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Safety network `war` will fuel 40% growth rates

24 March, 2009

Safety networks are emerging as the next battleground in the automation network wars, says the market analyst, ARC. This competition will fuel a growth in the global market for factory automation safety networks that will average 39.3% a year in the five years to 2013. In 2008, the market totalled less than 700,000 nodes but, by 2012, the figure will be more than 3.6 million, according to ARC.

“The safety network market will benefit from the same quantifiable cost savings in areas such as wiring and installation that fuelled adoption of standard device networks over hard wiring, plus they can deliver concrete business benefits in areas such as regulatory compliance and reduced shutdowns,” says ARC vice-president Chantal Polsonetti, the principal author of ARC’s Factory Automation Safety Networks Worldwide Outlook.

“The timing and impact of safety regulations remains a wild card in many parts of the world,” she adds, “but both existing suppliers and new entrants are lining up their safety network strategies as the technology increasingly emerges as a key differentiator.”

The growth in the safety network market will parallel that of serial-based device networks from the perspective of the savings compared to hard wiring of safety components. The increasing availability of light curtains, safety switches, and other components with network interfaces will boost the potential cost savings.

The ability to implement controlled or isolated shutdowns by decelerating motors or isolating emergency stops to specific zones, will have significant benefits compared to tripped e-stops or light curtains initiating complete system shutdowns and time-consuming restarts, ARC points out. Servo drive manufacturers have already recognised this trend, and are moving towards integrating safety network components that allow controlled or limited shutdowns.

Integration of safety functions into servo drives and other motion control equipment is one of the most intriguing drivers in the safety marketplace, ARC suggests. Embedding a safety controller and safe I/O into a servo drive with a soft starter eliminates the need for a separate safety controller and I/O. It can also eliminate the need for external power contactors and speed monitoring equipment.

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