The Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing, or ARM, Institute today announced that it has chosen five Robotics in Sustainment projects to help the U.S. Department of Defense with maintenance activities. The collaborative organization plans to spend up to $2.35 million on the selected proposals.
The Pittsburgh-based ARM Institute was founded in 2017 by Carnegie Mellon University and is part of the Manufacturing USA network. The public-private partnership is intended to improve U.S. manufacturing competitiveness and military capabilities through workforce development and collaborative robotics. ARM, a 2020 RBR50 innovation award winner, last month reached 250 members, including industry, academia, and government.
Sustainment projects respond to call
Last December, the ARM Institute announced a call for Robotics in Sustainment projects. It then invited competing teams to present their proposals in person at Joint Summit: Robotics in Sustainment II (JROBOT) in March.
The four-day summit brought together experts across government and the armed services to develop and recommend Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) policies for coordinating and expanding the use of industrial robotics in sustainment activities across all military branches.
ARM and the Department of Defense (DoD) said that robotics and workforce innovation is “critical to maintaining military equipment, lowering the cost of repairing assets, and training the staff needed to complete this important work.”
They selected proposals on the basis of how they would help meet so-called sustainment needs, which focus on the maintenance and repair of military assets over their lifetime.
The institute announced the following Robotics in Sustainment projects:
Mixed-reality guided path planning with robotically generated digital twins
Principal investigator: ARIS Technology, Chicago
Quality inspection is a manual and costly manufacturing process. While AI-powered robotic 3D scanning systems reduce many unnecessary manual tasks, human-robot interaction is still required to ensure reliable data collection and decision making. Training an operator on how to program robotic 3D scanning takes effort.
This project focuses on integrating mixed reality (MR) with robotic simulation for inspection and asset defects mapping. This innovation will provide an improved user experience (UX) and guidance to human workers in collaborating with the robots. It is also intended to standardize the operating skills needed and reduce the manual effort required for path planning and digital twin generation.
Autonomous multi-tool head robotic solution for on-site surface preparation
Principal investigator: Siemens Corp., Chicago
Robotics applications excel at completing pre-determined tasks, but they typically lack the ability to adapt or change the process sequence autonomously. This project focuses on a multi-head robotic solution that will enable on-site reclamation and surface preparation of parts through autonomous path generation, tool selection, and process sequencing.
The advancements from this project will address technical challenges and increase human safety. It could also lower the cost associated with preparing large defense or commercial parts that cannot be transported to a factory setting without significant downtime and cost, said ARM.
Environmentally hardened underwater modular robot snake
Principal investigator: Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh
From reaching into fuel tanks to radiation spaces and more, there are many DoD needs for a robotic solution that can navigate confined, awkward, and hazardous spaces. However, there are few solutions that can place robot end effectors in such spaces, and many existing robotic snake applications have a fixed base that limits reach.
This project seeks to provide a solution to these limitations through a self-propelled, water-tight robotic snake that can operate in depths up to 20 feet. The project plans to create an easy-to-use interface that will allow people with little training to start using this robot immediately.
Mobile autonomous coating application for aircraft sustainment
Principal investigator: Lockheed Martin, Bethesda, Md.
Current coating applications are purpose-built for very specific tasks, costly, and require a high-level of expertise in automation systems.
This project proposes a mobile coating solution that will minimize the cost to implement, reduce the time spent, prioritize human safety, and can be used more generally. This will be completed through the development of a robotic end effector that can service multiple coating applications. The project will also include automated coating application parameters, a mobile system to robotically apply coatings, inspection parameters for quality inspection, and robotic path-planning software.
Autonomous coating with realtime control and inspection
Principal investigator: Siemens
Coating processes are critical to preventing damage to DoD assets, but current coating operations rely on time-consuming manual operations that are often performed in hazardous environments. Manual coating also suffers from inconsistencies in quality and consistency. Insufficient coating can lead to part damage and excessive coating is wasteful and can increase weight.
This project seeks to develop and integrate an advisor robot that will produce spray parameters and robot trajectories, as well as an automated coating inspector that will use machine learning algorithms to perform quality inspection. The process intends to leverage human expertise with a human operator specifying inputs, while automating the dull, dirty, and dangerous aspects of coating operations.
ARM continues collaboration with DoD
“The ARM Institute is the connection that bridges the gap between industry experts and government needs to accelerate robotics and workforce solutions,” stated Arnie Kravitz, chief technology officer at ARM. “We are proud to be trusted by the Department of Defense for this important mission.”
“The ARM Institute’s network partners are working with the sustainers of our various platforms to keep our aircraft, ships and vehicles doing what they need to do,” said Steve McKee, JROBOT co-lead for the DoD Joint Technology Exchange Group. “We see many future opportunities to advance the manufacturing ecosystem using robotics while also improving the readiness rates across the DoD and beyond.”
ARM will be participating in and hosting the virtual Robotics in Sustainment (JROBOT) III event on Aug. 17-20, 2020. This invitation-only event will continue to build upon the goal of identifying, fielding, and harnessing robotics capabilities to maximize platform usage across the DoD and allied partners.