Wearable Robotics Demonstration

While we are on a robot/human collaboration theme, take a look at this exoskeleton from WearTech Center. The evolution of ergonomics and human-assist tech has fascinated me for a very long time. I’m old enough to remember the hard and dangerous ways. Given some of the stuff I’ve done early in my career, I’m lucky to be hear with all my extremities intact.

The WearTech Center, an applied research center accelerating the development of emerging technology products, along with Arizona-based wearable device companies GoX Labs and AKE, and Arizona State University’s top mechanical engineering researchers, are advancing worker wellness and safety with new exoskeleton technology. Through the public-private collaboration, Arizona-based innovators announced they are developing a new exoskeleton that will make workplaces safer for millions of workers in many industries. The wearable exoskeleton technology called PhenEx will help workers squat and lift heavy loads promoting overall worker health.

Previously, GoX Labs, AKE and ASU successfully developed a similar ex called the Aerial Porters Exoskeleton, or APEx. More than $31 million is spent annually in disability benefits for retired aerial porters, who had a high incidence of musculoskeletal injuries, according to a U.S. Department of Transportation’s Volpe Center study. To promote worker wellness and make pushing and lifting easier and safer, APEx is designed to assist people in loading a 10,000-pound pallet and pushing it onto an airplane.

“There are 89 million workers exposed to injury at work every day. As Arizona continues to grow as a hub for many different industries, the need for exoskeletons that promote workplace wellness only increases. Working through the WearTech Center to collaborate with ASU’s researchers gives us the push we need to take our technology to the next level,” said Dr. Joseph Hitt, CEO of GoX Labs.

At the WearTech Center, GoX Labs’ and AKE’s exoskeleton technology product development follows the applied research model which accelerates the process via collaboration with public and private sectors partners. The center shepherds these innovative products through the idea generation, project formation, validation, and commercialization phases.

“Innovations like what GoX Labs, AKE and ASU are developing through the WearTech Center have a high impact on reducing workplace injuries and enhancing Arizona’s economic development,” said Wes Gullett, Operations Director of Applied Research Centers for the Partnership for Economic Innovation. “The Arizona Legislature’s public investment in applied research capabilities and our ability to connect innovators to the tools they need to accelerate their product’s development grows Arizona’s economy and fuels its innovation opportunities.”

APEx is already being used by the U.S. Air Force by aerial porters to load heavy cargo onto planes. GoX Labs, AKE and ASU are continuing their collaborative efforts creating the quasi-active exoskeleton PhenEx with the support of the WearTech Center. The wearable PhenEx leverages sensors to activate spring elements when workers need to perform physical activities for their jobs. The quasi-active exoskeleton unlocks when the worker is at rest, walking or driving as to not hinder motion. The WearTech Center will assist with applied research and testing for product development.

GoX Labs and AKE will test out PhenEX on local employers like Amazon, Lucid Motors, and other industry partners through WearTech. Arizona employers can get involved in the testing of PhenEx by emailing [email protected]

ABB Announces Many New Automation Projects

ABB keeps a flow of automation news through my inbox that I can’t keep up with. There are only a few companies maintaining this much publicity. A few of the larger industrial automation (and software) companies have almost completely closed the valve. I have six interesting items from ABB of a variety of process automation use cases.

  • process upgrade to a cement plant
  • high payload hoists in mining
  • Flow Control Mold electromagnetic stirring and braking technology for steel production
  • production control and process solutions for lithium plant
  • electromagnetic stirring for steel arc furnace project
  • digital transformation in a large sawmill

ABB upgrades process control systems and cement grinding units in UAE

ABB upgrades process control systems and cement grinding units in UAE for increased uptime and uniformity across multiple sites

•   ABB installs state-of-the-art distributed control system (DCS) automation platform at Star Super Cement cement grinding plants in UAE

•   Upgrade to central processing units brings uniformity across Star Cement clinkerization plant as well as Star Cement grinding plants in the Middle East to lower maintenance downtime

•   ABB has also installed the latest generation automation controllers for high availability of control applications at the Ultratech Cement subsidiaries

ABB has installed ABB Ability System 800xA to upgrade three grinding units at Star Super Cement in Dubai, UAE, and ensure optimized operations with the Star Cement clinkerization plant in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE.

The scope of work undertaken by ABB included the upgrade of all previously installed central processing units (CPUs) and controllers to the latest version of ABB Ability System 800xA. The project also involved the complete erection and installation for the new panels while keeping the field wiring intact. Minerals libraries were introduced to the system. Project panels were manufactured and delivered locally.

high payload hoists ensure safety and efficiency at major Australian mine

OZ Minerals will install a production hoist (winder) which can carry nearly 40,000kg of ore to the surface

•    The hoist system will have the highest available levels of safety through ABB Ability Safety Plus for hoists, the first fully SIL 3 certified suite of solutions for hoists

•    Contract is part of a $400 million shaft expansion at the mining company’s Prominent Hill mine in South Australia

ABB has won a large order for its highest payload Koepe production hoist, associated infrastructure, and safety systems from Australian mining company OZ Minerals. The contract will help to ensure efficient processing performance and a long service life as part of an ongoing $400 million expansion at the Prominent Hill mine in South Australia.

The hoist, which will be designed and supplied by ABB, has a capacity of 39,400kg and the strongest drivetrain that ABB has ever installed in Australia. ABB specialists will also supervise installation and commissioning.

Installing the Wira shaft will increase the annual underground mining rate, extend the mine life, reduce operating costs, lower emissions intensity, and reduce overall operational risk, according to OZ Minerals.

optimize production for major steelmaker thyssenkrupp

ABB has been awarded a major contract by Primetals Technologies to help optimize production at thyssenkrupp Steel Europe’s (tkSE) Duisburg-Bruckhausen plant in Germany, using the unique and proprietary ABB Flow Control Mold electromagnetic stirring and braking technology for higher quality steel produced faster and at lower cost.

The construction of a casting rolling mill and the upgrade of an existing continuous casting plant is part of a wider project awarded to Primetals Technologies, a global leader in plant engineering for the metals industry. It is part of tkSE’s Strategy 20-30 which aims to optimize operations for the requirements of automotive customers seeking improved surfaces, thinner and high-performance steels to meet crash safety standards in the growing e-mobility market.

By using FC Mold G3 (generation 3), thyssenkrupp can prevent gas bubbles and impurities from becoming trapped in the solidifying steel as the technology will offer simultaneous stirring and braking from one fixed position on the caster. In continuous slab casting, conditions in the meniscus area of the solidifying steel are crucial to determining end-product quality and have a major impact on productivity and overall operating costs. Integrated with the caster, FC Mold uses electromagnetic fields to control meniscus flow speed and fluctuations. It enables improved process control and increased resource efficiency, requires very little maintenance and typically has a long lifespan.

zero emission lithium project in Europe

• Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Savannah Resources plc and ABB signals intent to work together to explore electrification, automation and digital solutions for the Barroso Lithium Project in Portugal

• ABB will provide technical expertise to outline production control and process solutions for lithium production in line with Savannah’s decarbonization strategy and aim of zero emission operations by 2030

• The project is the largest known resource of hardrock spodumene lithium in Europe and could be a significant source of carbon-neutral lithium concentrate to help meet growing electric vehicle (EV) battery demand

Under the early-stage agreement, ABB will apply its technical expertise to outline production control and process solutions for lithium concentrate production and integrated spodumene mining operations in line with Savannah’s target of zero emission operations by 2030.

Savannah is focused on responsible development of the Barroso Lithium Project by using 238 individual measures to eliminate or mitigate environmental impacts. These measures will be included in the Definitive Feasibility Study on the project, which Savannah is currently completing. This will also incorporate the actions from the current project decarbonization study which supports Savannah’s commitment to target a zero emission operation by 2030 or earlier. Savannah also places great emphasis on its social responsibilities and a comprehensive set of programmes have been designed to share benefits and opportunities with local communities.

charging, melting and electromagnetic stirring solution on a large electric arc furnace (EAF)

•    Record-breaking melting unit in operation at steelmaker Acciaieria Arvedi in Italy, with a furnace tapping size of 300 metric tons

•    Tenova’s Consteel EAF continuous scrap charging system is complemented by Consteerrer, an innovative ArcSave-based electromagnetic stirring technology jointly developed by ABB and Tenova for continuously charging EAF systems

•    Application of electromagnetic stirring results in 5 percent productivity increase and 3.6 percent reduction in electrical energy consumption

•    Additional improvements include increased flexibility in the operation of the furnace and in the use of the raw materials mix with significant improvement of the metallic charge yield

The record-breaking electric arc furnace has a 300-ton tapping size and utilizes a charge mix which include Hot Briquetted Iron (HBI). It was installed to meet the demand for increased output following the recent revamp of the continuous Endless Strip Production (Arvedi-ESP) casting and rolling mill line at the plant.

Swedish sawmill takes first steps to realize vision of digitally optimized operations

•      Sustainable timber products company Moelven will use the ABB Ability System 800xA distributed control system to find improved ways of running a sawmill

•      ABB will digitally connect a steam boiler for better energy usage and production processes at the new Valåsen mill in Karlskoga with start up planned in 2024

The ABB Ability System 800xA distributed control system (DCS) will be installed for the new mill to provide operators with wide visibility and precise control from a central command center to ensure that production is as resource efficient as possible, with reduced energy consumption and limited waste.

The first step is to ensure two steam boilers are integrated into the ABB Ability System 800xA for improved load sharing and optimized energy use. The entire saw line will be consolidated under a single control and information system, enabling better decisions by ensuring the right process information reaches operators at the right time.

The application area in a sawmill is new to both ABB and Moelven as the site is currently running with islands of automation, where each machine operates in its own space. The aim of the collaboration is to not only increase digitalization and result in higher levels of automation, but also realize a new standard in the industry’s operations for the long-term with interfaces between machines and modelling of the entire process flow.

Moelven already sources its materials from sustainable spruce and pine forests in Norway and Sweden, and has a vision of a connected, digital sawmill to create greater efficiencies in processing. It manufactures wood products for the home, lumbar for industry, glulam, building modules, flexible office solutions and wood chips for bioenergy.

Through the collaboration with Moelven there will be the potential for ABB to work with a number of Europe-based original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and technology innovators, ensuring the vision for the sawmill of the future is achieved successfully. ABB is committed to helping its customers reduce their emissions and preserve resources as part of its Sustainability Strategy 2030.

Protecting Employees From Covid Infection

As things are beginning to open again, I’m hearing of some more solutions for protecting employees from Covid infection. Recently I interviewed the Early on during the pandemic, I interviewed several executives who had solutions for preventing the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus as people either continued to work in manufacturing or would be called back at any time. 

Founder/CEO of another such company–Soumi Eachempati, MD, FACS, FCCM, Co-Founder and CEO of Chelsea Health Solutions and Cleared4 and a former Professor of Surgery and Public Health at Weill Cornell Medical School.

Eachempati is sort of a “checklist guru” having formerly developed an app to be used in triage in emergency rooms when patients (or others) could answer a few quick questions on a tablet or phone to assist ER personnel expedite treatment. 

Similarly, he maintains the manufacturing industry can protect their workers by implementing the following safety checklist:

·       Identify, Test, Trace: The backbone of a solid identification strategy is a strong symptom monitor that identifies individuals who need to be tested and quarantined.  

·       Educate and Communicate: Educating workers about Covid-19 risks is as important as education on safety protocols and equipment use. 

·       Enforce Symptom Monitor Adoption: Less than absolute adoption is especially frightening when one considers that the individuals who do not participate may be the one most likely to harbor Covid-19 or its symptoms.

Back to the ER app, he had evolved the app into a flu checker. Then when Covid struck, and the app could be used to differentiate Covid from flu. Started Cleared4 to promote and sell the app. 

Cleared4, a scalable, customizable HIPAA-compliant platform, helps organizations seamlessly monitor employee Covid-19 symptoms by quarantining those at risk and enabling low risk employees to return to school and work in keeping with the constantly changing state mandates. Cleared4 is a patent-pending health management platform that uniquely uses text messaging, health centric technologies, and on-site kiosks to obtain valuable health clearance for employees.

It is an SaaS application where companies (and others) can buy instances and are given private URL. Enter employees or other concerned people who need to be screened into the app via csv file. It’s a self-screener for now. Employee answers the questions on the app (also can input vital data like vaccines) and gets OK (or not) from the app. Obtains a personal QR code or the information is logged to the employee data in customer’s system. This allows entry into the building. Employees are tagged into geophysical groups. If someone reports Covid infection, app can be used to track who may have come into contact and notify them to monitor and test.

The platform is currently being used by at least one NBA and one NHL team, with more in negotiations.

Companies are also buying. A chemical company in Illinois, for example. 

Could be available B2C for usual customers or even C2C say someone is giving a Bar Mitzva or arranging neighborhood playdates.

Knowing the number of times I’ve sat through safety videos at chemical plants, refineries, and the like and been logged in and given a card, I could imagine this app as part of the entire safety process. Great for contractors or vendors.

Drawback

The main drawback I saw in the app was that it depended upon the person to enter their own information. I asked a friend who works at a chemical plant about this. He told me they had done a turnaround late last year with about 900 contractors on site. They used an active monitoring application called Triax with few instances of infection during the work.

I guess I believe that some of each may not be a bad strategy. (By the way, the Triax people never contacted me. I’m just reporting a customer experience.)

Aruba Expands Roster of Easy-to-Deploy Workplace Safety Solutions

Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, announced an expanded set of integrated, easy-to-deploy Edge and IoT solutions designed to enable organizations to bring employees back to physical workplaces safely. I am beginning to compile a number of solutions to returning to work or working with Covid. A doctor from Cornell University Medical Center talked with me about a solution he developed that is in queue for posting. I also heard about a solution used by a chemical plant during a turnaround with 900 contractors on site with almost no Covid cases experienced. This one uses already  installed access points (or you can add a system).

Developed using Aruba Wi-Fi access points (AP’s), EnOcean 800/900MHz radios that insert into the AP’s, and compatible IoT devices from Aruba Technology Partners, these solutions monitor hoteling spaces, room occupancy, air quality, and cleaning/disinfection scheduling. By operating on customers’ existing Aruba infrastructure and leveraging cloud-based applications, the solutions can be rapidly deployed and eliminate the need for expensive IoT overlay networks.

As the world continues to adapt to new business realities brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations are considering a myriad of return-to-work scenarios, including re-opening offices and safely bringing employees back in-person. Since IT infrastructure spans across the entire enterprise, it’s the ideal platform on which to build cross-organizational systems and processes encompassing social distancing, contact tracing, infection control, and space management. Flexible, cloud-native applications targeting these use cases can be quickly spun up – at minimal cost – as return-to-work initiatives are rolled out.

Aruba ESP (Edge Services Platform) provides the unified, secure, cloud-native network infrastructure that underpins EnOcean’s integration with Aruba. Plugging an EnOcean 800/900MHz USB adapter into a compatible Aruba AP enables communication with wireless IoT air quality monitors, presence detectors, light level sensors, and other devices that use EnOcean-developed protocols, wireless radios, and energy harvesting power sources. IoT data is streamed from the AP to the target return-to-work application over secure tunnels. Aruba ESP applies consistent security policies and provides unified management from a single point of control. Customers have the freedom to implement return-to-work solutions at any time, in both new and existing deployments, without ripping and replacing IT infrastructure.

Return-to-work applications and technology partners include:

  • Hoteling space management: Wireless sensors are ideal for managing the availability, occupancy, air quality, and cleaning requirements of hoteling spaces. DEUTA Controls’ EnoPuck visually identifies if a space is reserved, occupied, available, or vacated, while simultaneously monitoring air quality and light levels. Departure of an occupant can automatically trigger a request for cleaning and disinfection.
  • Occupancy management: To ensure compliance with social distancing and sanitation protocols, IAconnects’ Mobius Flow application manages people-counter and occupancy sensors to monitor the status of communal areas, e.g., washrooms, kitchens, and meeting areas. A “cleaning threshold” feature alerts maintenance when an area requires attention.
  • Smart restroom: The smart restroom solution from Nanjing Winshine checks traffic flow and occupancy of restrooms in real-time. Employees are alerted when the restrooms are unavailable, and the application can automatically generate work orders for cleaning and disinfection services.
  • Demand-oriented ventilation: Typically used in classrooms, public buildings and offices, Thermokon’s CO2 sensor solution contributes to demand-oriented ventilation to reduce the risk of infection. The solution currently measures CO2 within a particular area and activates the ventilation system to meet defined air quality standards. Temperature, relative humidity, and volatile organic compound (VOC) sensing will be available later this year.
  • Building management: The building management application from Titanium Intelligent Solutions manages lighting, energy, and space efficiency during shelter-in-place mandates and when curfews are enforced. Building functions are securely and remotely controlled via a simple, web-based application.

“The simplest, most automated, and cost-effective way to implement return-to-work safety initiatives is by deploying data-driven smart solutions on top of existing IT infrastructure,” said Michael Tennefoss, vice president of IoT and Strategic Partnerships at Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company. “Because of their ubiquitous deployment throughout enterprises, in locations that are ideal for wireless sensor communications, Aruba AP’s are ideal on-ramps for return-to-work IoT devices. As monitoring and safety requirements change over time, additional IoT devices can be added by tapping into the EnOcean Alliance, a vast ecosystem of vendors that have developed interoperable, self-powered wireless sensor solutions. Armed with this technology, organizations can re-open with confidence today using a future-proof platform that is ready for what lies ahead.”

 www.arubanetworks.com

Universal Robots’ Safety Expert Recognized in 20 Exceptional Women in Robotics and Automation List

Just received news about someone I know who has been recognized for her achievements in robot safety. The international group of remarkable women on SME’s list published today represent a comprehensive cross section of technologies in robotics and automation. The list was developed by U.S.-based Smart Manufacturing magazine published by SME in consultation with several leaders across the robotics and automation industries.


The list highlights the work of Roberta Nelson Shea, who joined Universal Robots (UR) as the company’s Global Technical Compliance Officer (GTCO) in 2016. She has long blazed the trail for women in a traditionally male-dominated industry; Nelson Shea was the first woman to serve on the Board of Directors of Robotic Industries Association (RIA) where she also participates in mentoring diversity efforts to get women more involved and recognized.

“From an engineering and management standpoint, women were and continue to be in the minority in the robotics industry. Fortunately, we are starting to see this slowly changing,” she says. “Since joining UR, I see more female engineers in software development, coding and user interface than I saw before.” 

According to Robert Willig, executive director and CEO of SME, the industry still has miles to go in balancing diversity in manufacturing. “Those with the knowledge, creativity and drive to raise the level of technology and innovation can achieve success,” he says. “This group of women has not only the vision to create new products – and in some cases even new product categories – they also have the technological background and the business acumen to bring them to market and a willingness to teach others the processes necessary to make the next generations successful in our industry.”


Nelson Shea chaired the U.S. National Robot Safety Committee for 23 years, spent 40+ years within manufacturing automation, and is recognized as a global authority on robotic safety standards – most recently as Convenor of the ISO working group for industrial robotic safety (ISO/TC 299 WG3).

Collaborative robots – or cobots – remain the fastest growing segment of industrial automation, projected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 30.37% during 2020–2025. UR leads the cobot market, having recently celebrated the sale of its 50,000th cobot. The emergence of robots that work alongside human workers and their importance in advanced manufacturing has brought robotics safety into the spotlight, says Nelson Shea:

“I’m deeply honored to receive this recognition from SME. Robotics safety might be regarded as sort of the ugly stepchild in the industrial automation industry. It was not as sexy or jazzy as artificial intelligence, neural networks and other developing technologies within robotics,” she says. “UR changed this. When you have humans and robots working within the same space instead of separated– as was the case with traditional industrial robot applications – safety becomes much more complex and the nuances are very different. Safety now might mean that the robot slows or changes position compared to simply stopping.  My overall mission is to demystify robotic safety and make sure the deployment barriers are broken down. I am an advocate of global harmonization of safety requirements to reduce costs of designs, manufacturing, and compliance.”

At UR, Nelson Shea works closely with R&D colleagues in the safety aspects of new UR products and use scenarios. She also fields questions from customers wondering if UR cobots can be used in specific applications in accordance with the robotics safety standards. “I really enjoy working at UR, the caliber of their engineers is superlative. It’s a very innovative environment where we’re constantly pushing the envelope to provide a better and easier-to-use robot.”

Nelson Shea was previously honored by the American Society of Safety Professionals as being one of the top 100 Women in Safety over the past 100 years. “I deeply believe that automation can be done in a safe way that works well for the people interfacing with the equipment while having high productivity,” she says. “Having a strong robot safety standard has contributed to the success of the industrial robotics market,” she concludes citing a favorite quote from John Lizzi, executive director of robotics at GE Global Research. “We see robots, and specifically industrial robotics, as moving through three phases: robots as tools to robots as partners and, ultimately, to robots that sustain the things we care about.”

Collaboration Helps Employees Return Safely to the Workplace

Collaboration continues to be one of the key words in this pandemic season for operations in industrial plant safety—which includes Covid awareness. This collaboration targets employees in asset-intensive industries.

  • Collaboration will combine Honeywell’s IIoT connected devices and safety software with Wolters Kluwer’s risk and environmental, health and safety management software 
  • Offerings will help customers in asset-intensive industries protect workers, adhere to compliance requirements and facilitate business continuity 

Honeywell and Wolters Kluwer announced a collaboration to integrate Honeywell’s Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) connected devices and safety software with the risk and environmental, health and safety (EHS) software from Enablon, a Wolters Kluwerbusiness. The collaboration is designed to enable enterprises in asset-intensive industries to improve their risk, safety, and operational excellence programs.

The collaboration enables customers to monitor their EHS performance, receive early warnings about issues from their Honeywell equipment, and take proactive steps to help prevent incidents and improve safety compliance.

“With companies concerned about making a safe return to their facilities, we are offering a solution that aims to provide peace of mind to management in terms of both safety and compliance to keep up with ever-changing health and environmental regulations,” said John Rudolph, president, Honeywell Process Solutions. “Our new reality requires innovative solutions that enable both business continuity and help protect the health of their employees.”

Given the heightened uncertainty of today’s business environment, companies have an urgent need for a more holistic, integrated, enterprise platform to operationalize real-time data collected from human and machine input. By leveraging this data, companies can use actionable intelligence through the integration of technologies to mitigate safety risk and remain compliant with regulations.  

Scenario – How it could work in today’s environment:

  • Before visiting the facility, Honeywell’s Digitized Workforce Management software provides an electronic questionnaire which, when complete, provides an access code and time of arrival to reduce the need for transfer of paper documents and improve social distancing.
  • At the entryway, the connected safety software solutions allow Honeywell’s artificial intelligence-driven elevated body temperature monitoring solutions to conduct non-invasive, preliminary screenings of personnel entering a facility. 
  • The system also detects if individuals are wearing the required personal protective equipment needed for entering the building and if they are doing so properly, in compliance with safety regulations.
  • These data points and other manual data points are then reported to the Enablon EHS software. 
  • Through a dashboard view, management can monitor workers to ensure that they remain compliant with rapidly changing health and safety regulations. The EHS solution also allows frontline operations employees to carry out measurements, checks and recordings directly in the field, without the need to walk back and forth to a control room.

By combining Honeywell’s connected safety portfolio and with Enablon’s software suite, customers can eliminate errors in recorded data and improve hands-on-tool time for operators.

“Our goal is to help predict and prevent accidents and out-of-compliance events before they happen,” said Chirag Shah, senior director, Product Management at Wolters Kluwer’s Enablon business. “To do this, companies need to act on data that comes directly from equipment and assets as well as data from workers and contractors in the field. Combining real-time human and machine data in an integrated solution will enable our joint customers to achieve the benefits of a digitized operation. By joining forces with Honeywell, we are helping our customers leverage the benefits of a true Industry 4.0 solution.”

Besides monitoring the health and safety of employees, the solution can also deliver environmental benefits. Today, industries must comply with environmental permits containing hundreds of specific requirements. The technology can monitor, control and report back on the health of these controls. Honeywell’s stationary and mobile solutions can be configured directly from the local environmental and regulatory permit conditions within local jurisdictions, providing early warning alerts to prevent non-compliance.