How can robots help the manufacturing industry use natural resources more efficiently and be kinder to the environment? A new £1.94m five-year collaborative research project funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council will set out in April 2016 to address this question.
Led by mechanical engineers at the University of Birmingham, the project will investigate robots collaborating with humans in remanufacturing. Remanufacturing is the process of returning a product to at least its original performance. Compared to manufacturing, remanufacturing can use as little as 10% of the energy and raw materials required, while saving more than 80% in CO2 emissions.
“People are using robots in manufacturing, but not in remanufacturing, or more specifically in the critical disassembly stage of remanufacturing,” says Professor Duc Pham, the principal investigator. “We will be the first in the world to adopt a scientific multi-disciplinary approach to disassembly problems. We aim to understand disassembly processes in depth. Such a fundamental understanding does not exist but is necessary to support the development of robotic disassembly systems that can handle variability in the product, a common issue in remanufacturing.”
The project will be in partnership with three UK manufacturers, Caterpillar, Meritor and MG Motor, all with a strong interest in automotive remanufacturing. Two technology translating partners, the High Speed Sustainable Manufacturing Research Institute and the Manufacturing Technology Centre, will help disseminate the project results to wider industry.
The team are looking to recruit industrial users and academic researchers to form a network for sharing information from the project and the field of remanufacturing in general. You can express interest in joining the network by emailing (firstname.lastname@example.org).