Safety retrofitting: Virtual planning in 3D, implementation in reality
Providing safe work equipment, for example machines, is the responsibility of the operator. Improving the safety technology on older machines can be used not only to protect employees but also to improve the productivity of the machine. Does an existing machine still meet all safety requirements? Have past modifications to the machine unintentionally and unknowingly compromised its safety? And how can retrofitting the state-of-the-art safety technology even be accomplished when, as is often the case for older machines, the design drawings and CAD files are no longer available? The solution from SICK: digitization of the machine as a 3D model, virtual conception and design of the safety technology, and joint review and approval of the proposed design by means of a virtual machine safe-guarding evaluation.
Creating a 3D model of a machine for a safety-related modification project is still a completely new approach in the market. But totally logical in this age of digitization, since it allows a retrofit according to the principle: what you see is what you get. The machine is measured with a laser and digitized as a 3D model with millimeter accuracy. Safety components, already available in CAD data form, are designed directly into the digitized machine. Operating sequences and production processes incorporating the selected safety measures can be fine-tuned in the 3D model. This enables particular details or restrictions to be identified early, and eliminates any surprises during the modification work and recommissioning. “That won't work” or “That’s not what we had in mind” are a thing of the past. This alone is revolutionary. Through better coordination upfront, the machine operator and SICK can optimize and efficiently schedule their resources during modification projects.
A safety retrofit can (still) require considerable effort
Modification measures on existing machines usually follow one of two typical scenarios: in one case design drawings or CAD data are available, in the other they are not. Furthermore, many operators have very little or no know-how when it comes to planning, managing and implementing safety measures. Having the necessary knowledge of the relevant and latest guidelines and standards is also a challenge that should not be underestimated. There is where SICK can help – as an experienced supplier of safety retrofitting and modernization services. With single source solutions and a comprehensive product portfolio. And with a high level of application expertise and knowledge of the currently applicable standards. Operators therefore receive not only improved safety technology but also suitable protection against liability.
When the need for a safety upgrade for a machine is identified, to ensure the safety of the machine and to avoid work accidents the operator should not delay with the implementation of that upgrade. If drawings or CAD data are available, planning of the modification measures can commence immediately with the help of the existing measurements. There are still numerous impediments on both sides, however, that could make a quick implementation difficult. This includes time-consuming and costly on-site meetings as well as large distances and time differences in the case of global projects. The complicated and timely identification and clarification of any misunderstandings regarding safety- or operation-related technical issues, or difficulties in gaining acceptance for the implemented measures are further difficulties on the path to obtaining a safe piece of equipment. Existing machines for which no drawings or CAD data are available have – in the past at least – required the time-consuming collection of design details on-site before specific risk-reduction measures could be considered. This includes, in particular, manual measurement and photographic documentation of the machine as well as the environment in which it is installed. If no wiring diagrams exist, the current status of the complete electrical system needs to be determined. This applies also to post-commissioning modifications that have been inadequately documented, either on paper or electronically.
Goodbye expense – thanks to 3D scan and design from SICK
With the 3D scan concept from SICK as a turn-key solution, it is now possible to significantly reduce the cost of retrofitting a machine. It is simply digitized and modeled in 3D. Instead of spending hours or days determining the layout and dimensions of the machine, a virtual representation of the actual machine can now be created in just one morning. A measuring laser scanner first captures images of the machine in the production hall from an arbitrary number of positions. The digital measurement data are assembly by the scanner software in just a few seconds into a millimeter accurate, color 3D model of the machine. Formatted as an AutoCAD file, the data can be used immediately in the 3D CAD software for virtual planning of the safety measures. The customer very quickly obtains a clear impression of what the machine will look like. He can also directly incorporate any specific requirements of his own.
Virtual testing of the safety technology
Using virtual reality goggles, it is then possible for people to inspect the machine. This becomes particularly exciting once the machine in the model has been equipped with the new safety technology. All products in the SICK portfolio as well as a large number of physical guards have been stored as 3D models. They can be virtually installed in the machine in the required design, configuration or dimensions via drag and drop. The warning and protective fields of safety laser scanners can also be visualized graphically. The same applies to the height and location of safety fences, or the ideal arrangement of gates in the fence or at access points to the machine. Furthermore, it is possible develop and compare alternate safety concepts for the machine. “Which safety design has what effect on the machine footprint?”, “Which safety measures also optimize the ergonomics of operation or specific machine processes?” – machine operators, production managers, safety specialists, and integrators receive reliable answers to these and other questions. At the latest once they put on the VR goggles and inspect the machine in 3D themselves. The machine can then be experienced with the proposed safety solution. This in turn makes it possible to check the choice, location or function of the as-yet virtually selected safety technology. Any remaining safety gaps such as shadowed areas in scanner fields or access areas behind the machine can be identified in a timely manner. These can be eliminated in the 3D model by modifying or adding suitable safety measures. Once the safety concept – which is manufacturer-neutral by the way – has been approved, a parts list matching the 3D model of the machine can be created for the purposes of purchasing the required hardware.
Efficiency benchmark for safe machine construction
The innovative methodology of 3D scanning eliminates virtually all of the previously described impediments for an efficient safety retrofit of existing machines. The laser measurement greatly simplifies the collection and processing of machine data. As a result, on-site inspections become significantly shorter and less often necessary. Large distances and time differences no longer present a problem because the proposed solution can be discussed and agreed on based on the 3D model in a phone conference over the Internet anywhere and at any time of day. Any misconceptions or incorrect interpretations of safety- or operation-related aspects can to a large extent be resolved on the digitized machine. They then do not need to be solved later during integration and commissioning through time-consuming and unplanned modifications on-site. All this substantially shortens the duration of the retrofitting project. Furthermore, all persons involved in the project are familiarized with the modified machine in the virtual machine safeguarding evaluation. For operators in particular, this increases the acceptance of the modification measures and therefore minimizes the risk of manipulation of the safety technology.
With all these advantages that the digitization of a machine as a 3D model provides, SICK is setting a new benchmark in the area of safety retrofitting. Added to this, the operator commissioning the work has only one contact person throughout the entire project – the person from SICK. At the same time, a worldwide network of more than 150 safety application specialists ensure that the latest technologies, products, solutions and services as well as expertise and application know-how are available globally.