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Retrofitting: from virtual planning to real application

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Improving safety technology on older machines is a challenge faced by many industries. Protecting employees while increasing machine productivity demands constant safety technology enhancements. Questions that plant managers should ask themselves are: do my existing machines meet all safety requirements; have past machine modifications compromised machine safety; and how can retrofitting safety technology be accomplished without design drawings and CAD files? The SICK Automation solution offers 3D machine digitisation, virtual design of its safety technology and joint review and approval of the proposed design through virtual machine safe-guarding evaluation.

Creating a 3D model of a machine for a safety-related modification project is still a new approach but is logical as digitisation allows a retrofit according to the principle: what you see is what you get. Operating sequences and production processes incorporating the selected safety measures can be fine-tuned in the 3D model. This enables particular details or restrictions to be identified early and eliminates any surprises during the modification work and recommissioning.

A safety retrofit requires considerable effort

When the need for a safety upgrade for a machine is identified, this implementation should not be delayed. Fast upgrade responses ensure the safety of the machine and avoids work accidents.

If drawings or CAD data are available, planning of modification measures can begin immediately. However, machine modifications require time-consuming and costly on-site meetings, travelling long distances and accommodating for time differences in the case of global projects. Additionally, it can be a complicated back-and-forth process when clarifying any misunderstandings of safety or operation-related technical details.

Existing machines without drawings or CAD data require collection of design details on-site, such as manual measurement and photographic documentation of the machine and its installation environment. Without any wiring diagrams, the status of the complete electrical system needs to be determined. This also applies to post-commissioning modifications that have been inadequately documented.

Reduced retrofitting costs

With the 3D scan concept from SICK as a turnkey solution, customers can significantly reduce the cost of retrofitting a machine. Simply digitise and model the machine in 3D within a few hours instead of spending endless time determining the layout and dimensions of the machine.

A measuring laser scanner first captures images of the machine in the production hall. The digital measurement data is assembled by the scanner software in just a few seconds, creating a millimetre-accurate, colour 3D model of the machine. Formatted as an AutoCAD file, the data can be used immediately in the 3D CAD software for virtual planning of the safety measures. The customer quickly obtains a clear impression of what the machine will look like and can directly incorporate any specific requirements.

Virtual testing of safety technology

Using virtual reality goggles, it is possible for people to inspect the machine even after the machine in the model has been equipped with new safety technology. All products in the SICK portfolio and many physical guards have been stored as 3D models. Each can be virtually installed in the machine in the required design, configuration or dimensions via drag and drop. The warning and protective fields of safety laser scanners can also be visualised graphically.

A virtual experience of customers’ safety equipment allows for a deeper understanding of newly-implemented or planned safety measurements.

Customers are able to develop and compare alternate safety concepts for the machine, testing what best works for their safety requirements, like safety measures to optimise operation ergonomics, for example. Once the machine has been virtually experienced with the proposed safety solution, any remaining safety gaps can be identified in a timely manner and eliminated in the 3D model. Once the manufacturer-neutral safety concept has been approved, a parts list (matching the 3D model), which can be used for purchasing the required hardware, is created.

Efficiency benchmark for safe machine construction

The innovative methodology of 3D scanning eliminates virtually all of the previously described impediments for an efficient safety retrofit of existing machines. The laser measurement greatly simplifies the collection and processing of machine data, substantially shortening the duration of the retrofitting project. All persons involved in the project will now be familiar with the modified machine in the virtual machine safeguarding evaluation.

“Taking the guesswork out of safety planning, machine operators and SICK can optimise and efficiently schedule their resources during modification projects” explains Grant Joyce, Head of Sales SICK Automation.

With all these advantages, SICK is setting a new benchmark in safety retrofitting. Furthermore, the operator commissioning the work only utilises one contact person throughout the entire project, while accessing a worldwide network of more than 150 safety application specialists. SICK ensures that the latest technologies, products, solutions and services, as well as expertise and application know-how, are available to customers globally.

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