Industrial Engineering

Automatic risk assessment


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Collaborative robots increase safety concerns for humans
The next wave of industrial automation could include robots that collaborate with humans, leading to new efficiencies and new safety concerns. Manufacturers traditionally automate a specific area of their facility. “Now with collaborative robots, there’s also a new tactic,” Bouchard said. “Many large manufacturers are looking at a bottom-up approach, where they want to approve a collaborative robot tool and then make it available for anybody in the plant to use on demand for simple, stand-alone operations. Collaborative robots are designed for direct interactions with a person in a defined collaborative workspace, according to the Robotic Industries Association. That opens up new avenues of risk, and technological developments often outstrip regulatory bodies. And no matter what controls human factors engineers place on the machines, they can’t guarantee safe interactions.  Michael Gerstenberger, sales senior applications engineer at KUKA Robotics Corp., bluntly said there is no such thing as a safe robot. “It often depends more on what it’s doing and what kind of tool it has rather than the robot itself.