Title:
SAFETY FENCE FOR ROBOTICS
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An improved safety fence for constructing a flexible workcell is provided with a fence end having at least one T-shaped post including a plurality of elongated support pins mounted along a first flange on the post and at least one cam lock mounted along a second perpendicular flange on the post for securing a panel member to the fence end. The fence can be quickly and easily assembled and disassembled, such that the workcell is portable and extremely flexible. The adjoining edges of the panel members are secured and sealed together using an H-shaped extrusion member. The fence includes stiffening ribs between posts to mount part bins and receive cabling, wiring, and tubing for work functions within the workcell.



Inventors:
Mangelsen, Jan Christian (Charlotte, IA, US)
Application Number:
11/470168
Publication Date:
03/06/2008
Filing Date:
09/05/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04H17/16
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20050224777Connector fitting for railing componentsOctober, 2005Terrels
20090026431PICKET AND RAIL FENCEJanuary, 2009Tremblay et al.
20020005513Auxiliary handrail for use along stairwaysJanuary, 2002Berner
20090206309IMPROVEMENTS IN AND/OR RELATING TO FENCE POSTSAugust, 2009Greenhalgh
20090218554CABLE GUARDRAIL SYSTEM AND HANGERSeptember, 2009Mauer et al.
20050189529Roller bar security device and fenceSeptember, 2005Humphreys et al.
20070246696Fencing system in particular for deer controlOctober, 2007Campbell
20070057243Single-wall slatMarch, 2007Hoggan
20030079417Device that provides assistance in using a handrail and a handrail including such a deviceMay, 2003Bonin
20050236611Modular railing, fence, gate, and security barsOctober, 2005Vereide et al.
20020063248Pedestrian traffic control device having tape below top of postMay, 2002Siegler et al.



Primary Examiner:
MACARTHUR, VICTOR L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MCKEE, VOORHEES & SEASE, P.L.C. (DES MOINES, IA, US)
Claims:
1. An improved safety fence for constructing a flexible workcell housing a robot comprising: a support base for attaching a fence end thereto; and the fence end comprising at least one T-shaped post having a plurality of elongated support pins spacedly mounted along the length of the post.

2. The improved safety fence of claim 1 having at least one panel member adapted for attachment between the fence ends.

3. The improved safety fence of claim 2 wherein the panel members having a plurality of holes spaced along vertical edges for securing support pins there-through.

4. The improved safety fence of claim 3 wherein the panel members comprise a transparent panel, a wire mesh panel, a colored panel, an opaque panel, a plastic panel, a plywood panel, a pegboard panel or any panel-like material and/or any combination of the panels.

5. The improved safety fence of claim 4 further comprising an H-shaped extrusion member for connecting and sealing-off seams between adjoining panel members.

6. The improved safety fence of claim 5 wherein the panel members being cut-to-length for configuring span lengths between the fence ends.

7. The improved safety fence of claim 6 further comprising a U-shaped channel member for securing the panels to the fence ends using the elongated support pins.

8. The improved safety fence of claim 7 wherein the fence end is an L-shaped member for completing an end section or a corner section of the fence.

9. The improved safety fence of claim 8 further comprising a plurality of cam locks spacedly mounted perpendicular to the elongated support pins for securing the panel members to the fence ends.

10. The improved safety fence of claim 9 wherein the panel members being secured to the fence ends using the U-shaped channel members and/or cam locks.

11. The improved safety fence of claim 10 having a support rib secured laterally between the fence ends.

12. The improved safety fence of claim 11 wherein the support rib for mounting brackets and/or part bins thereto.

13. The improved safety fence of claim 12 wherein the support rib being a U-shaped channel member for concealing runs of cable therein.

14. An improved safety fence for constructing a flexible workcell housing a robot comprising: a fence end having at least one T-shaped post connected to a base for affixing to a floor; and the T-shaped post comprising a plurality of elongated support pins mounted along the length of the post to thereby assist securing at least one panel member to the post.

15. The improved safety fence of claim 14 having a U-shaped channel member being adapted for attachment to the post using the pins, the U-shaped channel member to thereby assist securing the panel member to the post.

16. The improved safety fence of claim 15 wherein the U-shaped channel member being used in combination with at least one cam lock to thereby secure the panel member to the post.

17. The improved safety fence of claim 16 wherein a span of the safety fence comprising at least one fence panel connected between the fence ends.

18. The improved safety fence of claim 17 further comprising a door slidably mounted to the fence end for entering and exiting the workcell.

19. The improved safety fence of claim 18 wherein the base and the posts being positioned on casters.

20. The improved safety fence of claim 19 wherein the panel members having a color, patter and/or color scheme matching the color, pattern and or color scheme of the robot.

21. An improved safety fence for constructing a flexible workcell comprising a fence end comprising at least one T-shaped post having a plurality of elongated support pins mounted along a first flange and at least one cam lock mounted along a second perpendicular flange of the post for securing a panel member to the fence end.

22. A method for constructing a flexible workcell housing a robot using an improved safety fence comprising: providing a fence end comprising at least one T-shaped post having a plurality of elongated support pins spacedly mounted along the length of the post; inserting holes along a vertical edge of a panel member through the elongated support pins for mounting the panel member to the fence end; securing the panel member to the fence end using a U-shaped channel member.

23. The method of claim 22 further comprising securing the panel member to the fence end using at least one cam lock.

24. An improved safety fence for constructing a flexible workcell housing a robot comprising: a fence end having at least one L-shaped post connected to a base for affixing to a floor; and the L-shaped post comprising a plurality of elongated support pins mounted along the length of the post to thereby assist securing at least one panel member to the post.

25. The improved safety fence of claim 24 wherein the L-shaped post for securing the fence to a corner post.

26. The improved safety fence of claim 25 wherein the L-shaped post forming a dead-end portion on the fence.

27. An improved safety fence for constructing a flexible workcell comprising a fence end comprising at least one L-shaped post having a plurality of elongated support pins mounted along a first flange and at least one cam lock mounted along a second perpendicular flange of the post for securing a panel member to the fence end.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Industrial workcells or work stations are well known for housing and isolating manufacturing work, particularly automated work such as that performed by robotics. Such workcells include walls and an access opening to permit an operator to enter the interior work area for various purposes, such as positioning a work piece, checking progress of the work, etc.

The prior art workcells also are typically fixed in location within a manufacturing facility. The walls of the workcell are usually made of steel or other heavy weight, high strength material. However, as work projects within a manufacturing facility change, it may be desirable to modify the layout of one or more workcells, coordinate the workcell to the colors and/or overall scheme of the robot and/or plant. Thus, a portable, quickly configurable and highly flexible/adaptable workcell is desirable.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Therefore it is a primary object, feature, or advantage of the present invention to improve over the state of the art by providing a safety fence for robotics that is easily configured to meet the needs of any setting and/or application.

It is a further object, feature, or advantage of the present invention to provide a safety fence for robotics wherein the end post is adaptable to accept a variety of materials for a fence panel.

It is a still further object, feature, or advantage of the present invention to provide a safety fence for robotics wherein the end post is adaptable to accept in combination a variety of materials for a fence panel having varying thicknesses.

Another object, feature, or advantage of the present invention to provide a safety fence wherein the acceptable thickness of any panel ranges from 1/16 to ¾ of an inch.

Still another object, feature, or advantage of the present invention to provide a safety fence for robotics wherein the panels include at least, clear panels, opaque panels, wire mesh panels, colored plastic panels, plywood panels, pegboard panels, or any sheet-like material capable of being a panel.

Yet another object, feature, or advantage of the present invention to provide a safety fence for robotics having a U-shaped channel component for mounting brackets and part bins thereto.

A further object, feature, or advantage of the present invention to provide a safety fence for robotics having a U-shaped channel member for running cables therein and a cover plate in covering relation to the U-shaped channel for hiding the cables.

It is a further object, feature, or advantage of the present invention to provide a safety fence for robotics wherein the panels and the U-shaped channel being cut to the desired length of the fence.

Another object, feature, or advantage of the present invention is to provide a safety fence for robotics wherein each end post houses the necessary hardware for assembling the fence.

Yet another object, feature, or advantage of the present invention is to provide a safety fence for robotics wherein each end post houses cams, bolts and brackets for constructing the fence.

A still further object, feature, or advantage of the present invention is to provide a safety fence for robotics that is quickly and easily assembled.

Another object, feature, or advantage of the present invention is to provide a safety fence for robotics capable of structurally sustaining sizable spans of fencing.

Yet another object, feature, or advantage of the present invention is to provide a safety fence for robotics providing an improved workcell for the manufacturing industry.

A further object, feature, or advantage of the present invention is to provide a safety fence for robotics providing a portable workcell with wall panels that can be quickly and easily assembled and disassembled.

Another object, feature or advantage of the present invention is to provide a safety fence for robotics providing a portable workcell constructed of lightweight, high strength, durable wall panels.

Yet another object, feature, or advantage of the present invention is to provide a safety fence for robotics wherein an H-shaped extrusion member is used to join and seal adjoining edges of the panels to create a sealed fence barrier.

A still further object, feature, or advantage of the present invention is to provide a safety fence for robotics wherein the fence panels and color scheme being coordinated to match the color or color scheme of the robot and/or the plant.

Another object, feature, or advantage of the present invention is to provide a safety fence for robotics having a door slidably mounted for entering and exiting the workcell.

A further object, feature, or advantage of the present invention is to provide a safety fence for robotics wherein a door on the fence being positionable using casters.

According to one aspect of the present invention an improved safety fence for constructing a flexible workcell housing a robot is disclosed. The improved safety fence includes a support base for attaching a fence end thereto. The fence end is constructed of at least one T-shaped post having a plurality of elongated support pins spaced and mounted along the length of the post.

According to another feature of the present invention, the fence has at least one panel member adapted for attachment between the fence ends.

According to another feature of the present invention, the panel members have a plurality of holes spaced along vertical edges for securing support pins there-through.

According to another feature of the present invention, the panel members are transparent, wire mesh, colored, opaque, plastic, plywood, pegboard or any panel-like material and/or any combination of the panels.

According to another feature of the present invention, the fence also has an H-shaped extrusion member for connecting and sealing-off seams between adjoining panel members.

According to another feature of the present invention, the panel members being cut-to-length for configuring span lengths between the fence ends.

According to another feature of the present invention, the fence has a U-shaped channel member for securing the panels to the fence ends using the elongated support pins.

According to another feature of the present invention, the elongated support pins are bolt studs for bolting the panel members to the fence ends.

According to another feature of the present invention, the fence has a plurality of cam locks spacedly mounted perpendicular to the elongated support pins for securing the panel members to the fence ends.

According to another feature of the present invention, the fence panel members are secured to the fence ends using the U-shaped channel members and/or cam locks.

According to another feature of the present invention, the fence has a support rib secured laterally between the fence ends.

According to another feature of the present invention, the support ribs are used for mounting brackets and/or part bins thereto.

According to another feature of the present invention, the support rib is a U-shaped channel member for concealing runs of cable therein.

According to one aspect of the present invention an improved safety fence for constructing a flexible workcell is disclosed. The safety fence has a fence end having at least one T-shaped post (or a piece of angle iron for dead ending) including a plurality of elongated support pins mounted along a first flange and at least one cam lock mounted along a second perpendicular flange of the post for securing a panel member to the fence end.

According to another aspect of the present invention, a method for constructing a flexible workcell housing a robot using an improved safety fence is disclosed. The construction involves using a fence end comprising at least one T-shaped post having a plurality of elongated support pins spacedly mounted along the length of the post. Also included is the step of inserting holes along a vertical edge of a panel member through the elongated support pins for mounting the panel member to the fence end. Included as well is the step of securing the panel member to the fence end using a U-shaped channel member.

According to another feature of the present invention, entails securing the panel member to the fence end using at least one cam lock.

According to another aspect of the present invention, an improved safety fence for constructing a flexible workcell housing a robot is disclosed. The fence has a fence end having at least one L-shaped post connected to a base for affixing to a floor. The L-shaped post comprises a plurality of elongated support pins mounted along the length of the post to thereby assist securing at least one panel member to the post.

According to another aspect of the present invention, an improved safety fence for constructing a flexible workcell is disclosed. The fence has a fence end comprising at least one L-shaped post having a plurality of elongated support pins mounted along a first flange and at least one cam lock mounted along a second perpendicular flange of the post for securing a panel member to the fence end.

One or more of these and/or other objects, features, or advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the specification and claims that follow.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the improved safety fence for a robotic's workcell.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view showing a section of the workcell with multiple wall panels.

FIG. 3 is a front elevation view of a wall panel for the present invention.

FIG. 4 is a sectional view taken along lines 4-4 of FIG. 3.

FIG. 5 is a sectional view taken along lines 5-5 of FIG. 3.

FIG. 5A is a sectional view taken along lines 5A-5A of FIG. 3 of the cam lock in the open position.

FIG. 5B is a sectional view taken along lines 5A-5A of FIG. 3 of the cam lock in the closed position.

FIG. 6 is a sectional view taken along lines 6-6 of FIG. 2.

FIG. 7 is a sectional view taken along lines 7-7 of FIG. 2.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The improved safety fence or workcell of the present invention is generally designated in the drawings by the reference numeral 10. The workcell 10 includes a perimeter wall or fencing 12, which can have any desired configuration. An access opening 14 is provided in the wall to allow an operator to enter the workcell 10. A work table 16 is provided within the workcell 10 for holding an object or piece 18 to be worked. Any type of work may be performed in the workcell 10. For example, a robotic arm operatively connected to a control system (not shown) may perform work on the piece 18 in the workcell 10.

The workcell 10 of the present invention is also designed to be portable, with quick and easy assembly of the walls 12 and door (not shown). The workcell 10 generally includes a plurality of upright posts 30, 31 to which wall panels 26 are attached. Each wall panel 26 has the same basic construction, as does the door panel (not shown).

As shown in FIG. 1, the posts 30, 31 include a base 28 which allows the posts 30, 31 to be free standing. Alternatively, the base 28 may be anchored to the floor. Thus, multiple wall panels 26 can be assembled together to form the workcell walls 12. The elongated pins 38, U-shape channel member 32 and/or cam locks 40 provide a secure connection between the wall panel 26 and the respective posts 30, 31. L-shape members 31 may be used to create a dead-end or connect the fence 12 to a corner post 24, such that each panel can be set in an angular relationship with respect to the adjacent panel, as shown by dotted lines in FIG. 1.

The panels 26 are preferably made of HDPE material so as to be lightweight for easy assembly and disassembly of the workcell 10, yet high strength such that the workcell is durable. The panels 26 can be clear panels, opaque panels, wire mesh panels, colored plastic panels, plywood panels, pegboard panels, or any sheet-like material capable of being a panel. The panels 90 also include reinforcing ribs 34, which are preferably hollow to allow work lines, such as cabling, wiring, and tubing, to be extended therethrough as needed for the work operations within the workcell 10. The panel members 26 may be window, such as optical quality plexi-glass so as to allow observation of the work piece and process by an operator.

The fence 12 is configurable to any shape for forming a workcell 10. A door (not shown) is used to entering and exiting the workcell 10. The door would be of the same construction as the fence 12. The door would be slidably or pivotably attached to either posts 30, 31. The size and dimension of a door would be flexible, just as the fence 12.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view showing a section of the workcell with multiple wall panels. In FIG. 2, a section of the workcell 10 is shown or one embodiment of the perimeter wall 12 constructed by connecting several of the fence spans 50 together. One embodiment of one of the fence spans 50 is constructed using a base support 28 connected to a T-shaped post 30 and/or 31. The base 28 and post 30 may be connected together by welding, screwing, riveting, snap-fit and/or any other connective means capable of rigidly connecting the two pieces together. Also, the base 28 and post 30 may be constructed as a unitary piece. Either way, the base 28 and the post 30 support the perimeter wall 12. The post 30 is fitted with elongated support pins 38 along at least one flange on the post 30. The elongated support pins 38 can be a bolt stud, tapered pin, or any member for fastening. The elongated support pins 38 support panel members 26. The panel members 26 are fitted with holes running parallel to their latitudinal edges. These holes match the pattern of the elongated pins 38 on the post 30. A panel member 26 is positioned on the post 30 by inserting the elongated support pins 38 through holes on the panel 26 (not shown). U-shaped channel members 32 having similarly spaced holes are also mounted to the post 30 using the elongated support pins 38. The U-shape channel members 32 can be a channel member as is commonly sold and marketed under the name, Unistrut. The U-shaped channel member 32 is secured to the post 30 using the elongated support pins 38. A nut, clamp or combination can be used to secure the channel member 32 to the post 30. The channel member 32 may be cut to the height of the wall 12 or shorter. In one embodiment, the channel member 32 may be used to secure the panel member 26 to only a portion of the fence 12. In this instance, cam locks mounted on a flange of the post 30 are used to secure the panel member 26 to the post 30. In either case, the channel member 32 and/or the cam lock 30, secure the panel member 26 to the post 30. Using the channel member 32 and the cam lock 30 in combination allow the fence 12 to be very flexible. Panels 26 can be swapped-out for another panel using the cam locks 30. The horizontal edges of each panel member 26 are joined together using an H-shaped extrusion member 36. The member 36 helps seal-off the fence 12 and prevents materials within the workcell from escaping outside the perimeter of the fence 12. Stiffening ribs 34 are attached between posts 30 to stiffen the fence 12. The ribs 34 are attached to the U-shaped channel member 32 using attachment pieces customary to assembling and/or connecting such channel members. Part bins 46 are attached to the support ribs 34 to hold tools and/or parts within the workcell. The ribs 34 and the bins 46 are capable of being positioned on the fence at the optimal height and position, simply by adjusting the height of the rib 34. If the fence 12 is a stand alone, single span of fence, alternative L-shaped members 31 are used at dead-ends of the fence 12. old and washer placed over the piece of inserted posts in combination.

FIG. 3 is a front elevation view of a wall panel for the present invention. FIG. 3 further illustrates the flexibility of the fence 12. Each panel member 26 is configurable to meet the needs of the user or individual setting in which the fence 12 will be used. Panel members 26 can be selected based on material, height and length. Multiple style panel members 26 may be used on combination with each other to form a section of the fence 12. U-shaped channel members 32 may be used partially or completely along the height of the fence 12 for securing the panel members 26 to the posts 30 or 31. Cam locks 40 may be used in conjunction with the channel members 32 to permit quick swap-out of panel members 26. Additionally, ribs 52 may be used for hiding/protecting wire runs 54 within the workcell. Cover plate 52 cover the face of the rib 52 to obscure the wires 52.

FIG. 4 is a sectional view taken along lines 4-4 of FIG. 3. In FIG. 4, the fence panels are shown joined by the H-shaped extrusion member 36. The panels 26 can be of varying dimension and construction. The combination of cam locks 40 and U-shape channel member 32 may be used in combination with each other (as shown). Similarly, the panel members 26 may be secured to the posts 30, 31 using the U-shape channel member 32 alone. Also, the cam locks 40 may be used alone to the secure the panel members 26 to the posts 30, 31.

FIG. 5 is a sectional view taken along lines 5-5 of FIG. 3. FIG. 5 shows one embodiment of the U-shape channel member 32 for securing the panel member 26 to the post 30. The elongated pin 38 is inserted through holes on the panel member 26 and U-shape member 32. A nut 42 or other fastener 42 may be used to secure the panel 26 and member 32 to the post 30.

FIG. 5A and FIG. 5B are sectional views taken along lines 5A-5A of FIG. 3 of the cam lock in the open position and closed positions, respectively. The cam lock 40 is rotatably mounted to posts 30, 31. The cam lock 40 is tapped off center such that as the cam lock 40 is rotatable to an open position (as shown in FIG. 5A) and a closed position (as shown in FIG. 5B). The cam lock 40 in the open position allows the panel member 26 to be removed and replaced. Alternatively, the cam lock 40 in the closed position secures the panel member 26 to either the T-shape post 30 or L-shape post 31. The cam lock 40 can be used in combination with the U-shaped channel member 32 or alone. The cam locks 40 may even be used to secure a panel member 26 to the posts 30, 31 without use of the elongated pins 38.

FIG. 6 is a sectional view taken along lines 6-6 of FIG. 2. FIG. 6 shows one embodiment for connecting the panel member 26 to the T-shaped post 30 or L-shaped post 31. The elongated pins 38 extend through holes in the panel members 26 and the posts 30, 31 such that the pins 38 may be used to secure the panel member 26 to the post 30, 31. The elongated pin 38 may be a bolt stud wherein a nut would be used to secure the panel member 26 to the post 30, 31. Another embodiment might use a one-way slip clasp for securing the panel member 26 to the post 30, 31. Similarly, FIG. 7 is a sectional view taken along lines 7-7 of FIG. 2. In FIG. 7 a cam lock 40 in combination with a bolt stud is shown as one way of securing the panel member 26 to the post 30, 31. The cam lock 40 is rotatably mounted to the post 30, 31 for securing the panel member 26. The cam lock 40 is simply rotated to release the panel member 26 form the post 30, 31. In this embodiment the panel member 26 may be quickly exchanged for another panel member 26. As best seen in FIG. 2, in the preferred embodiment, the workcell frame 22 includes exterior and interior posts 24, 26, respectively, with upper and lower cross bars 28, 30, respectively, extending between the posts 24, 26. The posts 24, 26 are fixed upon floor members 32, 34 so as to be in an upright position. An opposite side of the workcell frame 22 includes another upright post 36 extending upwardly from a floor member 38. Floor members 32 and 38 are hollow and preferably spaced at a distance so as to be adapted to receive the tines of a forklift for movement of the workcell frame 22.

The preferred embodiment of the present invention has been set forth in the drawings and specification, and although specific terms are employed, these are used in a generic or descriptive sense only and are not used for purposes of limitation. Changes in the form and proportion of parts as well as in the substitution of equivalents are contemplated as circumstances may suggest or render expedient without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention as further defined in the following claims.





 
Previous Patent: Guardrail

Next Patent: RAILING SYSTEM