STTR Phase II: Development of a Remote Climbing Robot for Automating Welding Processes in the Shipbuilding Industry

Period of Performance: 01/01/2009 - 12/31/2009

$500K

Phase 2 STTR

Recipient Firm

Robotic Technologies of Tennessee
2560 Nova Circle
Cookeville, TN 38501
Principal Investigator

Research Institution

Tennessee Technological University
Dixie Avenue
Cockeville, TN 38501
Institution POC

Abstract

This Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase II research project will advance a Mobile Robotic Welding System (MRWS) to significantly improve automated ship fabrication techniques in the United States. Providing automation to the American shipbuilding industry poses significant challenges. Traditional robotic systems are inadequate in industries such as shipbuilding characterized by size and scale because of their inherent inability to adhere and maneuver across uneven and even inverted environments while maintaining a weld. The team addresses these problems by merging recent climbing robot technology developed for remote inspection tasks in the electric power industry with automated welding equipment. This project will advance this technology, moving it from the laboratory to the field and address the technical challenges posed by real-world conditions. This will include vehicle and manipulator interaction in a dynamic environment, sensor systems capable of handling variable conditions, and robust navigation and control algorithms with self preserving and correcting behaviors. This proposed effort focuses on technology innovation to significantly advance automation of manufacturing, inspection and maintenance processes through an autonomous, mobile climbing robot. If successful the outcome of this project will additionally advance the state of knowledge in performing robotic tasks remotely in unstructured environments. The general need for such capability in robotics is immense. Shipbuilding is an extremely labor-intensive, $15 billion dollar industry in the US, and its success depends on improvements in productivity. Over $40 trillion will be spent worldwide in infrastructure spending between 2005 and 2030. The US will spend $6.52 trillion overall and $1.53 trillion in energy/power segment with includes pipelines, storage facilities and alternative energy.