Today’s High Tech Robotics: Readiness, Risk Assessment, Real World

Mollie Anderson; Jay Zhu
(BSI Services & Solutions, Hillsboro, OR)

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Companies are challenged to be nimble with fast integration of new technology and processes in R&D labs, high- technology / volume production manufacturing sites, and warehousing. Collaborative robots, Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs), and changing uses for conventional robots continue to be the top growth solutions to keep pace with this rapid change and maximize safety and efficiency. With the growing demand for human-robot interaction, high-tech robots are solutions to keep pace with rapid change, maximizing safety and efficiency. Semiconductor tools once utilizing ‘wafer handlers’, are now finding those re-evaluated as conventional, industrial robots (defined as 3-axis or more), to keep pace with advances in throughput and process. Additionally, and with recurrent issues to automate internal logistics for e-commerce warehousing, AMRs are drawing more attention. By automating material transport via AMRs, companies optimize productivity and schedule deliveries and de-bottleneck critical paths. Why Risk Assessment? New applications, work environments and safety standards remain challenging. Safety professionals must continuously advance their understanding, re-evaluate risks, and update methods to ensure the safe teaching, use, and maintenance of robots and their associated systems. Addressing industrial robots, both conventional and collaborative, the guiding industry consensus standard is ANSI/RIA R15.06-2012, Industrial Robots and Robot Systems. More recent industry guidance in ISO/TS 15066: Robots and Robotic Devices–Collaborative Robots, also requires “..a comprehensive risk assessment is required to assess not only the robot system itself but also the environment in which it is placed, i.e. the workplace.” Additionally, and as often true for newer technology, current safety standards are outdated – specifically, ANSI/ITSDF B56.5-2012, Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGV), fails to address safety standards for the newer and more technologically sophisticated AMRs – which may also be combined with a collaborative robotic arm. Accordingly, then, risk assessments must be conducted to ensure robotic users and related personnel are safe, and that processes are designed with specific safeguarding and controls addressing issues identified during the hazard analysis and risk assessment. Risk assessments may have several formats, from simple to more robust. This presentation also includes methods and findings of client-confidential robotic risk assessments conducted for several global, process-intensive manufacturing companies, warehousing, and R&D labs. Key risk assessment process elements will be identified and explained, including: determination of the system’s scope, environment, tools and end effectors; identification of risk sources; estimation of risk; evaluation of risk; risk acceptability (what is acceptable risk?); and, risk reduction process and considerations.

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