25 Jul 2024


Batch size one custom safety relays are ‘the world’s first’

The myPnoz customised safety relays consist of a head module and up to eight expansion modules

The German machine safety specialist Pilz has developed a technology that allows users to configure and order customised safety relays online for orders as small as one relay. In many cases, the bespoke modular relays will be delivered the next day, tested and ready-to-install without needing any programming. All that’s needed is a screwdriver to install the relay in a control cabinet.

Pilz’s managing partner, Susanne Kunschert, describes the new product as “the world’s first batch size one safety relay”. The device is designed to bridge the gap between classic safety relays and small programmable safety controllers. It will be available from the company’s subsidiaries around the world starting from February, and will offer “millions” of options for device structures and configurations. The logic operations for the safety functions will be pre-defined via a plug-in sequence without needing any software knowledge.

The modular structure combined with a new type of internal logic means that the relays can monitor multiple safety sensors without needing to wire multiple relays, as has been necessary previously.

“We have done more than just develop a new relay hardware,” says Pilz’s managing partner, Thomas Pilz. “The general way of handling a Pilz product is also completely new, both for us and the customer. We are not re-inventing the world of safe automation; we are designing it differently, to offer customers greater convenience.

“myPnoz offers users a wholly new customer experience with regard to the selection, ordering and installation of industrial components,” he adds. “Tool support simplifies selection and ordering, helping to prevent errors. This is an extremely important point, particularly with safety relays whose job is to protect human and machine.”

Using an online tool called myPnoz Creator, customers can assemble tailor-made safety systems from a wide range of options. They can switch between logic and hardware views, with options for visualisation and documentation via a simulation function.

They can define the number, types and logic connections between the safety functions, and the tool will use these details to calculate which modules are needed and the sequence in which they must be inserted. The plug-in sequence is determined by the connection logic for the safety functions and avoids the need for programming knowledge. Each myPnoz relay will have a unique type code, allowing the same configuration to be re-ordered at any time.

The relays consist of 17.5mm-wide head modules with up to eight expansion modules, which can be combined freely. They are designed to monitor safety functions such as e-stops, safety gates, light curtains, two-hand controls and enabling switches.

The myPnoz Creator tool warns of any logic errors in the safety function sequence. Users can add further safety functions and define details – such as delay-on energisation and de-energisation, for example. The tool’s simulation function helps to reduce errors and accelerate commissioning.

Up to 12 different expansion modules are available: four output modules; four input modules; and four input/output modules. Each input module can monitor two safety functions, cutting hardware costs as well as the need for wiring. Multiple safety sensors can be monitored without needing to wire multiple relays.

It is also possible to create multiple safety zones to monitor different sections of a plant or machine. Machine parts can be shut down independently from each other, thus helping to raise plant availability.

The whole relay is supplied with power via the head module which is the only one that needs to be connected to the power supply, reducing wiring further. Individual modules can be swapped without needing to dismantle the whole system. According to Pilz , this will speed up commissioning and cut maintenance costs.

The head modules incorporate higher-level safety functions that work on all outputs, regardless of other safety zones. The output modules can switch immediately or with a time delay, and are available with relay or semiconductor outputs. Diagnostics LEDs are provided for each module and each safety input.

The new relays are aimed at applications where 2–16 safe input functions need to be monitored. There will be a “minor premium” to pay for the convenience of the new technology and the time and costs that it should save. It will not supersede Pilz’s existing Pnoz relays, which will still be a better choice for simple applications involving one or two safety functions.

According to Harald Wessels, Pilz’s vice-president of product management, the “pay-what-you-need” approach of myPnoz “guarantees an optimum cost-benefit ratio and makes the safety relay an attractive solution when you compare it with conventional safety relays and other products on offer on the market”.

Pilz has identified three particular potential user groups for the new relays:
• smaller enterprises that want to keep their control cabinets free of software (except for machine controllers) and want to avoid the need for maintenance and the cost of software training;
• plant manufacturers for whom configurable small controllers are not cost-effective, but want to set up multiple safety functions using logic that is comparable with software programming; and
• users of conventional safety relays who would like more flexible and sophisticated systems.

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