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Innovative Thinking

Learning about Mechanical Guarding

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For a robot to safely operate in an industrial setting, it needs appropriate guarding to protect both the operators from the equipment in the cell. It also protects the equipment from external forces that can damage it, or move devices from the taught positions they need to be in. These cells are not a barrier to keep the inside separated from the outside. Items that need worked on must enter the cell, get worked on, then exit in a safe manner to ensure operator safety, and efficiency of the process. To do this, both mechanical and electrical guarding components are designed and implemented together.

Mechanical guarding consists of devices that physically prevent someone from entering the cell. Usually this is done through fencing which consists of posts, fencing panels, wire tray, doors, and interlocks. Paneling comes in many different shapes and sizes, usually these are installed to completely enclose the cell. Doors provide convenient entrances to the cell, and interlocks allow the designer to lock someone out of the cell before certain safety conditions are met. Then it can be released to allow entry.


On the electrical side of the guarding, there are many different types of sensors that can be used for the system to “see” what is happening in the cell. For operator sections there are light curtains and safety mats. For component entry points there are many smaller sensors depending on what you are detecting, for the cell in general, there are area scanners which give a much better picture of a large area.

Light curtains function as a pair where the transmitter emits many beams of light that the receiver is looking for. If any of the many beams is broken, then the curtain sends the signal to shut everything down. These can also be purchased with different levels of detection such as finger detection where the beams are closer so fingers can’t fit between the beams, hand detection where smaller objects might fit between the beams, and person detection where there are large gaps between the beams, but they would detect a person walking through. Sensor mats trigger whenever a certain amount of force is applied to the mat like an operator stepping on it.


Area scanners are more advanced sensors that are calibrated to see anybody, or an object inside of a cell. Most sensors only look at one specific place, but area scanners can look at many different places at once to make sure something wasn’t left inside of a cell before it was reset.


            Because safety always comes first, both mechanical and electric guarding must be seamlessly integrated into a single system to work with a robot. At Premier Automation, we have experts that design and assemble full guarding systems to meet your specific needs, keep everyone safe, and keep producing parts.


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