Norwegian robot company nLink has unveiled a new boom lift robot which incorporates Artificial Intelligence to carry out a range of tasks without the need for anyone to work at height.
The Robolift project began in 2020 with the first prototype completed last autumn when nLink teamed up with access distribution group Hybeko to install it on a Genie S-80 J telescopic boom lift. The result so far is a façade cleaning pressure washing system that can be programmed to perform the task unaided. The plan now is to add further attachments such as a paint sprayer and sand blaster.
Hybeko product development and special machine sales manager Pål Tveitan said: “At Hybeko we have focused on developing specially adapted lifts for, among other things, rock protection and installation work in tunnels, as well as explosion proof lifts built in accordance with the Atex directive. We want to develop more lifts to perform special work tasks where increased safety and efficiency is a requirement, there is definitely a market for that.”
“We have made a boom lift available in this project, which nLink is robotising and have shared technical information and specifications so that nLink can get the Robolift to perform the desired tasks. It is very exciting to be part of this and to be developing a special product that we can bring to the global lift market.”
Tomas Henninge, project manager and co-founder of nLink added: “We are now looking at possible areas such as inspection of facades, bridges and ship hulls, sand washing, sandblasting and painting. We have now moved into phase two of the project, where we will find out where RoboLift makes the best use of itself. We have worked on robotising traditional equipment in this project, ‘stupid machines’ without brains, and then developing connecting software and robotic arms that talk to each other. This is how the robot developer sees the world develop, it is not a question of jumping from manual work to fully robotic.”
“This is an intermediate phase in robotics technology. These are human friendly, human supporting robots that do not take over jobs, but complement by completing work tasks many would like to avoid. When a robot receives instructions from humans, the craftsmen themselves can control the robot to refine or adjust in areas they see needed. The robot does not yet have a human factor.”
The Video below demonstrates how the system works
New funds have been allocated for phase two of the project to cover market analysis and technology adaptations.
Gudmund Engen of the Norwegian construction industry association - Byggenæringens Landsforening - said: “RoboLift is clearly a kinder egg for craftsmen. Not only can the robot streamline work tasks and reduce costs due to injuries and sick leave, it ensures increased safety in the workplace and better working conditions."
This also applies to protection against chemicals, as the craftsmen can stand at a distance and control the robot, says Engen, who believes that the robot can have many benefits for companies that perform heavy, physical work at height.
“The project has received funding through the AI programme, to nLink in 2020, together with Malermesternes Landsforening (MLF) and Hybeko. In addition, J.S. Cock and Tess have been very helpful with expertise and lending of equipment, such as a proper high pressure washer.
In 2016, nLink launched the drilling robot Drilly, which has paved the way with robots in the construction industry.
"We saw what nLink had achieved with its drilling robot, it is impressive," said Engen. "Here they shed light on the problem of load damage for those who drill in walls and ceilings. We see this can be transferable to other work tasks. If we look into the future, all the information about a building will be input to the robot so that it knows exactly where all the windows and doors are, ceilings, corners and walls. A craftsman can press the button and tell the robot to perform the specific task or tasks and off it goes. Not only does this solve many of today's challenges, it also creates a new and attractive work task. There are probably many who want to control a robot."
nLink and sister company Rockethouse are based in Sogndal on the Sognefjord in western Norway. Hybeko is based in Skien south of Oslo.