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Market News Are grinding machine safety guards overdesigned?

| Editor: Steffen Donath

Guards on grinding machines are particularly important for ensuring operator safety. Recent studies suggest, however, that the enclosures commonly used in gear grinding machines could be overdesigned.

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Workspace of a gear grinding machine. Very high rotational energy levels can arise in large grinding tools, such as those used for generation grinding. If a grinding wheel does burst, it can cause serious injury to the machine operator.
Workspace of a gear grinding machine. Very high rotational energy levels can arise in large grinding tools, such as those used for generation grinding. If a grinding wheel does burst, it can cause serious injury to the machine operator.
(Source: VDW)

Investigations conducted e.g. by the VDW (Verein Deutscher Werkzeugmaschinenfabriken – German Machine Tool Builders' Association) and the Institute of Machine Tools and Factory Management (IWF) at TU Berlin reveal that it is possible to use safety guards which are up to 70 % thinner, depending on the width of the grinding wheel. These findings are now leading to changes in ISO standardisation. The minimum wall thicknesses for safety guards are specified in ISO Standard 16089 “Machine tools - Safety - Stationary grinding machines”. For example, there is a directly proportionate link between the requirements concerning primary protective covers for gear grinding machines and those for the full enclosures located further away. The reason for this is that no specific safety precautions were initially specified for the safety guards of gear grinding machines (which do not normally have a primary protective cover). This is because the preceding standard, EN 13218 "Safety of machine tools - Stationary grinding machines", did not explicitly include gear grinding machines. But this proportionate scaling has been repeatedly questioned, including by the Japanese association JMTBA, because it results in overdesigned polycarbonate safety guards and screens.

Safe design convention for 3 mm sheet steel.
Safe design convention for 3 mm sheet steel.
(Source: BGHM / VDW)

The member companies of VDW Working Group 5 therefore concluded that new specification tables were required for the full enclosures of stationary grinding machines. A two-year project was thus launched by the IWF (TU Berlin) in 2012 to develop the necessary test equipment. “The ensuing burst and impact tests showed that the thickness of the enclosure wall can be reduced by up to 70 %, depending on the width of the grinding wheel,” explains Simon Thom, group leader for machine tool technology at IWF (TU Berlin). “This is very good news for the machine tool manufacturers, who are keen to avoid excess weight in their machines. Reducing the thickness of a sheet steel housing by half a millimetre, for example, will save 4 kg/m2 in weight.”

It is not only the industrial companies and the scientists who agree that guards are overdesigned in such machines. The DGVU (German Statutory Accident Insurance System) based in St. Augustin and the BGHM trade association in Hanover also carried out similar tests on a burst test stand — with comparable results. The burst tests were conducted over eight years. Then, at the end of 2019, the BGHM presented its report covering a total of over 400 burst grinding wheels and more than 800 usable impact events. Based on this, a safe design convention stipulating 3 mm for sheet steel with different grinding wheel widths was drawn up in conjunction with the VDW.

Finally, in January 2020, a standardisation meeting was held in Tokyo, where the Japanese and German findings were compared. The experts agreed that the Japanese results for adapting the specification tables for the primary protective cover, and the German results for the design of the full enclosure should be incorporated into the ISO standard. A consolidated working paper will soon be prepared by the ISO Secretariat at DIN in Berlin and submitted to the relevant public as a so-called “Committee Draft” for comments. This is scheduled for completion by October 2020.

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