Safety Systems on Chip – for the Industry of Tomorrow

At the Audi factory in Neckarsulm, Southern Germany, autonomous vehicles dart around the shop floor. They take care of transporting materials all by themselves and support employees wherever they can. This is only possible thanks to chip-based systems that ensure maximum safety. Where established safety controllers were previously too large, the miniature technology finds its place – in sensors, actuators, and medical devices, for example.

When James Hausman was hit in the head by a sliding glass door aboard a cruise ship, he sued Holland America Line for his injuries. The American businessman was originally awarded $21.5 million in his lawsuit against the cruise line. A safety controller in the automatic door could have prevented the accident by checking that the in-built sensors were functioning correctly. However, safety controllers are all too often left out of simpler applications. First of all, they are relatively large and cannot be easily integrated into every application. Secondly, the required certification is costly and time consuming. They are also only compulsory if the potential hazard is high enough.

However, as Industry 4.0 continues to become more prevalent, there will be an increasing number of smart, digital, and connected applications that will make maximum safety essential.

Safe Microelectronics Saves Costs and Time

Product development departments in industrial companies are facing new challenges. They are developing increasingly complex products that need to be launched quickly and require verification that they meet the highest safety standards. And space is often extremely limited. Conventional safety controllers, such as those found in industrial plants, are simply too large to be used in surgical robots or industrial drives. Or automatic doors.

This is why embedded systems are growing in popularity. These chip-based systems are no larger than a postage stamp, meet all safety technology requirements, and are built into the device that needs to be protected. They are pre-certified, which significantly reduces time to market. What’s more, they can perform a large number of safety functions and even achieve SIL 3. In high-risk sectors such as the oil and gas industry, SIL 3 is already mandatory, but it is likely to be required in numerous other fields of application in the future. A safety system on chip (SoC) is almost 100 times smaller than conventional safety technology, but can be manufactured in a similarly standardized way. This means safety SoCs can be integrated easily and cost efficiently.

Download Fact Sheet:

Cost-Efficient Development of Safety Electronics

A safety system on chip enables very cost-efficient development of customized safety applications. Download this fact sheet to find out how.

One example where a chip-based safety can be used is on a modern factory shop floor – where humans and robots work side by side without any safety barriers. HICore, the safety system on chip from HIMA, is suitable for environments such as this. The technology has already been implemented at Audi’s plant.

“Pre-certified embedded safety helps companies significantly reduce their development time and thus their time to market.”
Dr. Alexander Horch,
Vice President Research, Development & Product Management at HIMA

KARIS PRO Automated Guided Vehicles: Versatile and Cost Efficient

At the Audi Sport factory in Neckarsulm, automated guided vehicles (AGVs) collect parts from the warehouse and bring them to the right workstation at the right time. There, an employee uses them to assemble a prototype for the new Audi R8. These small, mobile AGVs are called KARIS PRO, and they roam freely through the factory and communicate with one another. Employees use WLAN technology to distribute transportation assignments to the KARIS PRO units; Audi has five of these units in its factory. The AGVs make a decision on which of them will take the assignment, depending on which one has the shortest route and enough battery charge. During this process, integrated safety chips constantly monitor the units’ speed of travel in the factory and automatically brakes if it comes too close to humans. The AGVs also detect and avoid obstacles. In addition, the KARIS PRO systems can reconfigure themselves: For example, if a whole palette needs to be transported, four AGVs can combine into one unit. At Audi, the KARIS PRO AGVs with integrated SoC technology have already proven that they are suitable for the job.

Chip-based safety technology could become the technology of the future as standards and regulations become increasingly strict, innovation cycles get shorter, and the pace of technological change accelerates. As systems become smarter and more connected, safety risks increase. Miniaturized safety technology that can be flexibly integrated will therefore become necessary for many areas of daily life. And that also applies to seemingly simple things like the automatic doors on a cruise liner.