Safe interaction of humans and robots with ELOshield

Safer in robotized welding cells with ELOshield
Safe interaction of humans and robots at KIRCHHOFF

The Challenge
Safe interaction of humans and robots

Many manufacturing and production plants are increasingly reliant on robots to speed up and streamline specific tasks, but the use of robots does not preclude the human element, and this is the case at KIRCHHOFF in its welding cells. Although the welding itself is carried out automatically by robotic arms in these enclosed areas, operators need to enter the cell several times per shift.

In order to maintain the highest possible safety standards, KIRCHHOFF looked to add even higher levels of security than the standards require. The management wanted to eradicate any risk of unnoticed personnel remaining in the unsupervised inner space of the cell when the welding process is started and tasked ELOKON Poland to come up with a solution. This company is a division of the ELOKON Group and delivers comprehensive safety services and automation solutions to its international manufacturing customer base. Other core specialities of the ELOKON Group are safety and assistance systems for industrial vehicles such as forklift trucks and AGVs.

The Solution
Pedestrian modules interact with the welding cells

The ELOshield radio-based proximity identification system was identified as the best product from ELOKON’s range for this application. ELOshield automatically detects the presence of people within specifically defined areas - configurable as warning zones or protection zones according to customer requirements. It can also actively influence control systems to deactivate dangerous robot movements, and in case of a standstill, prevent its unwanted reactivation.

In Kirchhoff’s case, the usual signal that a robot can be activated is a closed and locked cell door - an open door automatically prevents operation. But this is not 100% failsafe and neither is human behaviour: one person may enter the cell but another employee, not able to see or realise that an operative is inside, may close it from the outside. Both scenarios can reactivate the robot.    

ELOshield’s combination of pedestrian modules worn or carried by operators and antennas positioned at various points create zones in specifically defined areas. It continuously detects and signals the presence of operators in and around the cell. If anyone is left inside, the antenna module communication prevents the activation of the welding process even if the door has been closed and locked. The presence of a person inside the cell is additionally signalled by warning lights placed outside it.

Successful and straightforward safety measure
ELOshield helps securely

Mr. Ryszard Muzyczka, East Europe Regional Director of KIRCHHOFF Automotive, comments: “This has proved to be a very successful supporting system. Operators entering the cell feel much more confident now, as do those activating the robot, who can be sure that no colleagues are at risk.  Integrating ELOshield into the machine control system was straightforward and the system is simple and logical for the workforce.”

At KIRCHHOFF a further possibility that is being examined is to install ELOshield in areas where forklifts are delivering material to cell operatives. This will allow both pedestrians and drivers to be mutually warned when they approach each other to prevent the risk of collisions or accidents.


About KIRCHHOFF

KIRCHHOFF Automotive is a development partner to the automotive industry and is a global full-service supplier for complex metal and hybrid structures in body-in-white, crash management systems, chassis applications and cross car beams. Established as a family-owned company in 1785 in Germany, today it is a part of the KIRCHHOFF Group, consisting of the KIRCHHOFF Automotive, KIRCHHOFF Ecotec, KIRCHHOFF Mobility, and WITTE Tools business units.

The company’s plant in Mielec, Poland was founded in 1999 where processes such as sheet and aluminium forming, tool production, and the pre-assembly and assembly of parts for welding processes are carried out.


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