PROFI-enabled interlock gate switch from Fortress more than a match for brick, block and tile manufacturing plants

Brick, block and tile manufacturing plants are notorious for their dusty, arduous environments and high-vibration machinery. This plays havoc with traditional safety interlocks, routinely causing tripping faults.

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To overcome this problem, Fortress Interlocks has developed its PROFI-enabled amGardpro interlock gate switch with built-in machine control technology, built to withstand the most strenuous conditions. With a locking force of 10,000N, the PROFI-enabled switch eliminates virtually all nuisance tripping faults, making amGardpro the most robust networked safety interlock on the market.

PROFINET is the world’s most advanced industrial Ethernet system for transporting data in real time between control devices (such as PLCs) and field devices (such as safety gate switches).

Using PROFI-enabled amGardpro gate switches allowed a customer of Fortress which manufactures roof tiles to reduce the wiring for each interlock unit, significantly reducing design, engineering, commissioning and maintenance costs and virtually eliminating tripping faults.

The amGardpro is designed to protect personnel from inadvertent machine restart. Every gate switch at the tile manufacturer is fitted with a safety key which must be taken by any worker who enters the guarded machinery. The machinery cannot be restarted until the safety key has been returned to its original position outside the hazardous area. If access for multiple personnel is required, the interlock is fitted with a lock-out clip enabling operators to attach a padlock to the gate switch for Lock-out Tag-out purposes.

Connecting Fortress safety gate switches to a PROFINET network provided an unprecedented level of diagnostic coverage for the tile manufacturer. Engineers could use standard internet browsers to access diagnostic displays which provided accurate topology views of the network for rapid fault location.

This form of fault detection drastically decreased the level of production downtime, while allowing authorised personnel to access network displays remotely, meaning engineers could diagnose system faults without being on site. The amGardpro PROFINET switches have helped the roof tile manufacturer to make significant improvements in the way the plant is controlled, monitored and managed.

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Fitting safety switches to machine guarding

Configuring a mounting plate for an interlock is easy with Fortress Interlock’s new Eazi-fit mounting system, which allows any amGardpro interlock safety switch to be easily fitted to machine guarding.

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Suitable for both hinged and sliding guards, the robust Eazi-fit is easy to select using Fortress’ unique online configurator, which provides 2D and 3D images and models, together with part numbers to simplify ordering.

There are two configuration options:

1. Need to configure a new interlock
If you configure a new amGardpro interlock switch using the online configurator and choose to add a mounting plate, the configurator will automatically select the appropriate plate, which is then pre-fitted to the interlock for easy installation.

2. Already have an interlock but need a mounting plate
If you already have an amGardpro interlock switch but need a mounting plate, it is easy to select one using the online configurator, which will automatically select the appropriate Eazi-fit combination.

The die cast mounting plates are extremely robust and can withstand a force of 10KN. They can accommodate all amGardpro configurations and are ideal for indoor or outdoor use. Available in a choice of colours, the plates are pre-fitted to the interlock when ordered together, or can be ordered separately.

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Industry 4.0 Requires Intelligent Interlocks – Fortress is Delivering

As we race towards 50 billion devices connected to the internet by 2020, Industry 4.0 presents a huge challenge to manufacturers. Collaborative robots and the automation of tasks previously carried out by people is reducing the need for traditional machine guarding while increasing the need for smart interlocks.

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Malcolm Sharp, Managing Director of Fortress’ Australian operations, discusses how the company is facing these challenges head-on.

“At Fortress, our focus has always been on mechanical strength and reliability – our interlocks are, after all, the strongest in the market. But we’re also building in additional functionality to help our customers with their processes. As the importance of data increases, we know that our products will be required to feedback through extensive, potentially global, data networks.

“We are already moving in this direction, with recent installations utilising our network-enabled gate switches designed to operate on safety networks. These products are easy to configure and install and provide additional operational feedback, as well as carrying out their safety-critical task.

“Two years ago Fortress launched an online configurator, enabling customers to create
complex safety products from our wide range of modules and components. There are more than 4.9 billion potential configurations that could be created and since its introduction over 10,000 unique configurations have been created. Five years ago, such a configurator was unimaginable.

“As industry evolves, our view remains unchanged – we need to protect people and productivity. It remains our massive transformative purpose in this digital age.”

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Fortress Interlocks Appoints Jo Smith as Managing Director

Fortress is delighted to announce the appointment of Jo Smith as its new Managing Director. This appointment is a quick promotion for Jo, who only joined Fortress as Finance Director in November 2015.

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Prior to joining the company Jo spent most of her career in the Aerospace industry, beginning at Lucas Aerospace on the company’s graduate programme in 1997. Over the last 10 years she has held various leadership roles with UTC, a large US corporation. Her last role was Division Finance Director for UTC’s Aerospace Actuation division, with responsibility for SBUs in UK, France, Italy, USA, India and Poland. Her career has included key leadership positions within Finance, Operations and General Management.

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Fortress Interlocks: Protecting People, Protecting Productivity

Fortress Interlocks has over 40 years of experience in the safety market, designing and manufacturing safety access and control systems from its headquarters in Wolverhampton in the UK. Its mission is simple: protecting people, protecting productivity.

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A world leader in networked access control systems, Fortress’ technology helps create safer workplaces where employees in industrial environment are safeguarded from injury, equipment is protected from damage, and productivity is enhanced. The company’s products ensure that actions and events are undertaken in a pre-determined sequence, ensuring a safe working environment.

The company’s products are suitable for an extremely wide range of industrial applications, including power generation and distribution, iron and steel, automotive manufacturing, food and beverage, recycling, building and construction, robotics and palletisers. Its extensive produce offering and experience means Fortress can provide solutions for all safeguarding applications. It also regularly provides bespoke products for unique applications, often by customising its standard product range. Read more…

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Fortress’ proNET Nominated for Tomorrow’s Health and Safety Award

Fortress Interlocks’ proNET safety and communications module has been nominated for the Tomorrow’s Health and Safety Awards 2017.

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proNET adds industrial Ethernet communications to its amGardpro range of safety interlocks, which enables the amGardpro’s features to be distributed IO (input-output) on a PROFINET network, with safety information exchanged using PROFIsafe extensions. Added benefits include reduced installation costs, easier maintenance and greater availability of data for improved diagnosis.

Most safety interlocks are either not electrically connected (deliberately so in the case of some mechanical, trapped key interlocks) or are ‘wired at gate’, meaning all electrical connections go via a control PLC and safety relay. This can mean up to 20 wires from each device going to the control panel. proNET overcomes this by taking advantage of PROFINET and PROFIsafe, allowing operators to have just one power and Ethernet cable going from the control panel, allowing devices to be attached in a variety of topologies, depending on requirements.

The amGardpro is a range of fully integrated safety interlocks, including solenoid and non-solenoid safety switches. It has an extensive range of additional options, including key control modules, internal and escape release, redundant sensors, lock out/tag out, push buttons, estops and indication lights for enhanced functionality, all assembled in one device. The robust construction of the amGardpro makes it ideal for a host of industrial applications when safety, strength and reliability are of paramount importance.

“We’re delighted with this nomination,” commented Fortress’ Technical Director Rob Johnson. “Making our products compatible with industrial safety networks is an essential requirement for our customers. With the launch of proNET, we’re ensuring we not only meet, but exceed what people expect from us when it comes to industrial networking.”

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Extracted Key Adaptor from Fortress Prevents Inadvertent Machinery Startup

To prevent the inadvertent startup of dangerous machinery, Fortress Interlocks has developed an extracted key adaptor for use with its robust amGardpro, amGardS40 (IP69K) and mGard interlock ranges.

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By forcing an operator to extract the safety key when operating an interlock, the adaptor ensures the key cannot be turned and left in place, inadvertently re-starting machinery.

It is designed to be kept with the operator, ensuring any access points cannot be closed and re-started while working in a hazardous area. Additional safety keys can be released following the forced extraction of the initial key, allowing the protection of multiple users at the same time.

The extracted key adaptor utilises the ‘CL lock’, which has over 200,000 unique combinations, meaning it works with even the largest systems. It is also available with a padlockable dust cover to be compatible with standard lockout procedures.

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Safety during CIP ensured with IP69K-rated interlocks and safety switches from Fortress

Strict health and safety standards in the food, beverage and pharmaceutical industries require all machinery used in the production process to be thoroughly sanitised at regular intervals to keep equipment clean and eliminate the risk of bacterial contamination. This automated cleaning process, known as Cleaning in Place (CIP), uses a mix of chemicals, heat and water to clean machinery, vessels or pipework without having to dismantle plant.

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Because of the high pressures, harsh chemicals and high temperatures used in CIP, an adequate safety system is needed to protect personnel. This safety equipment must itself be able to withstand the CIP process which can seriously damage electronic circuits and instrumentation and cause substances such as dust and food waste to penetrate the equipment, causing it to fail. This usually requires an ingress protection (IP) rating of IP69K – the highest rating available.

Any interlocks and safety switches installed on safety equipment must also be IP69K-rated. Unfortunately most interlocks currently available offer very limited flexibility, focussing solely on achieving IP69K but failing to take into account other safety hazards manufacturers need to safeguard against.

If, for example, access to a machine subjected to CIP is required but there is a possibility that a worker could be hidden from view while inside the machine, there needs to be an effective safeguard in place to ensure the guard door cannot be locked closed and the machine restarted until the worker leaves the danger zone. The most effective and simple method to achieve this is with a safety key which a worker takes inside the machine to prevent inadvertent start-up. Read more…

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With Fortress Interlocks it’s always safety first

Fortress Interlocks has a simple mission: to help businesses protect their human and capital assets.

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The company has been doing this for over 40 years by designing and manufacturing machinery access and control systems for industrial applications. These range from power generation, steelmaking and automotive manufacturing to food and beverage processing, materials recycling and construction. This means the company has become very well known in the industry for innovative design, robust engineering and reliability.

Human error is always a possibility when operating dangerous machinery and it is the employer’s responsibility to guarantee the safety of its workers by installing adequate safety systems are in place.

One way to ensure worker safety is machine guarding. However, machine guarding alone isn’t enough to ensure safe working practices, as there is nothing to prevent workers from using designated access points to gain entry into live machinery. It is usually necessary to include safety interlocking into the process.

Safety interlocks – like those manufactured by Fortress Interlocks – prevent access to powered machinery and stop inadvertent start-ups while personnel are inside a dangerous area. They do this by forcing operators to isolate the power before anyone gains access. Maximum protection is afforded by incorporating keys into an interlocking system – this forces workers to retain a personal safety key with them while working inside the machine, so power can only be restarted once all the keys have been returned to their original positions. Read more…

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Fortress tGard Interlock Switches and Control Devices Get TÜV SÜD Certification

Fortress Interlocks has achieved TÜV SÜD European, Canadian and U.S. approval for its tGard range of interlock switches and control devices. This means they meet all the necessary requirements of the European Machinery Directive and the Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory Program (NRTL) in North America.

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tGard is a compact, metal-bodied interlock system that allows the configuration of a wide range of safety products, including electrical safety gate switches (with or without guard locking), mechanical trapped key interlocks and electrical operator controls – either as separate devices or integrated into one device.

Highly versatile, tGard includes selector switches, safety switches (solenoid and non-solenoid), personnel keys (safety keys), emergency release, push buttons, estops, indicator lamps as well a choice of operating handles for both hinged and sliding guard doors. These elements are simply selected and then assembled into a robust housing which is suitable for mounting onto machine guarding.

All tGard components are quick and easy to install and can be mounted directly onto a flat surface, doors or extruded aluminium profiles without needing mounting plates or brackets. Why not watch the tGard video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3CoY4IiDik)?

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