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Developments to SICK’s Flexi family revolutionise productivity

Developments within the best-selling SICK Flexi family of machinery safety products are delivering more productive and less-costly safety installations that meet the increasing demands of EU safety standards including EN ISO 13849-1 and EN 62061.

Introducing the Flexi Loop, Flexi-Link and Flexi Line multi-switch and multi-station options to the Flexi Soft plc safety controller modules has opened up new avenues for machinery safety as factories move towards fully-automated central control. They support an increasingly wide range of safety sensors, encoders, light curtains, switches, cameras and laser scanners.

“As manufacturers start to exploit the advantages of Industry 4.0 and the capabilities of factory-wide communications, they are demanding that safety systems should match the production speeds and cost savings they achieve,” says Dr Martin Kidman, SICK UK machinery safety specialist. “There’s not much point investing in higher- speed production if safety systems just drag back productivity.

“The SICK Flexi Soft modular approach achieves easy integration to create versatile, fully-compliant safety installations. Factory work flow is being revolutionised by features like automatic restart after personnel access and adaptive proximity zones governed by laser scanners.

“From stand-alone machining and pressing equipment, to complete processing, conveying, packing, palletising and warehousing operations, there are more options for every application.”

The SICK Flexi family offers a modular approach to creating safety systems with operation up to SIL3 / PLe levels. The Flexi series allows safe operation of elements including sensors, electromechanical, interlocking and non-contact switches, scanners, encoders and emergency command buttons. All of which can be integrated within a Flexi Link or Flexi Line system providing factory-wide control.

The latest module to be added is the Flexi Soft Drive Monitor, which allows the connection of up to 12 encoders per single Flexi Soft system. It can provide safe monitoring of drives without integrated safety features and can perform Safety Functions for drives according to IEC EN 61800-5-2 including and not limited to: safe speed monitoring (Safety Limited Speed – SLS), standstill monitoring (Safe Speed Monitoring – SSM) and many safe stop functions such as Safe Stop 2 – type 2 (SS2).

Saving safety installation time and costs is an important part of the SICK mission. The introduction of Flexi Loop quickly changed the way installations are designed. SICK Flexi Loop permits the series connection of dual channel door switches and sensor devices to PLe integrity, whilst allowing high diagnostic coverage and eliminating the potential for fault masking.

The IP67-rated SICK Flexi Loop has the capacity to cascade up to 32 safety sensors or switches on one loop and to create up to eight separate loops per single Flexi Soft system. It will provide up to 256 sensors on eight dual channel inputs, reducing the clutter and cost of traditional cable connections and when you consider Flexi-Link and Flexi-Line, the possibilities are limitless.

Further SICK safety developments include the incorporation of vision cameras, such as the SICK V300, into hazard protection installations. Developments in safety laser scanners, initially used in automated guided vehicle safety, are now enabling adaptive field technology that provides ‘soft’ safety and warning zones for dangerous machinery. By using any intrusion access into the scanned warning area to slow machinery to safe speeds (monitored) and change fields accordingly, personnel are safely able to access and perform tasks which require machine movement such as calibration and maintenance or dynamic sheet feed-in.

SICK’s adaptive field scanning technology, vision cameras, advanced light curtains and other sensors, with the Flexi Soft plc modular controllers and multi-switch and multi-module communications facilitates barrier-free safety installations. Essential to such advanced installations is Flexi Soft’s wide diagnostics communications capability allowing connection to all common Networks (PROFINET, PROFIBUS, MODBUS, CANopen, and EtherNet/IP etc.).

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