Like many companies, flashlight manufacturer SureFire LLC (Fountain Valley, CA) is increasingly using robots to assemble its products. On the plus side, the changeover from manual processes has resulted in dramatically lower production costs coupled with an equally dramatic increase in quality. However, the transition to flexible automation has also created a potential safety hazard.

With this in mind, SureFire has always included a full battery of safety devices in each of its workcells to ensure a robot never injures one of its employees. At the same time, the company is continually looking for ways to make its safety systems that much more reliable and cost effective.

Recently, the company found a way to accomplish both of these goals through the use of the PNOZmulti system from safety equipment manufacturer Pilz Automation Safety LP (Canton, MI). Built around a base unit with a chip card that controls and monitors whatever safety devices are being employed, the system is fully modular and immediately alerts operators whenever there is any kind of problem. Users of the PNOZmulti system regularly report costs savings of as much 40 percent in the areas of engineering, installation and maintenance costs.

“A [typical] robot workcell contains a number of safety devices, including E-stops, light curtains and safety gate switches, all designed to protect operators and other personnel on the plant floor,” says SureFire vice president of assembly operations Daniel Fischer, explaining why he decided to go with the Pilz system. “I was looking for a programmable device to not only monitor processes, but replace six to eight safety relays. This makes the equipment easier to configure and also requires less wiring in the control box.”

Ultimately, Fischer says, the Pilz PNOZmulti proved to be a “perfect” fit in terms of ease of use, security and reliability. “It is very easy and intuitive to operate, making configurability a simple matter of drag-and-drop on a PC,” Fischer says. “If a robot workcell ever needs to be modified, the ease of changing configurations is a real time-saver.”

In addition to its systems products, Pilz also manufactures a wide range of sensors, light curtains, electrical monitoring relays and safety relays, along with a line of automation control systems, servo amplifiers and motors.

For more on automation and robotic safety, call 888-650-7450 or