One way for robotics designers and startups to understand target applications is to learn about providers that have been successful. Last week, AV&R celebrated its 25th anniversary. The Montreal, Quebec-based company began as a general automation provider and has become a leader in robotic surface finishing and automated surface inspection of aircraft engine parts.
More than 80% of high-pressure compressor blades currently manufactured have been profiled by 325 AV&R systems in 15 countries worldwide, claimed AV&R. The company (formerly known as Invensys Vision & Robotique) supplies aerospace manufacturers such as GE Aviation, Pratt & Whitney, and Safran, and it has completed more than 1,100 design projects.
In addition, the automated vision and robotics company said its robotics systems are designed to be usable by people without prior software programming experience. AV&R said it is continuing to innovate to help create more fuel-efficient aircraft engines.
AV&R was supported by investors including Fondaction and Fonds de solidarité FTQ. The global market for inspection robots will experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17.3% between 2018 to 2026, predicts Research and Markets. Technavio concurs, predicting a CAGR of 17% and a market size of of $3.72 billion by 2021.
Maxime Ducharme, engineering director at AV&R, and Michael Muldoon, product development and sales director at AV&R, answered the following questions from The Robot Report:
Which improvements in sensors and robotics have you benefited the most from?
Ducharme: Advances in more precise vision sensors and measuring sensors. In robotics, better repeatability of robots and better force-feedback systems.
In addition to sensors and vision, do you use machine learning, collaborative robots, or other new enabling technologies?
Ducharme: We do use some machine-learning techniques for specific applications, but no collaborative robot solutions yet.
How many people does AV&R employ now? How many are hardware engineers or software developers?
Ducharme: AV&R is a small engineering company, with more than 80 people. Around 10 of them are software developers, and 40 are hardware engineers.
What’s a common request from customers regarding automation? Are there some demands that are still difficult to meet?
Muldoon: There are still operations that are done by hand that directly impact the quality and performance of the part. The very creative operations that require troubleshooting how a part came to be in a state and how to bring it to an approved state are still the most challenging areas to implement automation. These areas often require expertise and technology stacks that are not practical to create for one application but result from a continuous effort in a field. This is really part of the innovation process.
How does your management software enable people without prior experience to use robots?
Ducharme: It allows users to fine-tune many aspects of the robot trajectories without even touching the teach pendant or knowing robot referentials. Our software manages the robot movement programs and can alter them depending on the user needs.
For example, for polishing, we can easily set a lower speed in certain areas of a part for more material removal.
Aircraft engines are already very advanced — how can your products continue to improve their efficiency?
Muldoon: There are still problems to solve. We see ourselves as building blocks that our clients use across a number of initiatives that are coming together.
Our customers are working towards securing their supply chain, implementing and iterating on the newest designs in production and building out the data sets used to relate how manufacturing results in component performance.
Are you involved with autonomous unmanned vehicles, research into hybrid/electrical aircraft, or energy generation?
Muldoon: We are often consulted if certain tolerances or techniques can be met in our playing field of finishing and inspection. Because we have been working in this field for a period of time, we have systematically been working at building our reputation as a source of manufacturing innovation from solution to solution.