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Safer industry with wireless communication

With the help of a new machinery safety system, more companies can build more flexible and cost-effective safety. The solution is based on wireless communication, allowing manufacturers to dispense with machine park cables and install safety faster.

Safety simplifier
Photo: SSPN

In order to provide sufficient safety in, for example, machinery halls, meters of cable were previously required. Fixed safety modules were led from electrical cabinets by cable to each machine, housing and actuator. In an industrial site it is not uncommon to have a ceiling height of at least seven or eight meters which meant that you also often had to lead wires high up to the ceiling. Cables also involve problems for new machine types that move more freely.

Could a modular safety system controlled by wireless communication be the solution to the problem? This was the question asked by Mats Linger and he decided to develop the system himself. He took his experience of machine safety from several years in the safety industry and his interest in technology and created a new product that does just that, a so-called “Safety Simplifier”.

“It’s both costly to install cable and it limits the possibilities if you are going to have something moving on the floor. From a sustainability perspective, it’s also beneficial to reduce the number of cables and components. It’s also easy to change the system and add functionality because you don’t have to connect new cables,” says Mats Linger, who named the new company SSPN, or Safety System Products North.

Wireless communication

His Safety Simplifiers communicate wirelessly with each other with up to a hundred meters distance between each unit. Because up to 16 devices can communicate wirelessly with each other, and replicate each other's information, the total distance can be up to 1600 meters. They can also be easily connected to existing machines and protection where they stand, which facilitates installation.

“The goal for us is to make it easy to build protection for both fixed and mobile machines. You can use both wireless technology and, if necessary, also wired. There are no restrictions and the customer can choose freely between wireless or wired bus for each Safety Simplifier. You can quickly get a safety solution that meets the highest safety requirements,” says Mats Linger.

Multiple wins in one system

The big win with the new system is increased safety but there are more benefits. An affordable and simple solution can make it easier for small businesses, which might otherwise find it tough to invest the time and money requierd to build adequate safety.

“It's an extremely efficient system. With the help of the new technology, it’s possible to add more technical functionality connected to the wireless connection without any major disruptions. It’s a flexible solution, quick to install and put in place and a smart solution for replacing cabling. All this means enhanced safety at the societal level, says Johan Hedberg, of RISE, who evaluated and verified the system.

Mats Linger also sees the beneficial uses for his product on several levels. It increases flexibility and does not hinder development – it will be easy to build new wireless safety solutions that are not hampered by problems in meeting safety requirements.

“It will be easier to build safety into new machines. We also lower the costs of installing protection systems and it is often safer because you avoid some compromises that often arise when you want to use as few cables as possible. If you use wireless systems and devices that are located near where they are used, you get fewer cables and increased safety.

Important to meet safety requirements

But wireless communication also places stringent demands on safety.

“As soon as you decide to control a hazardous machine wirelessly, you have to be sure that it really stops if you lose the communication link. We can stop and start things safely,” says Mats Linger.

Many of the work injuries that occur in Sweden every year happen in connection with the use of machines. To minimise the risk of accidents, the Machinery Directive sets out the fundamental health and safety requirements for all machines launched on the market.

In order to be able to place the newly developed product on the market, Mats Linger needed to ensure that it complied with all the applicable requirements of the directive. So he contacted RISE who put together an expert team to be able to evaluate and verify the safety system according to the functional safety standards of the Machinery Directive.

“One of the biggest challenges has been to cope with all the documentation required to meet the safety requirements. In this we’ve had huge help from RISE, they’ve been involved from beginning to end in development and supported us in the technical safety discussions, says Mats Linger.

RISE on board all the way

The functional safety standard that the new product must reach has extensive demands. RISE performed the technical evaluation of the product and checked that both hardware and software are sufficiently safe.

“We are experts in safety in control systems, which is an important part of the Machinery Directive,” says Johan Hedberg of RISE.
RISE joined the process early on, something that is important for collaboration to be effective so that issues that need to be addressed are not discovered too late.

“You don’t want to wait for the product to be completely finished. We wanted to enter into the project early and work closely with the customer; this is both effective and minimizes the risk of discovering too late that, for example, the hardware is not good enough,” says Johan Hedberg.

An EC type approval has now been granted for the safety system and the product is available on the market for all industrial machinery manufacturers.