Engineers at the University of Birmingham have successfully designed a robotic system that can perform a key task in the disassembly of component parts.
The research is an important advance for manufacturers looking for more efficient ways to build products from a combination of reused, repaired, and new parts.
Known as remanufacturing, this process is becoming increasingly commonplace in manufacturing. It is attractive because it can use as little as 10% of the energy and raw materials required to build the product from scratch. It can also reduce CO2 emissions by more than 80%.
A key part of the process is the ability to disassemble the “core,” the returned product. Disassembly is a challenge because of the huge variety within these products, with lots of unknowns in the size, shape and condition of components.
The new study, published in Royal Society Open Science, demonstrates a process for removing pins from holes — components like these are extremely common in a wide variety of machines, such as internal combustion engines. The research is the first to investigate disassembly in depth and identify the key parameters required to automate the process.
“Processes currently used for automating disassembly are fairly ad hoc,” explained Yongquan Zhang, a researcher at the Autonomous Remanufacturing Laboratory of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Birmingham and lead author on the paper. “We need to be able to design robust systems that can handle the uncertainties that are inherent in disassembly processes — and to do that, we need a better fundamental understanding of disassembly.”
“The results of this study demonstrate how that fundamental understanding can be used to design robotic systems for reliably performing one common disassembly operation,” he added.
The work was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) as part of the AUTOREMAN program. Its goal is to give the U.K. a competitive edge in robotic disassembly, contributing to making businesses more sustainable, helping the economy to expand, and reducing impact on the environment.
Editor’s note: This news reposted from the University of Birmingham.
The Robot Report has launched the Healthcare Robotics Engineering Forum, which will be on Dec. 9-10 in Santa Clara, Calif. The conference and expo focuses on improving the design, development and manufacture of next-generation healthcare robots. Learn more about the Healthcare Robotics Engineering Forum.