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How autonomous machinery is driving wireless safety

Oct. 6, 2023
Fort Robotics Endpoint Controller receives SIL 3 certification

Fort Robotics has received safety integrity level 3 (SIL 3) functional-safety certification, as defined by IEC 61508, for its Endpoint Controller—designed to bring safe, secure, dynamic wireless control to mobile, automated or autonomous machines. The certification comes from exida, which assesses product compliance to IEC 61508 and IEC 61511 standards for functional safety for the process industry, IEC 62443 for industrial control system cybersecurity, ISA-18.2 for alarm management, ISO 26262 for functional safety of automotive, IEC 62061 and ISO 13849 for safety of machinery and ANSI/RIA 1506 for robot safety.

The controller, which is part of the Fort Robotics Control Platform, can send and receive two different SIL 3 safety commands over Wi-Fi or Ethernet and can communicate with up to 30 machines simultaneously, according to Fort, making it possible to command and manage machines on- or off-site.

“In warehousing, manufacturing, heavy equipment or really any machine environment, there is an increasing need for people and robots to work together,” said Nivedita Ojha, vice president of product at Fort. Her article for Control Design explained how to protect OT networks from IT risks. “Our goal is to make that collaboration as productive as possible with minimal risk,” she explained. “With the Endpoint Controller, companies can enhance operational efficiency by commanding multiple machines at once to e-stop, pause, crawl and respond to a fire alarm.”

Fort’s Endpoint Controller functions as both a transmitter and a receiver of SIL 3 safety commands. Deploying a SIL 3–certified product helps users comply with safety regulations and ensures that potential risks have been assessed and mitigated.

This level of reliability has been limited to wired hardware, but the evolving automation landscape requires the ability to send functionally safe commands over any network, including wireless communication, said Nathan Bivans, Fort chief technology officer. The Endpoint Controller is one of the first certified wireless options. “As mobile and autonomous machines become common drivers of productivity, companies must have a reliable means to send safety commands over wireless networks to ensure employees can monitor, respond or stop machines from a distance if an unsafe scenario emerges,” said Bivans (Figure 1).

“Certification from one of the world’s most trusted safety experts in exida means the device will work as intended, when intended, reducing the risk of harm to people or damage to the equipment,” he explained.

Several industry professionals explained the compliance required for wireless, remote and touchscreen e-stops in this Real Answers article.

The Endpoint Controller can be mounted on a machine or integrated with third-party input devices, such as buttons, safety interlocks, light curtains or fire alarms, allowing users to trigger automatic wireless communications with a fleet of machines or robots. Additional features include a tamper-proof design, an IP65-rated enclosure and secure firmware to protect against cybersecurity threats.

The Endpoint Controller is designed to be securely configured and managed using the Fort Manager cloud platform, available via a no-code application or through application-programming-interface (API) access for direct integration with an existing system.

About the Author

Mike Bacidore | Editor in Chief

Mike Bacidore is chief editor of Control Design and has been an integral part of the Endeavor Business Media editorial team since 2007. Previously, he was editorial director at Hughes Communications and a portfolio manager of the human resources and labor law areas at Wolters Kluwer. Bacidore holds a BA from the University of Illinois and an MBA from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. He is an award-winning columnist, earning multiple regional and national awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He may be reached at [email protected] 

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