Get a Comprehensive View of Operations and Machine Safety with GuardLink Technology

Ready to Simplify Machine Safety?

A truly connected enterprise has real-time control and information available across platforms and devices within the organization

The Connected Enterprise — underpinned by the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) — gives users the ability to access the right information, in the right format at the right time.

A maintenance engineer with a tablet can exploit position beacons along a line or machine to interrogate specific safety equipment in precise locations, receiving the data when approaching each area dynamically without having to request it manually.

The same is true for an operations manager, who would use the same software on the same tablet and the same location beacons, but receive information applicable to their credentials. Using these core tools and technologies helps give contextualized information to the individual’s need, based on their function or job.

With an information-enabled connection to machines and equipment, manufacturers get a much more comprehensive view of their operations.

Information-Rich Connection

The EtherNet/IP™ network provides plant-wide network systems using open, industry-standard networking technologies. It offers real-time control and information when connecting high-end input devices such as motor starters and sensors to controllers and human machine interfaces (HMIs) into the wider enterprise.

In situations where EtherNet/IP capability is not on the devices – especially those simple safety input devices and components such as emergency-stops, interlock switches, and basic guard locking switches, manufacturers can now exploit newer intelligent device-level linking technology – GuardLink® protocol from Rockwell Automation, that can feed individual device information back to a host controller.

GuardLink is a safety-based communications protocol utilizing standard cabling in a trunk and drop topology with plug-and-play connections. It significantly reduces wiring, while providing device location and delivering diagnostics, remote reset and lock commands over a single cable, and from there it provides the information to the system over the network. There is no configuration required and as many as 32 devices can be connected up to a maximum of 1,000 m (max. 30 m between devices).

Enhanced Interconnectivity

Traditional safety solutions commonly are hard-wired in series. Therefore in operation the user may lose the ability to distinguish the demands of individual devices; and if a component fails, the user is only aware that a component somewhere on the series connection has issues.

Individual connections to each individual component require significantly more wiring and introduces many more potential fault points that can lead to unnecessary unplanned downtime. This also increases costs for machine builders.

On the other hand, GuardLink allows machine builders and end users to keep the series connection of devices but still get granular diagnostics from each one. Smart safety components featuring GuardLink linking technology allow users to access status information, improving the functional operation of the machinery.

For example, safety relays check and monitor a safety system and either allow the machine to start or execute commands to stop the machine or control safety-related functions. A GuardLink-enabled relay can achieve most of the functions safety systems require.

It can also help simplify purchasing and parts management because it has an add-on profile for the Studio 5000 Logix Designer® engineering environment that provides access to the relay and GuardLink device data. It is designed to meet functional safety standards, such as ISO 13849-1 or IEC 62061, and it offers key functions to help ease installation and system complexity.

A GuardLink-enabled connection taps, (also called smart tap) acts as adaptor for safety input devices — including both output signal switching device (OSSD) and electro-mechanical safety switch (EMSS) inputs — to connect to the GuardLink system while providing device location, status and auxiliary to the Guardmaster® safety relay. And when connecting all the safety devices through the connection tap and standard four-conductor cabling to a safety relay, this delivers visibility of system status down to individual guard doors and e-stops.

How it Works

If an e-stop or an interlock switch is operated, that individual safety signal will be sent to the safety relays. The relays are optically linked to each other, requiring no wiring for communication between them. That information is then communicated seamlessly across The Connected Enterprise by way of the EtherNet/IP network interface used by the Guardmaster safety relay.

Locally, the operators receive a notification that there is a fault and will know exactly where it is located instead of having to manually investigate all devices on a machine or line.

This allows them to correct the issue themselves in the event a minor issue is shown or contact maintenance personnel for more serious faults. Ultimately, GuardLink not only minimizes downtime by communicating real-time diagnostics, but also allows manufacturers to understand and improve production processes.

Get Control of the Data

Reducing the number and duration of interactions with a machine will make it safer and more productive. A well-designed system using a smart safety controller connected to the HMIs should keep fault finding tasks to a minimum.

Modern, comprehensive safety systems are able to conduct self-checking so that a series of faults do not accumulate, leading to the loss of the safety function and possibly additional hazards.

Accidents are often the result of a chain of smaller incidents, such as unnoticed component failures or bypasses, rather than a single large failure. By using a safety programmable logic controller (PLC), it is possible to integrate the process and the safety logic.

Rockwell Automation has developed the scalable safety solutions incorporating smart safety devices that enable manufacturers and safety professionals to transform the way they monitor and manage safety.

With the GuardLink system and the EtherNet/IP acting as a bridge of communication, manufacturers can build machines with greater visibility and the ability to more effectively manage massive amounts of complex data.

Three Pillars of Support for Safety

Machine builders that want to enable and support smart manufacturing and operations will need these elements for industrial manufacturing safety requirements:

  • The right products: New smart-safety designs and devices can reduce wiring, design costs, and unscheduled downtime. And a comprehensive and scalable machine safety portfolio can help companies create safer and more productive machines.
  • The right tools: Integrated systematic design tools and design environment with more features and functionally can help engineers keep up with the constant uphill market demands for increased overall productivity and safety for their entire automation system.
  • The right people: Complying with safety standards to reduce the risk of injuries and improve productivity require the support and expertise of people who understand both automation and safety. When collaborating with them, manufacturers can deliver staff training and education on safety requirements and compliance and help secure a better and safer working environment.

Safe Machine, Safe Technology

Developments in global safety standards and technologies have made manufacturing safety a powerful tool to help optimize production. The contemporary technologies help improve worker safety and simplify programming and start-up.

The GuardLink safety system delivers multiple benefits, not just in terms of lowering engineering and design demands, but also in terms of its data capabilities and return on investment.

Indeed, best-in-class companies recognize that the deployment of an intelligent, integrated safety solution can not only help ensure the safety of their employees, but also directly affect their bottom line by improving manufacturing productivity.

The time is now for manufacturers to take advantage of the changing landscape in technology, not only from the safety system perspective, but also from a networking capabilities perspective.

Automation Today

Automation Today Asia Pacific, quarterly magazine published by Rockwell Automation Inc. is designed to deliver the latest industrial automation & information technology trends, case studies & application stories, new products & features.