When designing machinery for automated processes, one of the most important factors to consider is the safety of the personnel who will be using the equipment. Of secondary importance is the protection of the machinery itself. Due to the movement of machine components, hot surfaces, caustic substances and sharp edges all pose potential dangers to exposed personnel. Because of this many standards and regulations have been established as guidelines for the design of safety systems.
Whenever the potential for injury exists it must be evaluated and safeguarded with at least the minimum required level of protection. In the United States, installation and use of machine safety and guarding is regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Some states also have their own safety organizations with regulations that must be at least as strict as the federal OSHA standards. A great reference for safety-related topics as they relate to the industrial workplace is the NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) webpages on the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website.
There are a variety of ways to safeguard operators from machine hazards. These include emergency stop circuits, physical guarding, Lockout/Tagout, designed mitigation, guard devices and software. In addition, several other agencies have established guidelines that influence safety design. The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) provides requirements for industrial systems. NFPA 79-07, the Electrical Standard for Industrial Machinery is used for design of automated systems. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) publishes the B11 standards to provide information on the construction, care and use of machine tools. Since presses, cutting tools and other processes are used in many machines and production lines, these standards often apply in addition to OSHA and NFPA regulations.
Standards in the B11 series include:
B11.1: Mechanical Power Presses
B11.2: Hydraulic Power Presses
B11.3: Power Press Brakes
B11.5: Iron Workers
B11.7: Cold Headers and Cold Formers
B11.8: Drilling, Milling and Boring Machines
B11.9: Grinding Machines
B11.10: Metal Sawing Machines
B11.11: Gear Cutting Machines
B11.12: Roll Forming and Roll Bending Machines
B11.13: Single- and Multiple-Spindle Automatic Bar and Chucking Machines
B11.14: Coil-Slitting Machines
B11.15: Pipe, Tube and Shape Bending Machines
B11.16: Metal Powder Compacting Machines
B11.17: Horizontal Hydraulic Extrusion Presses
B11.18: Machinery and Machine Systems for Processing Strip, Sheet, or Plate from Coiled Configuration
B11.19: Performance Criteria for the Design, Construction, Care and Operation of
Safeguarding When Referenced by other B11 Machine Tool Safety Standards. (B11.19 is considered one of the best single sources of machine tool guarding information for the American market.)
B11.20: Manufacturing Systems/Cells
This list also provides a good example of some of the many metal forming techniques that have been automated and incorporated into machinery.