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SnT Partners with Gas Control Innovation Leader Rotarex

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Published on Tuesday, 13 July 2021

SnT has entered into a partnership with Rotarex, the world-leading producer of high-quality gas control products and systems. Their joint project will focus on developing a concept to increase the efficiency, degree of automation and flexibility of Rotarex’s product assembly process through the use of collaborative robots. 

The production of Rotarex gas control devices is a far from simple process. Each individual product has its own complex set of requirements and constraints. Like every production line, Rotarex constantly improves its system to produce high quality products, as fast and efficiently as possible with the lowest rate of failure. With such a vast array of units to be produced, and each product needing to be individually customised, it is not an easy task. Rotarex is keen on optimising production in terms of time and cost efficiency. 

Currently, human workers across Rotarex’s production line have an essential role, as they can adapt to each unit’s individual specification very quickly. However, they need to be well trained and highly focused for long periods of time. During peak sales periods in the year, Rotarex needs to considerably increase its workforce to cope with demand, and requires them to work day and night. In order to address this challenge, Rotarex are trialling a ‘collaborative’ robot – essentially where a robot and human work cooperatively on their production line. However, this process is not fully optimised, requiring avoidable, time-consuming human interventions.

As a partner, SnT will work with Rotarex for the next three years on developing the robot’s abilities, and upgrading its capacity of working effectively alongside human workers. Speaking about the collaboration Carlo Thom, Rotarex Group CIO said, “We are in need of a reliable and highly flexible robot that can be implemented across our sites, to work in collaboration with our employees on the production line. We hope that this partnership with SnT will revolutionise our production methods to allow for a much smoother and efficient workflow.”

The team is comprised of Prof. Holger Voos, head of the Automation and Robotics research groupDr. Jose-Luis Sanchez-Lopez, a research scientist, and Alireza Barekatain, a doctoral candidate. Speaking about the project’s progress so far, Sanchez-Lopez said, “Our work with Rotarex has just begun, with the first year being dedicated to understanding the robot’s needs to avoid malfunctioning and to increase its flexibility. We have already realised that a key limiting factor is its difficulty to understand the environment and the pieces it has to manipulate, and therefore the first step will consist of improving its situational awareness.”

“Over the course of three years, we will continue to refine the robot, and optimise it to work in collaboration with the human workers on Rotarex’s production lines.” he continued.