Bots2ReC, robotic extraction of asbestos fibres from buildings

Europe has paid a high price for asbestos, with over 100 000 related deaths. First in line in the fight to free buildings from asbestos contamination, workers in the construction sector could soon find a helping hand in the form of an AI-piloted robotic system.

The constant and multifaceted evolution of society has left very few industries unchanged. For most sectors, this has meant moving towards increased automation. Most, but not all. One unyielding sector has largely stayed true to its old ways: the construction sector. For the past 200 years, the same repetitive, standardised, and physically challenging construction tasks have been performed by workers with their own two hands. But this could change soon thanks to projects as Bots2ReC (Robots to Re-Construction). The reasoning behind Bots2ReC is simple: some tasks are simply too hazardous for humans to perform, and machines could easily replace them. “Besides the exposure, some processes or the materials handled in those processes generate health hazards in the form of dust, vibration, noise or toxic substances. It is precisely for these tasks that we could expect great benefits from – and also show the massive potential of – automation to achieve sustainable socio-ecological improvements,” says Tobias Haschke, coordinator of the project on behalf of RWTH Aachen University.

Tailored to construction sector needs

To enable such automation, the project consortium first had to overcome barriers related to the nature of the construction sector. Whereas most industries manufacture in a defined environment, the construction industry has historically had to cope with a continuously changing environment with varying rules and procedures. As Haschke explains: “The key to success lies in the technical control of this constant change.” Recent developments in computer science, storage systems and sensors were key enablers that set Bots2ReC in motion. They enabled the introduction of semi-autonomous solutions through mobile handling of environment complexity. Over a span of 3 years, the project team developed a robotic system capable of handling asbestos removal on construction sites. “The robot operates asbestos removal comprehensively and not just piece by piece. Thanks to its AI capabilities, it is also tailor-made to be used under real conditions,” Haschke explains. “The AI combines a tailored lightweight data format for environmental representation with a complex planning module. As a result, it can provide a scalable system in terms of fleet size and it automatically adapts to the floor plans at hand”. Most tests of the Bots2ReC were carried out with a grinding disk to reflect the actual process of asbestos removal. This helped the team understand and subsequently control the complex mechanisms of such interaction. Furthermore, the system was examined for its suitability for use in normal residential buildings, and tested in various room and floor plan constellations. The results are promising, with basic accessibility reaching almost 90 % of the wall surfaces of a general dwelling. A direct comparison to manual work is still pending and will be implemented in the follow-up of the project.

The greatest achievement

“To me, our greatest achievement is the robot itself. Its design and mode of operation are tailored to the requirements of the construction industry, and its design method is unique. This is reflected in the processable ceiling height of 3 m, which is simultaneously paired with an arm payload of 20 kg and continuous power supply via the mobile, omni-directional tandem system,” Haschke explains. The project has already generated attention in the construction industry, both for its complete robotic system and for its components.

Although Bots2ReC was completed in November 2019, the team has been investigating further developments of grinding processes, planning logic and radar technology since then. These are already in demand and should be commercialised within the next 2 years. “We are especially proud of the products that have been decoupled during the project and are already available on the market in the form of two mobile robots at Robotnik Automation (RB-2 BASE and Summit XL Steel),  and various improved radar sensors from indurad GmbH,” Haschke notes. With its focus on asbestos, Bots2ReC is well placed to reduce the future health burden on workers. There is little doubt that the cost of the technology will easily be counterbalanced by its high social benefit and economic efficiency. The project could be adapted for the removal of other hazardous products, such as lead paint.


The CEEI stands out to Robotnik as a reference company within the Service Robotics sector

Roberto Guzmán, CEO de Robotnik, collected the award

The European Center of Innovative Companies of Valencia has just recognized the trajectory of Robotnik granting us the CEEI Company Award. With it, Robotnik stands out as a reference company within the Service Robotics sector.

The award was presented during the celebration of the commemorative event of the 25th anniversary of the CEEI and was collected by our CEO, Roberto Guzmán. During this time, CEEI has made a great work in favor of the entrepreneurs and the innovative Valencian companies.

From Robotnik, we want to convey our sincere thanks to the CEEI for its support during all these years.

More information:

Valencia Plaza

CEEI Valencia


ROS CONTROL, an API to control them all

ROS has been one of the greatest advances of the robotics industry in the past years. Its development began as a way to help the development of robot applications, easing the communication between sensors and algorithms, following the paradigm of “program once, test everywhere”.

This has been the pattern of the last years, and ROS has performed extremely good in that way. For example, you could code an algorithm to take an image as its input, without caring about which model, resolution or connection type, as long as it was supported by ROS and adopted its API.

But this focusing on the high level layer of application development led to an unthinkable oblivion: How was the access to actuators managed? How were the references of the actuators calculated? As in the case of high level applications, where the end user shouldn’t care about the source and destination of the data used and produced by him, in the case of robot control the user shouldn’t care about which type of actuators are used by a robot.

But today, this is not the situation anymore. ROS Control is the API that has been developed by the ROS community to allow simple access to different actuators. Using this standard API, the controller code is separated from the actuator code. For example, one could write a new controller implementing a fancy control strategy, and test it on different hardware without changing a single line of code. Or one could test different control algorithm with same hardware to find the most suitable for its needs.

ROS Control has different features that make it really appealing: real time capabilities, that allows to run control loops at hundreds of hertz; a simple manager interface, that gives access to the actuators and handles resource conflicts; a safety interface, that knows the hardware limitation of the joints and ensures that the commands sent to the actuators are between their limits; and a set off-the-shelf controllers that are ready to be used.

Have you ever thought about the mapping between joint and actuator space? ROS Control already did it. Normally this mapping is one-to-one, i.e. one actuator controls one joint, and their movement is related by a gearbox, so you don’t need to do messy calculations. However, in case of more complex scenarios, e.g. when a differential transmission is used, ROS Control gives us an elegant solution through its transmission interface to cope with this problem.

What about mixing different robot components into one? This is a trend nowadays, where robot components are autonomous and usable on their own, but can also be assembled into a single functional system. In those cases, ROS provides high level coordination between the components, but with ROS Control this coordination is also achieved at the low level, extending the control possibilities to far and beyond, for example, with a more coupled control between a robotic arm and the tool attached to it.

Finally, the separation between controllers and actuators allows an interesting option: simulation. Gazebo, the standard robot simulator used by ROS, implements simulated ROS Control actuators, and one can write and test a controller even before it has the real robot available. This feature of ROS Control is used at Robotnik to test new kinematic configurations for its most edgy robots, allowing for quick prototype delivery.

ROS Control is one of the key parts for the domination of the robotic world by ROS. As a world leading company in the ROS community, Robotnik makes an extensive use of ROS Control to give its customers the best products available on the market.


Robotnik will participate in the Global Robot Expo 2017

The fair has established itself as a benchmark in the sector in Europe.

Robotnik attends as an exhibitor, with his partner Schunk, the second edition of the Global Robot Expo, to be held on 2, 3 and 4 February in the Glass Pavilion of the Casa de Campo de Madrid.

Global Robot Expo is consolidated as well as a highlight in the agenda of the robotic sector in Europe, and it will meet the most representative companies of the same, as well as other social agents (Administration, universities, etc.).

At our booth, visitors will be able to see in action the SUMMIT XL mobile platform, the RB-1 mobile manipulator and the LWA 4P robotic arm.

We will be happy to welcome you at our stand (81-82). We wait for you!

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZV7gfXUM08&t=3s


Radio Project Eu progresses in Ambient Assisted Living

RADIO Project technical partners hold meeting in Nafpaktos, Greece. Teams are checking progress in the new ambient assisted living lab.

The AAL House is a fully equipped 60m2 residence that serves as a training laboratory for applying, experimenting and evaluating state-of-the-art ambient assisted living technologies.

Photo Gallery

RADIO Concept video.

RADIO Concept from roboskel on Vimeo.


IROS and ROSCon 2016, leading technology and World Robotics Experts meeting

Robotnik has been in the 2016 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS 2016) and ROSCon held in Daejeon, Korea. The conference have been integrates with full of workshops, exhibitions, robot demonstrations, and social activities for attendees and guests.

Robotnik have shown its great robotic platforms at the conferences. The RB-1 and flagship SUMMIT-XL have been there to show up the people their capacities.

Take a look to some pictures from the events.

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SUMMIT XL and RB-1 moving around the fair

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Robotnik team in the stand with its partner Barrett Technologies.

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RB-1 at your service on the exhibitor hall.

Thank you very much to all fairgoers. It was a pleasure to meet all your queries and concerns!


Robotnik will attend ROSCon and IROS 2016

 

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ROSCon 2016

Robotnik will be in the conference ROSCon 2016, held on 8th and 9th October in Conrad Seoul, Seoul, Korea. You will find us at Booth - 11.

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IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems

Robotnik will be in the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) with its partner Barrett Technology.

Robotnik will bring three robots supported by ROS, the mobile platform SUMMIT XL HL with mecanum wheels, the mobile manipulator RB-1 and the Barrett WAM arm.

This great event will take place in the Daejeon Convention Center, Seoul, Korea, between the 9th and 14th October. Find us in Booth - B13.

Robotnik is pleased to invite you to attend these two events and come to our booth where we will have the pleasure to answer any questions or concerns about our company, products and services.