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Scalable safety controls allow ‘right-sized’ designs

20 April, 2018

Rockwell Automation has announced a pair of controllers for industrial safety applications, that can be scaled to support safety levels from SIL 2 / PLd to SIL 3 / PLe. It says that this will help engineers to optimise safety system designs and potentially to cut costs, while adhering to the latest machine safety regulations.

The Allen-Bradley GuardLogix 5580 and Compact GuardLogix 5380 controllers also incorporate the processing power to achieve fast reaction times and short safe distances. This can help design smaller machines, save floor space and increase operator efficiency, according to Rockwell.

“Many engineers build safety systems to a higher safety level than an application requires,” explains Dave Sullivan, Rockwell’s product manager for safety systems. “Such systems end up having more components than they need, leading to increased complexity and costing more than they should. Our new controllers allow engineers to right-size a safety system and its cost to meet appropriate safety levels, without excess.”

The controllers can also help engineers to consolidate the number of controllers needed for complex machines. Having a single high-performance controller for both standard and safety control can help to improve productivity and reduce system costs, complexity and cabinet sizes.

Other benefits of the new controllers are said to include:

•  Large communications capacities  Embedded gigabit Ethernet provides greater communications capacities to support smart devices. This can help to achieve data-intensive smart manufacturing without needing extra hardware. It also can help to future-proof machines for end-users who may want to collect and share more data in the future. 

Rockwell’s new safety controllers (from left): the GuardLogix 5580 (SIL 2 / PLd); the GuardLogix 5580 and safety partner (SIL 3 / PLe); and the Compact GuardLogix 5380 (SIL 2 / PLd).

•  Increased productivity  When used with Rockwell’s Studio 5000 development environment and Kinetix 5700 servodrives, the new controllers support safe-stop, safe-speed, safe-position and other safe-monitoring functions. These functions can add flexibility – for example, slowing down a machine instead of stopping it when a worker approaches. This can improve productivity, while still achieving a desired level of safety. The safety functions are implemented using instructions in the Studio 5000 software.

Engineers can also use the safety functions for applications such as collaborative robots. If a human comes too close to the robot, the system can detect their presence and either slow down or stop the robot’s movements.

The new controllers are TÜV-certified for functional safety.

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