Factory Automation Safety

With more and more automated assembly lines being constructed and older lines being back-fit for automation, the safety of the personnel interacting with the machinery has to be considered. Protecting operators from the hazards of machines that are constantly moving and, without proper sensors, oblivious to the actions of humans around them doesn’t have to cost a lot. However, the equipment required needs to be highly reliable.

Safety light curtains are available in different resolutions to be able for detect specific sizes of objects. (Image source: Omron Automation & Safety)

Here’s where LEDs come in. They are low cost and, when combined with control electronics that are easily programmable, can be used to create light curtains that can detect inadvertent operator action that could jeopardize their safety. In addition, these safety light curtains are capable of being configured to support a wide variety of machinery and, when necessary, be efficiently reconfigured.

Once any object interrupts the light beams in a light curtain, control circuitry could instantly shut down machinery which could potentially lead to serious harm to operators and/or damage to expensive equipment.

Omron Automation & Safety has a full range of models, specifically the F3SG range, that can be configured to suit many safety applications. There is also the SF4B Series from Panasonic Industrial Automation Sales. Additionally, there is a relatively new light curtain supplier at Digi-Key, namely SICK, that has two series of light curtains currently available the deTec4 Core Series and the C4000 Select Series. The deTec4 Core series offers protective heights from 300 mm to 900 mm while the C4000 Select Series offers protective heights from 600 mm to 1800 mm.

Furthermore, for those of you that are interested, Digi-Key has a couple of articles that discuss light curtains in greater detail, “Making Light Work of Machine Safety” and “Danger – Keep Out; Safety-Rated Sensors for Industrial Guarding”.

With the rise of industrial automation, special care must be taken to ensure the safety of any personnel that may be in the area. To this end, light curtains can be a reliable component of safety of any automated factory.

About this author

Image of Rich Miron, Digi-Key Electronics

Rich Miron, Sr. Technical Content Developer at Digi-Key Electronics, has been in the Technical Content group since 2007 with primary responsibility for writing and editing articles, blogs and Product Training Modules. Prior to Digi-Key, he tested and qualified instrumentation and control systems for nuclear submarines. Rich holds a degree in electrical and electronics engineering from North Dakota State University in Fargo, ND.

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