Jesper Olavi (center), Global Product Manager and responsible for Axis’ portfolio of explosion-protected products, Christian Loftorp (right), Managing Director of Axis Ex AB, the production subsidiary for Axis explosion-protected devices, and Håkan Sjöberg (left), Axis Regulatory Engineer and responsible for explosion protection complian
Hazardous areas with an increased risk of explosion need to be monitored with network cameras even more urgently than non-hazardous areas. Health and safety must always be ensured, but until recently there were few solutions for increased protection in these areas.
In response to these demands, Axis decided to optimize some of its network camera solutions for hazardous environments. The article explains the improvements Axis has made and what the future holds for technology in hazardous areas.
How did Axis come to develop explosion-proof cameras?
From 2013 onwards, we received more and more requests from our customers in the critical infrastructure sector for explosion-protected cameras. Axis’ entry into the market was mainly driven by our customers who wanted to increase their security in hazardous areas, so-called Ex environments.
“The security industry was quickly moving from analog video to network video at the time, but due to the complicated certification requirements for explosion-proof devices and the high cost of hazardous area devices, most cameras were still analog,” explains Olavi. “Convinced that the future lay in network video, Axis decided to develop an explosion-proof IP camera.”
Development of the first explosion-proof camera
Axis’ first explosion-proof cameras were developed together with a certified housing manufacturer. Why?
“The focus was on Zone/Division 1 because this was the area with the greatest risk of explosion and the strongest customer demand. The first step was to fit safety cameras in these areas with a housing that contained any sparks or arcs that could ignite the atmosphere. This ensured that the camera itself could not cause an explosion. Axis had no experience in building explosion-proof cameras, so we decided to team up with a specialist in explosion-proof housings,” says Olavi, who led product development. “This allowed us to launch our first explosion-proof camera in 2015, which gave us a better understanding of the special requirements and applications in hazardous areas.”
“Customer requests led to the expansion of our portfolio to include explosion-proof cameras,” says Jesper Olavi.
Axis’ first explosion-protected camera was the XP40-Q1765 Explosion-Protected PTZ Network Camera, which could be used in Zone/Division 1 environments thanks to its wide area coverage and zoom capability. It was then decided to make the latest Axis thermographic camera, which can check for hot areas and leaks, explosion-proof as well.
Building up in-house production capacity for explosion-proof cameras
Axis’ management realized that the market for explosion-proof cameras was growing, and at the same time camera analytics and computing power had made great strides. This provided added value for partners and end users by opening up further operational benefits and new opportunities for health and safety applications in hazardous areas. As a result, Axis founded its subsidiary Axis Ex in 2021, which was able to produce cameras according to international standards for hazardous areas with various certifications such as ATEX, IECEx or METLabs.
“After a few years, we saw the limitations of adapting our cameras to external housings and realized that it made more sense for us as a camera manufacturer to design the housing to fit the camera,” explains Olavi. “This way, we can offer our customers better products and solutions, shorten development times and support our global partners and customers faster and more efficiently.“
Establishing in-house production for explosion-proof cameras has required Axis to invest heavily in both R&D and production capacity to fulfill its long-term commitment to providing the best solutions for hazardous areas.
“The research and development engineers work closely with legal experts to ensure that the finished products meet the numerous standards and guidelines to which explosion-proof cameras must be tested in order to obtain global certification for the various models. This means that our international customers can use the same part number everywhere,” explains Olavi.
In camera manufacturing, the production processes also have to be right in order to be able to build explosion-proof cameras themselves.
“Manufacturers of explosion-proof cameras must comply with an externally audited quality management system (ISO 80079-34). In addition, further audits are sometimes required in various parts of the world for explosion protection certification,” adds Loftorp. “Before an explosion-proof product is brought to market, the design must first be evaluated against the standards and then subjected to various environmental tests to ensure that it is safe to use in a hazardous area under all foreseeable circumstances.“
Once the design has been approved, the manufacturer must ensure that the subsequent series production is identical to the tested prototypes for at least 10 years and that the processes and work instructions that ensure this are controlled by the quality management system.
Innovation through internal development
As Axis now has full control over design and production, we can now offer products and solutions for less hazardous areas in Zone/Division 2 with a different explosion protection procedure. This new approach deviates from the standard, but offers a number of advantages that allow us to better respond to customer needs.
January 2023 saw the launch of AXIS P1468-XLE Explosion-Protected Bullet Camera, the world’s first explosion-protected camera specifically designed for Zone and Division 2 hazardous areas.
“When we looked at the standards, we realized that for Zone/Division 2 there was another way to meet the requirements and testing obligations without an additional external housing,” says Sjöberg. “This makes the product much smaller, lighter, cheaper and easier to install.“
“The market needed a camera for Zone/Division 2, but this could only be developed after a camera manufacturer had created the internal capabilities for it,” says Olavi. “It took the combination of explosion protection requirements and camera expertise to find the optimal design.”
Manufacturing explosion-proof products in-house, including optimizing the production processes and the actual product without bringing in an external housing manufacturer, also results in a significantly shorter development time and various customer benefits.
“By manufacturing cameras for hazardous areas in-house, we have been able to certify the products for all regions worldwide. This means we have fewer part numbers, can optimize our inventory and simplify product selection and delivery for our customers worldwide,” explains Loftorp. “Compared to working with a third party, in-house manufacturing also gives us a cost advantage, which we pass on to our partners and customers.”
Future developments for a smarter, safer world
The in-house development and production capabilities for explosion-proof cameras will allow Axis to expand its explosion-proof offering to other products and solutions in the future.
“By taking full control of all aspects of explosion-proof product design, certification and manufacturing, Axis has many exciting opportunities for further innovation for a smarter, safer world,” says Olavi. “New complementary products to our explosion-protected cameras will enable our customers and partners to develop more complex solutions to reduce hazards to people and processes in hazardous areas, reduce environmental impact and produce more efficiently. We see many innovations in the areas of health, safety and environmental protection as well as process monitoring and optimization.”
Thanks to modern computer technology, cameras with a monitoring function can now also serve as sensitive sensors, which opens up further application possibilities for the partners. With the help of deep learning analytics, AXIS Camera Application Platform (ACAP) partners can also develop special functions for hazardous areas.
In the oil and gas segment, for example, engineers can “train” a camera to recognize the conditions required for optimal drilling in order to work safely and efficiently.
“All you need is the right input signal that can use the deep learning functions of the cameras,” says Olavi. “If you develop the analytics in parallel with integrating the right inputs, you can make better decisions on working practices, gain operational efficiency and further improve safety.”
Axis is also developing new functions for its devices for hazardous environments for end customers, such as the integration of personal protective equipment (PPE) detection.
“We are always striving to increase the value of our products for customers to create a smarter and safer world,” says Olavi.