How servo drives simplify functional safety

Ronen Sadan is Vice President of Marketing for Elmo Motion Control. Elmo Motion Control Application Engineer Manager Simone Gianotti will present Functional Safety at the A3 Automate Show at McCormick Place in Chicago on May 8 at 4:15 pm. [email protected]. Contact Gianotti: [email protected].

Machine safety has evolved significantly since the 1990s, and the release of the functional safety standard IEC 61508 in 1998 marked a turning point for machine manufacturers and end users. Through standardized safety concepts, equipment suppliers and machine manufacturers can instill confidence in customers that their safety systems have been rigorously tested and reviewed, and users no longer need to spend time and resources analyzing the risk of machine or system failure.

The introduction of functional safety and related standards has also virtually freed machine builders from the task of designing for safety, eliminating the need to purchase, install and connect hardware packages (such as safety contactors, relays, switches, I/O devices and brake controllers) — and the cumbersome process of machine safety assessment and approval processes.

Previously, safe machine operation was achieved through relays that cut off power if safety conditions were violated (such as an operator entering the enclosure or breaking a light curtain). Functional safety has replaced hardware and expensive approval processes with software. The result is not only true “functional” safety, but also increased uptime, increased productivity and reduced end-user scrap.

Unlike traditional hardware-based safety systems, functional safety relies on safety-rated components. The main difference is that instead of using many safety components, most of them are integrated into the servo drive. The ultimate goal is to replace most of the security hardware with software such as Failsafe over EtherCat (FSoE). Some hardware (such as safety brakes, I/O, and encoders) is still required to control the device’s operating parameters.

If safety parameters are violated, the functional safety system does not immediately cut off the power supply to the axis, but limits its movement. This enables the system to handle failures while maintaining predefined security levels and notify users through self-diagnostics and automatic alerts.

Monitor and respond

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