Light Curtains, Noncontact Buttons Protect Assembly Operators

October 1, 2008

At Buhrke Industries, Arlington Heights, IL, concern for safety is illustrated by the production method used to assemble automotive airbag components. An operator loads a part onto the assembly machine and places his hand on a noncontact optical touch button to initiate the cycle, which then runs automatically. The optical touch button, from Banner Engineering Corp., Minneapolis, MN, is designed so that the operator must keep his hand on the button until the press shuts and the pinch point is closed.

 Noncontact buttons

Although this method minimizes risk to the specific machine operator should his hand be placed in the equipment during a cycle, precautions also are taken to prevent injury to additional Buhrke personnel working in close proximity. To protect these workers, as well as improve workflow, Buhrke uses Banner’s Ez-Screen safety light screen.

The light screens guard points of operation, access areas and perimeters. These noncontact systems protect fingers, hands and ankles by detecting the presence of opaque objects that interrupt a part of the predefined area. The light screen sends a safety stop signal to the controls of the machine, which react immediately to stop the hazardous motion before an incident occurs.

Plus, Banner’s Ez-Screen safety light screen offers versatile mounting options for flexible use, without interfering with normal production processes.

“We mounted the light curtains on these machines in a top and bottom orientation,” says Steve Amaro, Buhrke process engineer. “This allows the operator to pass from machine to machine without moving around upright posts.”

In addition to protecting workers, the light screen provides significant time and cost savings. With an alternative method, such as a two-hand tie-down pushbutton or palm method, Buhrke estimates a single cycle would take 14 to 15 sec. Using the light screen cuts this time nearly in half—requiring just 7 to 8 sec. per cycle.

Buhrke also uses Banner safety products for machine control. For example, a machine used to assemble radio chassis is safeguarded with Banner’s Pico-Guard fiberoptic system controllers. These devices interface with the machine PLC via fiberoptic controllers, which feature four separate optical sensing channels to monitor one or multiple fiberoptic switches, point, grids or optical e-stop buttons in the same fiberoptic loop.

“Running plastic fibers is less labor intensive than the alternative method of hard-wiring door switches and using a different style of controller,” Amaro says.

Banner Engineering: 763/544-3164;

Industry-Related Terms: Point
View Glossary of Metalforming Terms


See also: Banner Engineering Corp., Ims Cos Llc

Technologies: Safety


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