Technology has played a critical role in helping us adapt to the maelstrom of disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the new realities of daily life.
Amongst all technological innovations, automation has proved to be a major optimization lever reshaping industries across the globe.
The trust of businesses in the power of automation is reflected in recent stepped-up efforts by the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute, a leading public-private partnership that catalyzes robotics and workforce solutions to strengthen the U.S. industrial base.
ARM, which is funded by the Department of Defense (DoD), has chosen nine technical projects to help the U.S. economy recover faster from the COVID-19 outbreak that forced almost all businesses to look at their strategies afresh.
The identified areas of urgency include diagnostics, medical care and countermeasures, non-medical personal protective equipment, and other supplies, according to the Robot Report.
The selected projects are linked to the virus’s containment and the capabilities of the U.S. and the DoD to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the current and future crises.
The Robot Report says ARM plans to award around $5 million in funding, for a total contributed investment of approximately $8 million across the projects briefly described below:
1- Autonomous Robotic Spraying and Disinfection in Warehouses and Shipyards
In light of the need for more frequent and reliable disinfection to control the spread of the coronavirus in the facilities producing medical supplies and essential goods, this project will develop an autonomous warehouse disinfection system.
The system will minimize the human role in potentially harmful disinfecting procedures and reduce costs by automatically navigating, locating, and disinfecting heavily touched surfaces and potentially contaminated areas.
2- Automation of Characterization and Evaluation (ACE) in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Manufacturing
As sample testing of PPE has become a priority in manufacturing plants and medical centers, this project is aimed at developing a robotic system to automate the quality assurance tests for PPE inspection.
It is expected to improve the performance, productivity, and efficiency of PPE manufacturing in the U.S.
3- Built-By-Bot: Customized Mask Assembly Using Robots
Cloth masks have been playing a huge role in slowing the spread of COVID-19. However, the supply has not been able to fully meet the demand.
Building upon the outputs from other ARM projects, this initiative will automate the robotic production of cloth face masks.
4- Mobile Autonomous Industrial Disinfector (MAID)
Businesses and workspaces require frequent surface disinfection to operate safely, but the current method of manual cleaning is not ideal.
This project seeks to develop an autonomous mobile robot with a mounted collaborative multi-axis robotic arm capable of manipulating both a disinfection system and a sensor suite.
5- Rapid PPE Production Through Automation and Robotics (RAPPAR)
Existing automated mask production in the U.S. is slated to improve with the implementation of this project, which will include robotic automatic visual inspection, picking-and-sorting, and end-of-line packing and palletizing.
6- Autonomous Mobile Capability for Room Disinfecting Robots
This project is aimed at adding mobile autonomous capabilities to the Decon–X (DX1) disinfection system to automate the consecutive treatment of multiple rooms and spaces within workplaces.
7- Rapid Robotic Diagnostic Kit Discovery
This project will develop a solution using advanced vision systems and flexible robots to accelerate COVID-19 Lateral Flow Assay (LFA) tests, which will dramatically help America’s efforts toward large-scale testing for current and future pandemics.
8- Swarm Robotics for Large Structure Manufacturing
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, air-supported structures are ideal to be used as expeditionary hospitals, quarantine facilities, housing, and other disaster relief or military applications.
Production of these structures can be expedited with the development of robotic technology. This project seeks to aid manufacturing personnel with moving and manipulating heavy, flexible materials.
9- Robotic Application of Anti-Microbial Copper Coatings
The need for self-disinfecting surfaces has been highlighted by COVID-19. This project will develop a robotic anti-microbial copper application system to improve the manufacturability of these parts.