Robot Monitoring Provides Safe, Flexible Automation

Working hand-in-hand with customers to further develop robot safety technologies, ABB recently introduced SafeMove2, which provides added capabilities to allow for the creation of more efficient and flexible production scenarios and to integrate safety fieldbus connectivity into the company’s IRC5 robot controller family.


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Robots are arguably one of the most important components of any flexible automation solution. They are capable of performing any number of applications across the shop floor. To be efficient, robots must be able to move quickly, making them a potential hazard for people working in the immediate vicinity.

Historically, fences or cages have been used to separate man from machine in an effort to keep people out of harm’s way. First introduced by ABB Robotics in 2008, SafeMove is a robot monitoring software package that performs safety certified monitoring of robot motion, tool and standstill supervision as well as speed limitation. It allows robots and operators to work more closely together by restricting robot motion to do precisely what is needed for a specific application.

Working hand-in-hand with customers to further develop robot safety technologies, ABB recently introduced SafeMove2, which provides added capabilities to allow for the creation of more efficient and flexible production scenarios and to integrate safety fieldbus connectivity into the company’s IRC5 robot controller family. It is designed for better flexibility, space savings and cutting edge commissioning tools for more productivity at a lower total investment cost.

Like the original version of the software, this iteration includes safety functions such as safe speed limits, safe standstill monitoring, safe axis ranges and position and orientation supervision.  The new generation functionality encourages the development of innovative robot applications by integrating safety features directly into the robot controller.

Added Benefits

Updates to the product have helped evolve its functionality from hardware to software. This new generation of SafeMove encourages the development of innovative robot applications by integrating safety features directly into the robot controller. Users can now create features such as more zones, ranges and tools, and the increased flexibility allows for other features to be added in the future. This safety solution helps to improve safety commissioning times and, according to the company, can reduce total investment by as much as 30 percent.

The system also eliminates the need for an IRC5-mounted safety PLC by incorporating safe fieldbus communications directly into the robot controller. It includes miniaturized, dedicated hardware to ensure the performance of the safety system, including a reliable safety IO. This dedicated hardware also ensures that the application running on the controller’s main computer operates independently and is predictable. In addition, the IRC5 controller is now available with a keyless mode selector option—the controller’s physical mode switch can be removed and replaced with a soft mode switch on the FlexPendant, making access easier and eliminating the need for external control panels.

Working Together

Able to support all robot mounting angels, the system is available for use with the majority of ABB’s robot portfolio as well as the IRC5 Single, Compact and Paint controllers. It is designed for better collaboration between the machine and operator. If an operator needs to interact with the robot system, safety sensors can be incorporated into the robot cell to detect the person’s presence. After detected, SafeMove will either supervise the robot’s speed or monitor it while it is standing still. Once the person clears the zone, the robot can resume full operation. The end result is less downtime and increased productivity.

The RobotStudio offline programming tool allows for faster, more efficient safety configuration of the production environment. It provides simulations and 3D graphics to assist programmers in intuitively visualizing the necessary safety zones.

The system also includes a set of tools designed for fast setup, validation and commissioning. One such tool, SafeMove Visualizer, puts configurations directly onto the ABB FlexPendant. The GUI can display detailed safety zones for fast and precise analysis of a zone or axis violation. It also incorporates effective commissioning workflow by offering complete control over all safety functions.

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