Designing Safe and Efficient Robot Systems: A Practical Guide

June 25, 2024 by
Designing Safe and Efficient Robot Systems: A Practical Guide
Kurtin Robotics, Karan Khatter

Designing a safe and efficient robot system is all about creating a workspace that prioritizes safety and productivity. This guide is here to walk you through the essential steps to ensure a secure working environment.

Establishing Physical Limits

Start by defining the three-dimensional boundaries of your robot cell or line, including any parts of a larger system. Use consistent scales and origins for your design drawings, and accurately map out the locations and dimensions of all components within the available space.

Workspaces, Access, and Clearance

Clearly define the maximum workspace for the robot system, including restricted and operating areas, and ensure there is enough clearance around obstacles like building supports. Plan for safe pedestrian aisles, visitor routes, and material movement pathways outside the safeguarded perimeter. Ensure there is easy access to support services (like electricity, gas, and water) and clear, safe pathways for maintenance and troubleshooting.

Manual Intervention

Design the layout so tasks requiring manual intervention can be performed from outside the safeguarded space whenever possible. If intervention within the safeguarded space is necessary, use enabling devices to safely control the robot cell, a specific zone, or selected equipment.

Ergonomics and Human Interface

Make sure operators have a clear view of robot operations and that controls are intuitive and clearly associated with the robot. Position workpieces ergonomically and consider local design traditions for control layouts. Anticipate and design against potential misuse, and include features that facilitate safe collaborative operation with human workers.

Environmental Conditions

Ensure adequate ventilation in the robot cell and plan for handling weld sparks if welding operations are involved.

Loading and Unloading

Design the layout for efficient and safe loading and unloading of workpieces and tool changes.

Safety Measures

Install perimeter safeguarding to protect against unintended access. Strategically place emergency stop devices and enabling devices throughout the cell, considering the need for local stops or a full cell stop. Pay careful attention to the intended use of all components in your design.

Implementing These Steps

Practical Tips:

  1. Design and Planning: Start by defining physical limits and mapping out your layout.
  2. Safety First: Identify restricted and operating spaces, ensure clearances, and plan safe access routes.
  3. Ergonomics: Design with the operator in mind, ensuring visibility and control clarity.
  4. Environmental and Safety Measures: Plan for ventilation, handle weld sparks, and place emergency stop and enabling devices.
  5. Maintenance and Manual Tasks: Ensure tasks can be performed safely, preferably from outside the safeguarded space, with enabling devices provided as needed.
  6. Regular Reviews: Conduct regular risk assessments to identify and address additional space requirements or potential hazards.

By following these guidelines, you can design a robot system that is both efficient and safe for operators and maintenance personnel. 

For more detailed information, refer to the ISO 10218-2:2011 guidelines and ISO 12100 for additional insights on manual intervention controls.