Digital Innovation Hubs Digital Innovation Hubs

Bristol Robotics Laboratory’s RIF Bristol Robotics Laboratory’s RIF

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Contact Data

Coordinator (University)

University of the West of England

Coordinator website

https://www.uwe.ac.uk/

Year Established

2013

Location

Frenchay Campus, Coldharbour Lane, Stoke Gifford, BS16 1QY, Bristol (United Kingdom)

Website

http://echord.eu/the-bristol-rif/

Social Media

Contact information

Farid Dailami
farid.dailami@brl.ac.uk
+44 117 32 82861

Description

Description

Bristol Robotics Laboratory is a collaborative partnership between the University of the West of England (UWE, Bristol) and the University of Bristol, and is the largest academic centre for multi-disciplinary robotics research in the UK. The Robotics Innovation Facility is housed in BRL’s state-of-the-art laboratory, which covers an area of over 3,000 square metres, and is located on UWE’s Frenchay Campus to the north of the city of Bristol. The RIF is equipped with a number of robots, vision systems and other items of automation. BRL also houses laboratories and spaces for work in areas of assisted living, machine vision, human robot interaction, sensor development and sensor applications in surgery, swarm robotics, microbial fuel cells etc. One of the largest European indoor arenas for flying Miniature UAVs is located within BRL. A well-equipped workshop with additive layer manufacturing machines, machine tools and electronic benches etc. provides support for many of the research projects. Three dedicated personnel service the RIF and support its offerings with additional assistance provided by the BRL technical support team and other engineers and scientists employed in the laboratory, and the university at large, as and when required. Bristol Robotics Laboratory is also responsible for the coordination of activities of RIFs in SSSA, Pisa, CEA, Paris and BRL, Bristol.

Bristol Robotics Laboratory is a collaborative partnership between the University of the West of England (UWE, Bristol) and the University of Bristol, and is the largest academic centre for multi-disciplinary robotics research in the UK. The Robotics Innovation Facility is housed in BRL’s state-of-the-art laboratory, which covers an area of over 3,000 square metres, and is located on UWE’s Frenchay Campus to the north of the city of Bristol. The RIF is equipped with a number of robots, vision systems and other items of automation. BRL also houses laboratories and spaces for work in areas of assisted living, machine vision, human robot interaction, sensor development and sensor applications in surgery, swarm robotics, microbial fuel cells etc. One of the largest European indoor arenas for flying Miniature UAVs is located within BRL. A well-equipped workshop with additive layer manufacturing machines, machine tools and electronic benches etc. provides support for many of the research projects. Three dedicated personnel service the RIF and support its offerings with additional assistance provided by the BRL technical support team and other engineers and scientists employed in the laboratory, and the university at large, as and when required. Bristol Robotics Laboratory is also responsible for the coordination of activities of RIFs in SSSA, Pisa, CEA, Paris and BRL, Bristol.

Link to national or regional initiatives for digitising industry

The activities of the hub are well aligned with the British national initiatives for digitising industry, Digital Strategy and the Green paper on Industrial Strategy.

The hub also participated in the EU funded project, Echord++.

https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/content/echord

Links to Industry Digitisation

RIF@Bristol linkage to Digitisation of Industry has been via a number of projects funded via FP7, H2020 and ERDF. Additionally RIF@Bristol has benefitted from a number Innovate UK grants related to application of robotics and automation.

In the context of FP7 via the ECHORD++ Project, RIF has engaged with a number of companies large and small, a number of start-ups and individual to enhance their capacity in the use of digital technologies. These engagements have taken the form of nominally six weeks long collaborations where RIF has explored digitisation initiative in operations, processes and products design and supply.

In the context of H2020, RIF is engaged in the TERRINet project that will enhance the knowledge of researchers and users of digital technologies in a number of areas across Europe. RIF has also been awarded funding under the ERDF mechanism to provide digitisation assistance for the next three years in the Bristol, UK area. These engagements will nominally last three months with an SME focus that help introduce and exploit digitisation initiatives in collaborator organisations.

 

Alignment of RIF@Bristol activities with RIS3 strategies:

RIF@Bristol has existed since 2013. Its parent laboratory, the Bristol Robotics Laboratory has been operational for over twenty-five years. RIF is a physical space, a place where local, regional, national and international companies, individuals and organizations can access various items of robotics and automation. This facility will provide opportunities to pursue innovative solutions and technologies in the area of automation.

RIF@Bristol has been engaged in a number of projects where governmental, private and other funds have been secured to enable RIF’s clients make investment choices most suited to their current circumstance. These have ranged from UK governments investments to launch Knowledge Transfer Projects to raising of venture capital for support of development and marketing  of innovative products.  

RIF@Bristol benefits from co-location with the BRL Technology Incubator. This provides and has provided a number of opportunities to encourage and facilitate entrepreneurial initiatives. A number of incubatees companies have been launched via this incubator with international impact. Creating for example around forty new jobs in one case.

RIF@Bristol has embraced a very broad view of innovation in its alignment with the regional strategic objectives. The engagement with assisted living and health care are two examples of its current engagements. The South West region of England provides very rich and varied opportunities for RIF@Bristol to make an impact with innovative products and processes.

RIF@Bristol has benefited and is benefiting from current and ongoing ERDF funding to support a number of innovation projects. By definition engagement with this funding mechanism requires a significant effort in terms of monitoring and evaluation. RIF@Bristol has developed mechanisms for evaluating its engagements and has identified Key Performance Indicators that will enable it deliver effective engagements.

RIF@Bristol has benefitted from private income to carry out consultancy projects and is planning to increase these income streams to provide around three quarters of its income with the remainder raised via other mechanisms.

RIF@Bristol secured funding from FP7 for the ECHORD++ RIF instrument. It has also secured funding from H2020 via the TERRINet Project. In addition RIF@Bristol has secured funding from ERDF to run the BTS project to support automation and robotics projects for SMEs in the Bristol area.

Market and Services

Market sectors

  • Agriculture, hunting and forestry
  • Construction
  • Transport, storage and communication
  • Education
  • Health and social work
  • Manufacture of wood and wood products
  • Manufacture of rubber and plastic products
  • Manufacture of machinery and equipment
  • Manufacture of electrical and optical equipment
  • Manufacture of transport equipment

TRL Focus

  • TRL3 - Analytical and experimental critical function and/or characteristic proof of concept
  • TRL4 - Component and/or breadboard validation in laboratory environment
  • TRL5 - Component and/or breadboard validation in relevant environment
  • TRL6 - System/subsystem model or prototype demonstration in a relevant environment
  • TRL7 - System prototype demonstration in an operational environment
  • TRL8 - Actual system completed and qualified through test and demonstration

Services provided

  • Awareness creation
  • Ecosystem building, scouting, brokerage, networking
  • Visioning and Strategy Development for Businesses
  • Collaborative Researchs
  • Concept validation and prototyping
  • Testing and validation
  • Incubator/accelerator support

Service Examples

Testing and Validation

Collaboration Title: Test and calibration of a novel soft sensor manufactured by LEAP Technology

Type of organisation: SME

A major effort currently underway is the development of new sensors for application in robotics and automation.

LEAP Technology is a Danish company currently developing a family of soft sensors

“To engage with commercial robotics users and manufacturers on the potential of an entirely elastomeric mechanical displacement sensor as an alternative to existing displacement sensors.”

The company’s revenue is generated from the design, development, sale, distribution and support of mechanical sensors based solely on rubber materials. Currently, LEAP Technology generates revenue almost solely by providing consultancy services related to dielectric elastomer (DE) component development and design training. In the future, LEAP intends to become a manufacturing company, developing and supplying its own commercial DE components, most likely in a B2B setting. As yet, no external funding has been received by LEAP Technology.

A RIF collaboration was carried out to:

Identify and test the most significant differentiating specifications of LEAP’s sensor and validate them by testing.

The sensor tested was a mechanical displacement sensor. Unlike more traditional devices, this was made only of elastic materials. This means it deforms (stretches) to conform to the varying displacements that it measures. It does this by using the proprietary, patented capacitive stretch sensor of LEAP Technology. Because this sensor is made from rubber, it has a number of crucial differences to the more traditional devices:

  • It can measure non-linear displacements over surfaces and shape changing objects
  • It is inherently self-damping, making it robust and resilient in mechanically aggressive environments.
  • It is also completely encapsulated in a continuous rubber surface making it ingress protected, hygienic and easy to clean.

It is seldom that all these characteristics are achievable in any other mechanical displacement sensor. This simple sensor is not only technically competitive but because it inherits its performance from the materials it is made from, it can also be cost competitive.

The RIF@Bristol carried out a number of tests, collected a large volume of data and after some analysis was able to characterise those sensors that were tested. The existence of RIF was very significant in enabling LEAP Technology to seek an independent authority to test and validate its product. By providing a free service for around six weeks coupled with a range of equipment and expertise RIF was invaluable in assisting LEAP Technologies achieve its objectives. This work will contribute to future business plans and expansion of the company.

More details: https://leaptechnology.com/

Concept Validation and Prototyping

Collaboration Title: Feasibility of robotic assembly of Numatic International vacuum cleaners

Type of organisation: Large company

The aim of this collaboration was to explore the feasibility of a robot for fastening two parts of a vacuum cleaner using seven fasteners. The short engagement of ten weeks led the parties to believe that the operation could be automated and was technically feasible and commercially viable.  Thus the short collaboration was followed by a two year long, funded project that resulted on the final system for the shop floor.

The aim of this collaboration was to explore and to embed design expertise in system automation and integration, using the Henry vacuum cleaner assembly as a pilot project. A particular emphasis of the collaboration was the use of Cobots.

The primary objective was to pilot and embed robotic automation assembly capability and knowledge, to enable improved products and processes to sustain global competitive advantage.

Numatic’s operations strategy has been augmented by the funded project. It allowed the company to target its productivity and operator care agendas. The use of collaborative robot automation enabled it to both reduce the labour content of their products as well as enhancing their ability to utilise staff with a wide range of capabilities. This reduces product cost and allows the company to use its staff flexibly within the organisation.

The products are sold both in the UK and exported. Around 30%-40% of the turnover is exported. The export business is stronger in commercial markets and an opportunity exists for further penetration into the domestic segments of these markets. This is a very competitive sector and in order to profitably grow this market Numatic need to increase capacity but also reduce production costs. UK productivity is considered to be less than similar countries and a factor often cited for this is the lower use of automation in the manufacturing business. The RIF collaboration followed by the two year long project was a key contributor to the growth strategy as the availability of lower cost domestic vacuum cleaners will allow Numatic to target growth in the domestic sectors of the retail markets.

Without the existence of RIF@Bristol it would have been rather difficult to get such a project off the ground. The commercial return of the initial investment has already been realised in less than six month of the operation of the assembly system in the Numatic factory.

With the availability of around 99.5% the system has proven very robust and approval has been given for two additional systems to be installed.

More details: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-A4luIk5xsY

Incubator/Accelerator Support

Collaboration Title: Design and development of an active walking stick for Parkinson sufferers

Type of organisation: Start up

Neha Chaudhry approached the RIF@Bristol for help in the design and prototyping of a walking stick that may be used by Parkinson sufferers. Over a period of nine weeks the team in Bristol in collaboration with Neha developed a prototype for test by a small group of Parkinson sufferers and for presentations to hospital medical staff and to potential funders and financiers.

The exercise provided an excellent example of effectiveness of RIF in taking the germ of an idea, developing this into a concept, developing the necessary hardware and software. The realisation of a prototype to demonstrated the feasibility of the original concept, generating a platform for further development. In this particular case the challenge was in providing a robust power management strategy for the vibration motor and the micro-controller. In addition using the signal from an accelerometer as an input into the motor control program required careful analysis of timings and adopting state machine approach to ensure the correct switching of the vibration motor. The RIF team’s effort resulted in a walking stick that would monitor the motion of the user and on detecting a timed lack of motion would actuate the motor that vibrated the handle thus prompting the user to move. The aim now is to take the prototype to the next stage and examine routes to series production. In addition to technical support, RIF has also provided early stage advice on marketing and ensuring that social media channels are used to publicise this project. The product has recently been awarded the CE mark ready for the market.

“We are delighted to have helped Neha take her idea from a very brief outline to a fully functioning prototype that she has used to show off the feasibility of her original concepts. It is our belief that without RIF, this journey for Neha would have been very difficult indeed. We hope that others with similar challenges in new product or process development in robotics and automation realise that in the UK a facility does exist that can assist them in pursuing their goals and aspirations in this area”.

More details: http://walktobeat.co.uk/

Organization

Organizational form

(part of) Public organization (part of RTO, or university)

Turnover

250.000-500.000

Number of employees

1-9

Evolutionary Stage

Fully operational

Geographical Scope

European

Funding

  • Horizon 2020
  • European Regional Development Fund
  • National basic research funding
  • National specific innovation funding

Customers

Number of customers annually

>50

Type of customers

  • Start-up companies
  • SMEs (<250 employees)
  • MidCaps (between €2-10 billion turnover)
  • Large companies, multi-nationals

Partners

University of the West of England

Partner Type

University

Website

https://www.uwe.ac.uk/


University of Bristol

Partner Type

University

Website

https://www.bristol.ac.uk

Technological competences

  • Sensors, actuators, MEMS, NEMS, RF
  • Cyber physical systems (e.g. embedded systems)
  • Robotics and autonomous systems
  • Artificial Intelligence and cognitive systems
  • Interaction technologies (e.g. human-machine Interaction, motion recognition and language technologies)
  • Simulation and modelling
  • Additive manufacturing (3D printing)
Last updated: 12/09/18 05:19