Alabama Robotics Technology Park to educate and train in robotics and automation technology

Three-phase project will provide in-depth training on all aspects of robotics, including safety.
By Modern Materials Handling Staff
January 21, 2011 - MMH Editorial

Omron Scientific Technologies has partnered with the Alabama Robotics Technology Park (RTP) to complete a three-phase project that will consist of individual training facilities targeted to a specific industry need, which will provide college level courses on every aspect of robotics training, including robotics safety.  Omron is serving as the primary robotics safety provider for the project.

“The vision of Alabama Governor Bob Riley, the RTP is a collaborative effort between the state of Alabama, Calhoun Community College, AIDT, which is Alabama’s workforce training agency, and robotics industry leaders across the nation,” says Ed Castile, AIDT Executive Director.  “The mission of the RTP is to provide a technically trained, highly-skilled, and educated workforce for current and future automation and robotics technologies, to assist public and private entities in developing new robotics systems and technologies, and to promote the growth and expansion of companies through new robotics technologies.”

Completed in September 2010, Phase I of the project is the 52,000 square foot Robotic Maintenance Training Center, which houses the industry training program where technicians are trained to work on robotic machinery. 

Phase II of the project will be the 30,000 square foot Advanced Technology Research and Development Center, which will feature a test facility for companies currently in the robotics manufacturing industry.  The facility will be used by NASA and the U.S. Army Missile Command for the purpose of research, development and testing of leading edge robotics used for military projects and space exploration.  Phase II is scheduled to open spring of 2011.

Phase III will be the Integration and Entrepreneurial Center - a collaborative consolidation of technology involving higher education and industry.  This facility will allow companies to build and adapt robots for new industries.  Start-up plants will be able to set up manufacturing lines to integrate software and equipment, test systems and train maintenance and production staff.

For Phase I of the project, Omron STI delivered the complete safety solution for three of RTP’s robotic weld cells, eight single-robot work cells, and a robotic assembly line which included seven robots, a conveyor system, and an automatic guided vehicle (AGV). 

“Each robot in the facility underwent a conceptual machine safeguarding assessment performed by Omron STI, and is compliant with all of the latest industry consensus safety standards, including ANSI/RIA R15.06, NFPA 79, ANSI B11.19, ANSI B11.20, and ANSI B20.1, among others,” says Chris Soranno, Safety Compliance Manager, Omron STI.

The three robotic weld cells are guarded with two safety mats, one MS4800 safety light curtain, one TL4019 safety interlock switch with rear release functionality and a slide bolt, one A4EG enabling switch device, one emergency stop pushbutton, and a complete perimeter barrier guard system.

The eight single-robot work cells are guarded with two OS3101 laser light safety scanners, one MS4800 safety light curtain, one TL4019 safety interlock switch with rear release functionality and a slide bolt, one A4EG enabling switch device, one emergency stop pushbutton, and a complete perimeter barrier guard system. 

All of the weld cells and single-robot work cells incorporate perimeter barrier guard systems to define the safeguarded space of each workspace.  One of the four sides of each cell is a waist-high fence with one MS4800 safety light curtain providing protection at the top to provide the level of safety required, while still enabling students to see into the cell clearly.

The robotic assembly line includes seven robots guarded with six MS4800 safety light curtains, two OS3101 laser light safety scanners, seven interlocked access doors (each with a TL4019 safety interlock switch with rear release functionality, an emergency stop pushbutton and a request access pushbutton), one PA4600 perimeter access guard, and a complete perimeter barrier guard system enclosing three sides.

Each cell also incorporates an NE1A programmable safety controller (with additional slave nodes on the assembly line) that networks everything together, enabling students to view the status of the safety system of each cell from the classroom, a stack light for indication of live voltage, and an Omron touch screen for visual feedback and status monitoring.

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