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World’s first modular robot system

World’s first modular robot system

When architectural designer Philip started to develop a superior construction toy for his children it unpredictably resulted in the world’s first modular multi-functional robot system. 

One robot for one task is traditional but what happens when you are working in an environment that demands multiple tasks? Instead of enduring multiple different robots, dealing with multiple different companies, using multiple different interfaces, with multiple different support teams and multiple different contracts, Philip designed one robot, an intelligent mobile machine, that can be modularly configured to do multiple tasks. 

Philip’s company, Ross Robotics, specialises in building unmanned ground vehicles (UGV’s) that replace people where they shouldn’t or can’t work. Unmanned robots are ideal for dull, dirty and dangerous tasks.

Philip first contacted Maxon in 2010. Philip said ‘We were looking for a DC motor that was easy to drive at a low speed, had a high torque and importantly was of a certain size because of the small space envelope we had. Maxon’s standard EC 45, 70 watt, flat BLDC motors are ideal. We enjoy working with Maxon, they are always happy to help.’

Maxon’s flat brushless DC motors are especially suitable for installation in confined spaces. The brushless motors are designed with a multi-pole rotor for high torque to weight ratio. 

The robots are extremely resilient and designed to perform in unstructured environments, to avoid obstacles, to react to unpredictable events and cope with vibration, dust and radiation. It is these characteristics that have brought the company to the attention of CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, the EDEN project at Chernobyl, the security forces, first responders and the emergency services. 

Ross Robotics has a collaborative partnership with CERN. CERN has over 50k of tunnels and the mobile machine is used for inspection. It has to be non-magnetic as the radiation reaches 4 Tesla and has to cope with spikes of magnetic flux. CERN have developed their own artificial intelligence for the rovers, including highly resilient Simultaneous Location and Mapping (SLAM).

At Chenobyl the modular robotic delivery platform used sensors to map the area. After a long day’s work it took a conventional robot rover 2 hours to be decontaminated, which involved taking every single element apart and carefully and meticulously removing radiation. It took the Ross Robotics rover only 15 minutes.

‘For our future designs we take a lot of our inspiration from living creatures. Look at arthropods, they are the most successful creatures on the planet. They are adaptable, with flexible structures and everything is compliant, very much like our modular robots.’ Philip concludes.

 

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