Functional safety and its application to automated industrial cobots

March 18, 2019 //By Steve Herd
Functional safety and its application to automated industrial cobots
Human Robot Collaboration (HRC) is a relatively new and emerging field in industrial robotics, offering significant flexibility and productivity enhancements by combining the power and precision of robots with the creative and problem-solving ability of humans.

Whereas industrial robot systems were traditionally separated from humans to safeguard against injury, HRC necessitates a workspace that is shared between robot and human operator. This article examines how safety relevant standards and traditional concepts of safety control are being adapted to meet the requirements of HRC systems.


Overview of safety standards hierarchy and framework

CE marking for a product signifies conformity with the relevant EU directive, which for Industrial robots is the EU Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC. This directive defines the essential health and safety requirements (EHSRs) for machines traded in the single European market and is supported by a hierarchy of harmonised standards as illustrated in table 1, where the key standards that relate to industrial robots are listed. Type C standards, where published in the Official EU Journal, take priority and, when a machine satisfies the objectives of the relevant harmonised standard, then “presumption of conformity” applies.

Table 1: Harmonised standards hierarchy relevant to robot safety.

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