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RFID Helps Halt Collisions Between People and Robots

Automation-machinery provider CAMotion is offering Q-Track's RFID-based CANLOS solution, with its collision-avoidance technology, to head off accidents.
By Claire Swedberg
A Q-Track QT600 RFID transponder, worn on a belt clip, beacons a unique ID number at predetermined intervals—typically, 10 times per second. The RFID receiver is installed on the crane's gripper (the claw that picks up an item), which measures about 45 inches in length and 9 inches in width. The crane itself usually moves at the speed of a typical fast walk. When the gripper comes within about 8 feet of an individual's transponder, the receiver determines that a collision is possible. The CAMotion software, loaded on the machine's onboard computer, then instructs the crane to halt, which takes approximately 1.5 seconds to occur once the transmission has been received.

The system can be adjusted based on the amount of time required to stop the crane, Werner says, according to the vehicle's speed and the weight it carries. For example, a crane carrying steel may take longer to stop than one holding a lighter load.

Q-Track's RFID-based CANLOS system has been installed at a magazine printing company that uses automated cranes to move stacks of paper.

CAMotion began marketing its crane-automation systems four years ago, Furth says, and has offered Q-Track's RFID-based CANLOS solution for about a year and a half. In each case, RFID is used as redundancy to the primary laser-based safety system when users want an additional layer of safety beyond the existing technology.

Q-Track offers solutions for a variety of applications, from tracking miners to elder safety solutions, as well as firefighter-location systems. In addition, the firm is currently developing a correctional officer distress alarm (CODA) system for use by correctional facilities. At the 2012 Tactical Conference, held earlier this month in Verona, N.Y., the company demonstrated its NFER real-time location system (RTLS) in an application designed to track police officers during training applications occurring indoors, underground or anywhere that GPS service is unavailable.

Q-Track's technology has also been used to train workers in the nuclear industry, by providing RFID transponders with dosimeter sensors to detect radiation and forward that data via RFID to a back-end system (see Nuclear Plant Operator Uses RFID to Promote Safety). In 2009, Southern Co. deployed the system at a training site for future employees of the electric utility company's Plant Vogtle nuclear facility, located in Waynesboro, Ga. More recently, American Electric Power's D.C. Cook nuclear power plant in Michigan began utilizing Q-Track's Q-Dose and Q-Dose XL solutions to enhance its training efforts.

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