A Look Back at the 2017 NRSC

At This Conference on Robots, Safety Is First and Foremost

The 2017 edition of the NRSC focused on keeping workers safe in the face of increased robot automation integration.

The hallways of the Omni William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh were bustling with engineers and safety professionals during the Robotic Industries Association’s (RIA) 29th annual National Robot Safety Conference this past October. For three consecutive days, technicians, environmental health and safety professionals, roboticists, and robot end-users crowded the main stage on the 17th floor to learn about various topics pertaining to robot safety.

RIA Director of Standard Development Carole Franklin welcomes the attendees.

Standards “Bingo”

Day one kicked off with a game of “Standards Bingo,” which enabled the audience to playfully identify the various standards terms, abbreviations, codes, and titles referenced throughout the upcoming presentations.

Carole Franklin leads the audience in “Standards Bingo.”

Carla Silver from Merck & Company Inc. presented a top five list of what safety professionals need to remember to be successful. They are:

1. Do not assume you know everything about the safety of a piece of equipment.

2. Do not assume that the equipment vendor has provided all of the information or understands the hazards of the equipment.

3. Do not assume that the vendor has built and installed the equipment to meet all safety regulations.

4. Be part of the process and make sure to involve the entire team (including health and safety people).

5. Continuous education is important.

The next talk was from Craig Salvalaggio from Applied Manufacturing Technologies and Gerd Walter from Creative Automation, covering information on the RIA system integrator certification. RIA’s recent alliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was introduced at the end of the day, followed by a Q&A session with the audience.

Craig Salvalaggio with Applied Manufacturing Technologies and Gerd Walter with Creative Automation presenting on “Robotics System Integrators: What You Need to Know About Robotics & Safety.”

New User Panels and Case Studies

Day two saw several user panels and case studies covering all aspects of safety when working with robot applications. Risk assessment was a key theme that weaved into a majority of the presentations—an important topic due to the number of potential safety hazards, along with the different types of interactions a user might have with the robot system.

Chris Soranno with SICK Inc. presents “Safety for Integrated Manufacturing Systems.”

“Safety for Integrated Manufacturing Systems” (led by SICK Inc.’s Chris Soranno) and a panel titled “Collaborative Robot Systems” (featuring Bob Bollinger from Procter & Gamble, Troy Uahinui from Toyota, and Jeff Pratt and Bill Moellenkamp from Crown Equipment Corp.) highlighted the main stage.

Toyota’s Troy Uahinui, Procter & Gamble’s Bob Bollinger, and Crown Equipment Corp.’s  Jeff Pratt and Bill Moellenkamp take part in a Collaborative Robot Systems User Panel.

After the three-hour exhibitor expo, day two concluded with a user panel titled “Mobile Robots and Autonomous Vehicle Safety,” presented by Jeremy Marvel from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Mitchell Weiss at Seegrid Corp., and Rob Kuchta at Giant Eagle. The discussion centered around knowing the robotic application’s capabilities and limits ahead of time, while implementing physical integration.

Breakout Sessions

Shown are breakout session attendees during the Collaborative Robot System Safety Session.

Headlining day three were presentations on “Traditional Robot System Safety,” “Collaborative Robot System Safety,” and “Robot System Safety for EHS Professionals.” Key areas of focus for breakout session one included functional safety and using robotic applications in the workplace, while breakouts two and three tackled how to implement safe design for collaborative applications and traditional robot safety. Brian Carlisle from Precise Automation shared four main bullet points for achieving safety:

1. Minimize moving mass.

2. Minimize reflected inertia.

3. Limit collision torques.

4. Add compliance where possible.

Each breakout session finished with a lively Q&A with the audience, enabling further discussion and networking. Ultimately, it was an educational three-day show that aimed to help businesses grow with technology, and educate engineers on how to make that happen.

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