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Safety first: How to develop safety and reliability in precast production machinery

Elematic safety helmet

The precast process can be noisy and dusty. It includes heavy-duty machines such as extruders and saws and factory equipment that constantly moves back and forth. Work phases like lifting or climbing to heights can be repetitive and heavy. Product development, in close cooperation with the industry, solves these challenges – and makes precasting safer in all aspects.

Knowing the capacity figures or the price tag of a production line is not enough when making an investment decision. According to Jouni Sirkka, Director of Product Development at Elematic, safety at the precast factory is what really counts.

“Creating a safe production line means that, in every single delivery, we make a risk analysis and evaluation that covers the whole supply chain and the entire life cycle of the line – from logistics and startup to operation and maintenance.”

Risk analysis as a basis for everything

The team that analyses the risks of the supply chain is always formed from people with different viewpoints on safety. Some work closer to product development, others may have views on the safety of the logistics, for example.

“The risk analysis is the basis for all manuals, instructions on safety gear, safety training, and operation and maintenance training,” Sirkka says.

Equipment automation is increasing all the time. “We develop the safety logics in our machinery constantly to ensure safe operation. Critical functions are duplicated to minimize any failures.”

Reliable and safe technology and automation lead to less downtime when the risks and the way of operating in exceptional production situations have been anticipated well beforehand.

“We aim to reduce human error in all of our equipment. It is considered from the external shield of the equipment to the very core of the machine, and the ways of operating and maintaining it.”

The latest innovations in the field include the loop installation machine for safer lifting of slabs, the inverter in our saw, and the battery mold opening-and-closing device.

“Risk evaluation covers the whole supply chain and the entire life cycle of the line.”

Jouni Sirkka, Director of Product Development at Elematic
Jouni Sirkka, Director of Product Development and Petri Partanen, Automation Engineer at Elematic
Jouni Sirkka, Director of Product Development and Petri Partanen, Automation Engineer at Elematic

From the safety of machines towards system safety

Increased automation minimizes the physically heavy, repetitive, and high-risk work phases, and makes production more flexible and efficient. “However, automated machinery and equipment also create new types of risks that need to be taken into consideration when planning maintenance or handling unexpected situations in production”, says Risto Tiusanen, Senior Scientist at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd.

In the EU, for example, safety requirements have been dictated by the Machinery Directive and related standards since 1995. “All leading component manufacturers and system suppliers today consider safety issues to be business critical.”

The safety of machines, including safety guards or beams, sensors, and other protection systems, is generally on an advanced level. “This is not enough since the growing trend towards unmanned production in all branches calls for software-based solutions to operate the entire manufacturing system safely and efficiently. We have moved from the safety of machines to a level of system safety”, Tiusanen concludes.

Current issues in system safety

Perception: The system identifies the location of operators or maintenance personnel and optimizes production flexibly without downtime.

Communication: The increasingly complex systems demand reliable and secure channels to deliver critical data and signals.

Openness: Taking safety issues into account at the initial concept design phase or when planning a retrofit – system safety and reliability are created in cooperation with the end user, maintenance, and the equipment supplier.

Risto Tiusanen

Risto Tiusanen

Saw technology for high performance cutting

Elematic Saw E9-500

HIGH PERFORMANCE SAWS cut versatile pre-stressed products safely.  Elematic’s fully automated E9-500 saw is designed for cutting elements vertically up to 520 mm in any direction. A new inverter drive makes the saw easier and safer to operate: the blade can now be stopped automatically and quickly after cutting. Changing the blade is also easier. E9-500 includes an efficient dust removal system consisting of vacuum and an automatically adjusting blade cover to minimize emissions and reduce noise.

Motorized opening-and-closing device for battery molds

Casting cells with cast elements weigh several tons, and operating the opening and closing of the mold is a heavy work phase for the operator. This innovation has its roots in discussions with our customers. The easy-to-use, ergonomic mechanism opens and closes the mold at the press of a button. This improves work safety and ergonomics, minimizing the risk of injury. The battery mold device includes a semiautomatic, fixed chain mechanism at the bottom of the mold. A control cabin with push buttons is the default way to operate the device, and a radio-control option is available for challenging working spaces.

Motorized opening-and-closing device for battery molds

People who have worked on the battery mold previously have experienced ache and stress on the hands and upper arms due to the heavy opening and closing operations. With the new device, there is no need to operate the mold manually with a ratchet wrench – the mechanism can be operated without continuously burdening the same arm.

Automatic loop installation

Manual scissors for lifting precast elements are now a thing of the past.

The Looper E9 enables easy and fast installation of lifting loops.

It makes a hole in the unhardened hollow-core slab, installs a lifting loop in the hole, and compacts the concrete around the loop to reinforce the strand. The patented looper machine travels along the rails following the casting machine, and the installation of the loops is done automatically.

This results in safe and secure fastening and stable quality.

Elematic Looper E9

“We aim to reduce human error in all of our equipment. Safety is considered from the external shield of the equipment to the very core of the machine, as well as the operation and maintenance of the machine.”

Jouni Sirkka, Director of Product Development at Elematic

Secure lifts with a lifting beam

The Automatic Elematic E9-16-5a is a radio controlled lifting beam for precast wall products. It improves work site efficiency and safety and makes complicated chain lifting history. The new beam was designed to replace unsafe climbing on the wall element during lifting operations. The easy-to-mount hooks give a secure grip for the lift. Climbing is no longer needed to reach the hook when mounting the product on the beam. There is no time-consuming chain mounting as the lifting beam is equipped with lifting hooks. The lifting beam features traffic lights that indicate when the hook is properly placed and it is safe to start lifting.

Elematic lifting beam E9
The automatic Elematic E9-16-5a radio controlled lifting beam.
Elematic lifting beam E9