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Robots to Re-Construction

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - Bots2ReC (Robots to Re-Construction)

Okres sprawozdawczy: 2018-08-01 do 2019-11-30

"Despite the high degree of industrial automation, robotic solutions are not yet prevalent in construction and demolition industry. Most tasks are performed manually with the help of conventional electro-mechanic and hydraulic tools. Especially for hazardous environments, where intense safety measures have to be taken to reduce the health risks for employees, manual performance is very inefficient or even prohibited. One major market sector is the clearance and refurbishment on so-called rehabilitation sites (e.g. buildings contaminated with asbestos). Every exposure to asbestos fibres is highly hazardous to humans: Personal protective equipment of highest technological standard needs to be exchanged regularly due to the asbestos dust, which increases the costs and time to completion for clearance and refurbishment. From this situation, the main objective for the proposed innovation action emerged:

""Introducing, testing and validating an operational process for the automated removal of asbestos contamination at a real world rehabilitation site using a robotic system.""

As a conclusion of the action, the consortium of the Bots2ReC project has initiated and opened up a variety of general technologies for the future automation of the construction industry on the way to autonomous asbestos removal. The application to the intended use case has been largely completed and tested under laboratory conditions, which have been selected to be as closely related to the real world scenarios possible."
The consortium has analysed the asbestos removal process in detail and examined its automatable components. Two prototypes were designed and built, which were specially developed for this application with regard to the derived requirements. With the help of the first prototype, important conclusions were gained with regard to the technical conditions on construction sites, so that the requirements made could be specified even better. The main finding from the first prototype was that the use case requires an even more robust and complex system approach than originally assumed. In particular, the realization that the required aspiration power cannot be carried on the robot has led to an increase in complexity due to the necessary handling of the aspiration pipes.

For this reason, the consortium developed a mobile robot tandem, whereby the first robot carries the robot arm for guiding the tool and the following second mobile robot takes over the tracking of the power supply and the suction power. A specially designed robot arm carrying the removal tool was developed and equipped with a radar sensor system for process monitoring. The second mobile robot was designed accordingly and equipped by an automated winch system for power cable and aspiration pipe. A central control system has been developed to control and monitor the process. Due to the increased complexity of the system, the development of the components and the integration took more time than planned, which required an adapted benchmarking and validation process.

The industrial partners of the consortium have already sustainably improved their services and products through Bots2ReC. The project had a significant impact on the market launch of two mobile robots from Robotnik and has led to an expansion of Indurad's sensor range, which further strengthens radar technology in mobile robotics. Additionally Bouygues Construction has gained considerable knowledge about the possibility and chances of robot assisted asbestos removal.

In summary, many steps have been taken in the right direction on the way to automated asbestos removal, leading to technologies for the automation of construction industry. The developed technologies have been shared and discussed with external parties in the form of scientific publications, conferences and technical discussions. The resulting negotiations about the continuation of individual technologies and their transfer to market continue beyond the project.
The project started with the intention to go beyond the state of the art, by implementing well-known technologies in the demolition and construction sector, were robotic technology is not yet prevalent. Addressing the implied challenges from a design and control point of view opens new fields of application. For the first time a robotic system, able to remove asbestos in a semi-automatic way, has been developed. The combination and enhancement of proven technology and its adaption to the robotics use-case will allow the clearance and refurbishment on rehabilitation sites by automated removal of asbestos contamination. This innovation process will provide a step change to a system prototype demonstrated in operational environment (TRL 7). In the project follow up, the findings and results will be used to complete and qualify the system for the operational environment (TRL 9), aiming at the successful commercialisation.

The main impacts of the project idea can be named like this:
- To increase and strengthen Europe's market share in robotics, by introducing new robotic technology to the very large European asbestos removal market.
- To improve the Technology Readiness Levels of robotics technologies by providing a system prototype demonstrated in the operational environment of the construction and demolition industry.
- To address ethical and societal issues by preventing the exposure of construction workers in Europe and worldwide to asbestos fibres. Furthermore the covering or the capsulation of the asbestos is too often preferred over the removal, postponing the load to manage this morbid inheritance to the future generations. By cost reduction of the process, the described innovation will help to speed up clearance and refurbishment processes in Europe and worldwide. Less often refurbishment needs to be avoided due to cost reasons.

At the end of the project, the targeted and achieved impacts can be compared as follows:
- The project has led to the development of a completely new robotic system for the construction industry. Compared to other systems, it is characterized in particular by a high payload and at the same time great freedom of movement. It was especially optimized for applications on construction sites in common living rooms. Radar technology, which has hardly been used in mobile robotics up to now, was used for the successful functioning of the system and thus makes a major contribution to the future automation of the construction industry. All in all, the introduction of new technologies in the construction industry can therefore be affirmed.
- The intended automation solution could not be tested under operational environments to the extent planned. Nevertheless, the functional testing was carried out in close to real environments, so that the increase in the TRL represents a technically sound consolidation rather than a risky new development. Therefore the developed robotic solution represents a level of automation and robustness that promises to be a great platform to further robotic development for the construction and demolition industry.
- The ethical and social influences of this automation project are identical even at the end of the project, as asbestos still represents a major health risk and the burden on present and future generations can only be reduced by robotic solutions such as Bots2ReC.
Overview of the second prototype of the robotic unit
Overview of the first prototype of the robotic unit
Concept and technological approach for the automated asbestos removal