By Dan Posner, Robotics/Automation Program Manager, TÜV Rheinland of North America
Standards generally necessitate complexity. After all, they attempt to lay out in writing the many ways that machines, systems, and production environments are to be a) operated safely and correctly, and b) draw attention to unsafe or unauthorized approaches. Over time, users note missing or poorly worded elements. Changes to procedures and technologies demand revisions and additions. Relatively simple standards tend to mushroom in size after a few editions.
Now factor in the speed of digitalization, the advent of analytics, and the rapid maturation of robotics. These elements have turned many standards on their heads, demanding major revisions to accepted practices.
Take the case of the U.S. end-product standard for robots and robotic equipment, ANSI/UL 1740. The 4th Edition, published in January 2018, covers construction requirements for robot manufacturers. It takes up issues such as risk of fire, shock, and functional safety. Its revision became necessary due to updates to associated standards, such as ANSI/RIA R15.06, ISO 10218, and CSA Z434.
One key change is the incorporation of a risk/performance-based approach to safety as opposed to the more traditional prescriptive approach. It also takes into account advancements in safety technologies that rely heavily on globally accepted Functional Safety (FS) requirements. The intent is that certification to ANSI/UL 1740 is to serve as proof of compliance with ANSI/RIA R15.06 (and ISO 10218 and CSA Z434).
There are a great many changes to keep track of. Many are minor. But a number of important modifications could have a definite impact on current and future certifications. For example, prior reference to ANSI/RIA R15.06 has been replaced by ISO 10218, which has proven itself to stay abreast of the latest requirements.
Another big change is that Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGVs) have been removed from the scope of ANSI/UL 1740. A separate test standard has been devised for AGVs (UL 3100). Further additions include definitions to provide consistency with ISO 10218, UL 508, UL 508A, ISO 13849, IEC 61508, and related standards.
Interestingly, the definition of a robot has changed (ISO 8373). The old definition for robot in the 3rd Edition was, “A controlled, reprogrammable, multi-purpose, manipulative machine with several degrees of freedom, which may be either fixed in place or mobile for use in automatic applications”
The new definition is, “Actuated mechanism programmable in two or more axes with a degree of autonomy, moving within its environment, to perform intended tasks.”
Construction is another area that was ripe for a number of clarifications and editorial changes. Motor construction, spacing, and battery requirements have been revamped to reflect modern environments and systems. Numerous updates have also been made to the performance section to reflect real world testing conditions. This includes better guidance on how to perform tests as well as a better statement of test result criteria. In a few cases, the names of tests have changed.
But this is only a sampling of recent changes to the many standards impacting robotics and automation applications. There are many other additions and revisions impacting this innovative sector. Functional safety standards have been overhauled in ISO 13849. Hazard identification and risk assessment received a major update in ANSI/ISO 12100. Personal care robots have their own standard in ISO 13482 as distinct from industrial standards affecting AGVs and AMRs. ISO/TS 15066 includes a clause on the operation, management, and safety of collaborative robot cells. Further, ISO 102108-1 and -2 are currently under revision.
With so many alternations to established standards, a glut of new regulations, and many more in the pipeline related to robotics, compliance can be a real challenge. But there are certain proven practices that can help to ensure compliance.
The use of certified components that are correctly listed and labeled is an obvious starting point. Yet it is one that poses a challenge to many factories. Faced with a deluge of marketing about cheaper components from new places, some are tempted to cut corners in an effort to reduce budgets. In the long run, though, paying a little more for certified components will be found to reduce costs in the long run.
Another best practice is to ensure that the standards considered are appropriate to the specific application, are complete, and are followed by all parties involved. This requires training of personnel on the standards and monitoring to verify they are being adhered to.
Thorough risk assessments are another key action. The right way to conduct them is to involve a wide net of interested parties. Only then is accuracy assured. But a risk assessment is not a one-and-done proposition. Once completed, someone must be assigned the task of keeping it up to date. At times, this calls for conferences and collaboration to ensure that all parties have their say. The important thing to realize is that a risk assessment is a living document. In the face of rapid evolution of robotic standards, a current risk assessment is the only way to maintain compliance.
In many cases, though, professional help is needed. TÜV Rheinland, for example, provides services to help ensure systems remain compliant. This includes certifications for such things as fire, shock, functional safety, and EMC. On the functional safety front, the company offers RA facilitation, concept approvals, and safety case development.
Additionally, its Robot Integrator Program certifies the knowledge and skillset of robot integrators in addition to testing robotic cells and processes against ANSI/RIA R15.06. This program will help ensure an integrators ability to consistently produce compliant robot cells under one serialized TÜV Rheinland Mark, which meets the national electric code and allows acceptance by Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) and end users.
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