approaches a pre-determined distance – the safety zone.
In Industry 4.0 production facilities humans and robots are brought into closer proximity than before. Safety fences are disappearing and robots which can be moved to any location are required in order to implement flexible, safe automation solutions. To this end, OpiFlex developed a patented fenceless safety solution that makes industrial robots mobile. To provide the required safety measures for people working in a mobile robotic environment, safety devices from SICK were used.
SICK recommended its Flexi Soft safety controller which, due to its modular hardware platform, provides tailored, efficient solutions for a multitude of safety applications; and its S300 Mini Remote, which is ideal for service robots and automated guided vehicles.
Robot functionality with SICK safety equipment
Two of SICK’s S300 Mini Remote safety laser scanners are now permanently mounted on the mobile robot cell. They detect people when they are near the station at the respective application sites. If a person approaches the robot, the safety laser scanner sends a signal to the Flexi Soft safety controller and the robot reduces its speed. It stops operating completely if a person enters the safety zone. As the robot does not always have to be stopped, productivity is increased. The safety controller also monitors the robot gripper and stops the robot as soon as a situation occurs in which the robot could lose parts and thus endanger the surroundings.
In addition to providing safe functionality, the safety solution also checks whether the mobile robot cell is firmly anchored in the respective docking station subsequent to moving it to another location. “Our solution is innovative because it is very easy to integrate,” says Ake Tornros, Product Manager Safety Systems, SICK Sweden. “Everything is included. Once the robot is set it in the right place the safety functionality is immediate.”
“Over the course of a few workshops, SICK helped us to identify potential risks,” explains Frisk. The support provided by SICK included the risk assessment, comprehensive advice, and support in creating a safety concept for the mobile robot cell, so that in the end they were able to implement the right solution for OpiFlex. “It was a very exciting project for us. From the initial risk assessment to the hardware and software concept, we supported the customer throughout the entire process,” Tornros adds.
OpiFlex has won several awards for its innovations, including being named as a finalist for the IERA Award, one of the most important awards in robotics. “As we are a small, innovative company, SICK played a big part in helping us to achieve our goals,” says Frisk. “I am very proud to have teamed up with SICK for support to design this flexible and mobile robot solution, which will help small and medium-sized companies in particular to automate smaller production series.”
The aim of OpiFlex is to drive the third robot revolution “flexible robots”, with its patented fenceless solution, patented easy robot programming, and patented docking solutions. This solution is very flexible and cost-efficient compared to traditional robot cells – and it is powered by SICK products.