Run, robot, run... even with a human nearby!

Doesn't sound too safe, does it? But really, what business person wants an expensive robot to squeal to a halt whenever a human approaches? That's been a thorn in the side for industrialists for many years - and now they've found a way around it!

Thanks to an innovative machine safety system, a robot (or other machine) can slow down its tasks instead of stopping altogether. Only when the pesky human coworker gets super-close will the robot come to a standstill.

Gone is the need for metallic fences boxing in the frightening robot! No more alarm systems to slam that metallic giant down - and fast!

Welcome to a new world of machine safety without the need for machine guards! The dawning of a new era in machines and men living in harmony! (OK, I'm getting too maudlin, too Star Trekky!)

The SafetyEye system, launched at Hannover Fair 2007 in Germany last month, relies on machine vision, motion sensors and software to decelerate or stop a machine. Complete with light show and three sensor "eyes" watching from the ceiling, the new system from Pilz Automation takes "Do the Safety Dance" to the highest level: watch a geeky German engineer dance up to a moving machine - safely!

Machine safety is an intensely important issue in the world these days - led by the Europeans (Let's be honest, their standards for safety compliance are, once again, ahead of Americans, same as with environmental compliance.)

Every vendor and end user company I spoke to at Hannover Fair in Germany last month were fervently preaching safety (music to mein ears!) Safety standards have caught up in the US market in the last couple of years, and many Euro companies, like Pilz, have US subsidiaries that are starting to see lots of machine safety business on this side of the pond. Click on the image to the right to see the SafetyEye system in action.

(Stay tuned to this space for upcoming blogs - and exclusive videos from Hannover! - showcasing the world's best safety technologies.)

Another insight I gleaned from attending Hannover Fair (myself being one of almost half a million visitors to the 27 halls of manufacturing technologies!) was just how prevelant the use of robots have become in all aspects of making stuff around the world.

Robotics have long been a tricky business for workers - a necessary evil, you could say. Robots take on a lot of the three Ds of manufacturing - Dirty, Dull and  Dangerous - that human employees don't want to do. But heavy metallic robot arms swinging arond at rapid speeds pose an obvious safety threat, too.

Remember what Astar the Robot (right) said in the cheesy '80s War Amps video: "I can put my arm back on. You can't!" (Unfortunately that classic PSA is no longer available online - without paying for it.)

Machine safety has come a long way, baby! Run, robot, run!!

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