Peace-loving robots
A reader in the robotics industry takes umbrage at our headline about robots on the attack. Lanny Berke, our safety expert, has been involved with three of these “rare” incidents and believes they could be made even more rare.

We come in pieces
A colleague recently brought the article about robots (“When robots attack,” Oct. 8 Safety Files) to my attention. It was certainly a disservice to the robot industry. As I’m sure Mr. Berke knows, robot-related industrial accidents are extremely rare and evidence has proven that the vast majority were the direct result of faulty, inappropriate, or circumvented safeguards.

As a contributing member of the RIA R15.06 and ISO 10218 Robot Safety Committees, I can attest to the care and energy that robot-industry experts exert establishing the highest level of safety while promoting robotic automation to meet production goals.

Statements using “robots” and “attack” in the same breath are great for grabbing attention, but linking these two could not be further from the truth. Robots, much like other forms of automation, only do what they are told based on inputs from the world around them.

The bulk of the article does a wonderful job of noting a plethora of safety deficiencies. However, it also mentions a “hand-wrist joint,” implying it is required on all robots, It isn’t. Please consider using phrases that encourage future readers to use proper safety measures when applying all automation.

Paul A. Santi

I have investigated three robot accidents and they all occurred during setup. In all three cases, the incidents would not have been serious if there had been a second person or umbilical cord with a properly designed emergency-stop button available to the person doing setup. And in all three cases, the setup person was trapped between the robot arm and tooling where the setup was taking place, and they were pinned there for a substantial period of time.

I am sure that in each of the three cases mentioned above, the trapped person did not care how rare robot accidents are. And I’m sure they would have appreciated a safer design (including warnings) and better instructions as to how to perform the tasks that led to their accidents. — Lanny Berke

Front-end problems
I was interested in the safety article about Mr. Berke’s friend who was seriously injured while operating a farm tractor (“You can’t retire from safety,” Aug. 20). I found myself wondering if perhaps part of the cause of the accident might have been that there was a load of firewood in the front-end-loader. My own experience has been that a heavy load in the bucket significantly changes the operating characteristics of the equipment. For example, the most dangerous situations that I’ve had while operating farm equipment always involved a front-end loader. I still use them, and I wouldn’t want to give them up, but I’ve become very cautious about loads in the bucket and how they may affect the operation of the tractor.

I’m a manufacturing engineer, and a part-time farmer, but my own experiences have always reminded me that farming is one of the most dangerous occupations.

R. Burdick

Your analysis is generally correct — but not for this accident. This man was director of engineering for a company in Minneapolis and was always very sensitive to all safety issues at the company. It just happened that when he was home he had a mental block about safety and figured that “it couldn’t happen here.” He knows better now and is trying to spread the message that safety issues he learned over a lifetime of work apply off the job as well. The message that I was trying to get across in that column was: Always stay alert to hazards around you. — Lanny Berke

Give me a team of 1
I read your August editorial on the fallacy of teamwork with great interest (“Teamwork is overrated,” Aug. 6). My partner and I intuitively knew we did our best work in a closed room, and both of us hated teams of any kind. Meetings, too, were on our list of hated business necessities. We are, as they say, heads-down workers.

Sadly, this team stuff is inculcated into kids in grade school now. My daughter who graduated with an accounting degree from a well-known school routinely told me about hating team projects because of the slackers and lack of any controls and responsibility for outcome. I battled teachers in school who gave my kids lower grades because of team-project results and averaging. There is just no desire to achieve excellence in a team environment, just a lowest common denominator.

Ray K.

Don’t tase me, bro
You know, if you could miniaturize the ADS (“Taking out the enemy . . Without hurting them . . .Too much,” Sept. 8) it could be used to shoo away rodents in sewers, protect crawl spaces in homes and schools from rodents and small mammals, and keep pests out of grain silo’s as well. This would be a good thing. I wonder if it would work on insects, spiders, and crustaceans? And can it be converted into a handheld, nonlethal weapon for self-defense? There is commercial potential here for ADS with farmers, homeowners, factories, businesses, civilian government, perhaps even in parks and forestry services.

Mitch Cunningham

This mule won’t fly
When I do the numbers, the sheer inefficiency of this machine is startling (“A Mule that flies,” Sept. 24). When fully fueled, its 500-lb payload is equivalent to two people with luggage riding in a 1,900-lb sports car. Its fuel consumption of 250 lb/hr at 100 knots (115 mph) equates to 3 mpg. It just shows how much power it takes to keep any object aloft that cannot fly. By comparison, a Cessna 172 four-seat aircraft can carry an 830-lb payload and consumes roughly 60 lb/hr while cruising at 120 knots. Of course the Cessna can’t take off vertically. I suppose this thing has a niche function, but it’s certainly not a Jetson-style aeromobile for the masses.

Rick Ruth

First, do no harm
I hope they haven’t ruined the new GD&T standards (“New standards for GD&T, Oct. 22). The 1984 revisions were a nightmare. Fortunately, the 1994 changes made significant and dramatic improvements. GD&T is a critical engineering tool, and it can be blunted or sharpened. Let’s hope it’s the latter.

Ben Fagen