Three years ago, SICK's senior people began to hear a recurring complaint from the safety team at Mercedes-Benz's Sindelfingen plant. They were not satisfied with existing solutions for safeguarding entry/exit stations. This was posed as an opportunity to develop a completely new solution, which would be applicable throughout the industry.
The automotive team at SICK began a product development process, but what unfolded was a completely collaborative effort enabled by Mercedes people at the Sindelfingen plant. SICK received approvals on new safeguarding technology based on real-world testing, allowing a real solution to be reached quickly.
Discussions led to the concept of a horizontal light curtain that could recognize the difference between a moving skid and a worker and respond accordingly. A basic design was developed and presented to Karl-Otto Eisenhardt, Maintenance Optical Safety Devices, at Mercedes-Benz, Sindelfingen. Resources were mobilized quickly for isolated pilot testing. The Mercedes team then set up a reliability test comparing the new safety solution in parallel to the conventional one, in a body shop environment. The concept of a horizontal light curtain became an effective solution.
As a new safety concept, the horizontal light curtain had no definition in existing safety standards. The team developed specifications of the concept and hosted a workshop at Sindelfingen for personnel from Berufsgenossenschaft and TUeV. Key to success was the ability to present the theoretical safety concept in a real application. This led to application for regulatory approvals, and software tuning adapted to specific environments.
The C4000 Entry/Exit Light Curtain is a successful automotive manufacturing solution that eventuated from an intensive collaborative effort at the Mercedes-Benz Sindelfingen plant.