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Modular aluminium profile systems and machine safety – what’s the connection?

09 September 2016

Modular aluminium profile systems are used widely throughout industry, retail and lifestyle applications.

A safety room enclosed in a typical modular profile system

Often seen as an industrial version of a building set such as meccano, their robust and flexible characteristics make them a popular solution to many applications. This article looks at the use of such systems in machine safety applications and examines current industry standard safety requirements and how this type of system satisfies them.

The modular aluminium profile system lends itself particularly well to the construction of customised safety guards and safety cages to provide essential machine safety.

Machine Safety Directive

So, first of all, let us define what machine safety is. The Machinery Safety Directive EN ISO 13849-1 contains a vast amount of information and lays down many requirements for machine builders and operators – all designed to ensure that the means of production in any manufacturing enterprise are installed correctly and operated in a safe manner. The Directive places an obligation on both machinery designer and operator to ensure that equipment is fitted with adequate safeguards to protect machine operators, and any other staff working in the vicinity of such production machinery, from accidental injury.

Where are machine guards and cages required?

One of the UK’s leading manufacturers of modular aluminium profile systems is Basingstoke based MiniTec. What sort of machinery and equipment may typically require the MiniTec system? Modern rotating machinery such as CNC lathes and machining centres will always be designed with a robust guard door to protect the operator from the rotating equipment. The guards doors are fitted with interlocks which disable the machine should the door be opened. This however is not generally an application where the MiniTec system will be deployed.

Consider robotic manufacturing equipment – large machines with arms wielding laser and welding equipment or production lines with automatic pick and place equipment – this is the sort of equipment that modular profile systems are designed to guard. The surrounding images depict a safety room enclosed in a typical modular profile system and a conveyor system under construction with a safety cage being assembled.

The safety guards and cages serve to protect the operator from hazardous moving equipment and also act as “retainers” to protect products from flying off the equipment, thus causing potential damage to both equipment and staff.

A conveyor system under construction with a safety cage being assembled

Customise to suit the requirement

The flexibility and strength of modular aluminium profile systems makes them perfect solutions for creating bespoke industrial safety guards and safety cages.

Appropriate aluminium profiles can be selected to fit the exact specification, with bespoke elements that suit the industrial environment. For example, access points may be fitted with door interlocks to prevent accidental opening whilst the equipment is running. In many cases customers will also require andon lights to be fitted to indicate whether or not it is safe to enter.  

These systems are not only to be found in “classic” machine guarding applications – they are perfectly suitable as quick and easy to install, cost-effective solutions in a range of sectors that require safety guards, safety cages, or other protective environments.

MiniTec UK Ltd provides direct sales, application support, custom manufacturing and an installation service for its range of modular profile, machine building systems. 

The complete range of MiniTec products covers over 30-profiles with an abundance of complimentary components including the patented Powerlock, standard fastening elements, links, hinges, handles, locks, feet, wheels, door elements, conveyor and machine guard system components along with electrical, pneumatic and hydraulic components. The range also covers linear bearings, guides, motors and transmission components for pick and place and automated handing applications.

MiniTec can also provide complete Turn-Key assembled solutions and the entire range is supported with tools and attachments to simplify assembly and further reduce costs.

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