Programmable logic controllers became an established part of automation technology years ago. In the meantime they have superseded conventional hard-wired controls across the board. Until now, the controls on safety-related machine parts had to have their own dedicated safety controls with a separate safety bus.
The overall aim of security systems is to minimize the risk presented by technical fittings to people and the environment – without unnecessarily hindering production processes, machine operation or the production of certain products. To maintain functional safety, certain basic requirements have to be fulfilled: systematic failures have to be avoided or at least kept under control, the same applies to random malfunctions or outages. Regulations have been laid down on a national and international level in the form of norms. Their aim: to protect life and limb, machinery, and the environment. Simultaneously regulations aim to avoid unfair competition by offering different safety levels. The degree of achievable functional safety is captured in the norms by a variety of terms:
For the experts at the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Technology Consultancy, the standardization of manufacturing processes, taking into account decentralized structures involving security systems, has been shifting towards center-stage more and more in recent years. The Center now looks back on years of projects in the field of automation technology, especially with the use of programmable logic controllers.
Medium-sized companies as well as large industrials – especially in the automotive field – draw on the support of the Transfer Center when planning and implementing control technology projects. The Center also trains people to set up the system. The team at the Transfer Center has worked on a variety of BMW projects since 2001, looking at concepts and implementation of training courses for planners and maintenance workers. One of their current projects involves training for Profinet workers from engineering and maintenance on the “safety integrated” systems outlined above.