Modular aluminium profile systems and machine safety – what’s the connection?
04 September 2017
Modular aluminium profile systems are used widely throughout industry, retail and lifestyle applications. Their robust and flexible characteristics make them a popular solution to many applications.
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In this article we will look at the use of such systems in machine safety applications and examine current industry standard safety requirements and how this type of system satisfies them.
Keeping it simple
The highly flexible and adaptable modular aluminium profile system lends itself particularly well to the construction of customised safety guards and safety cages to provide essential machine safety, simply and effectively. Think “industrial meccano” and that goes a long way to describe how diverse the structure can be made with such systems.
Machine safety directive
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.
But over and above that the deployment of safety measures is often a matter of local discussion and the application of common sense to ensure that processes and staff are able to work in a safe environment.
Where are machine guards and cages required?
A UK manufacturer of modular aluminium profile systems is 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 however 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 safety guards and cages serve to protect the operator from hazardous moving equipment and also act as “retainers” to protect product from flying off the equipment thus causing potential damage to both equipment and staff.
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. So, 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.
Not just machine guards and cages
Not only can they 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 of a factory that require safety enclosures, guards, or other protective environments. Probably the most common type of application is enclosures for test equipment, where the equipment needs to be housed in a totally controlled atmosphere and remote from the operator, especially in the case of harmful materials being tested. The test equipment is housed in this small enclosure and features fume extraction.
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