, 2016-08-04

Making machine safety sustainable

Rolf Najork, Chairman of the Executive Board of Bosch Rexroth AG

Here is a development that is still in its infancy, but which will considerably shape reality in mechanical engineering and the factories of the future: Adaptive and self-learning machines will present us with new challenges in the future with regard to machine safety.

Indeed, the current machinery directive already takes into account the increasing software component in machines, but still assumes a static model: The basic programming and functions of a machine remain over its entire service life. Only when the machine undergoes significant changes is it required to go through the entire process again.

This approach certainly depicts the current reality. In the lifecycle of the next machine generations, however, the machines and their functions will constantly adapt and develop further. Owners or users will change programs or add new ones. The machine manufacturer can no longer be responsible for this. Even more suspenseful is the question of safety for self-learning machines and systems; we will have to discuss and resolve these issues and many others within the committees and associations responsible for standards and norms.

Machines must therefore be able to negotiate the necessary machine safety among themselves in future. For this, we will first of all require defined cross-manufacturer or standardized calculation formulae, from which the machines themselves can calculate the required values. Only in this way will modules, machines and systems be able to come together to form collaborative systems and manufacturing lines. While there are already defined levels for machine safety that must be achieved, this is not yet the case for data security. In this case, a universally-applicable system is currently being discussed in the IEC 62443 security standard.

Independent of this, Bosch Rexroth already offers future-proof technology today that can meet these new challenges. Decentralized drive solutions with integrated safety functions react without detours via central control systems, thus allowing them to function independently of process changes. Synergies with Bosch, especially in the area of sensor technology, open up additional opportunities for the promotion of decentralized machine safety. In fact, we are already beginning to see the first projects with machine manufacturers and end users that are moving down this path.

Learn more about machine safety at Bosch Rexroth

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