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Develops robot arms for CERN

Published: 7 October 2020

In a newly started collaboration with the world's largest particle physics laboratory CERN, researchers at Luleå University of Technology are developing robot arms for the maintenance work at the facility. The goal is lighter robots with higher performance.

− What we are investigating is how to make the arms of the existing robots lighter without making them weaker or more flexible. By making the arms lighter, you reduce the dead weight, which in turn means that the arm becomes easier to maneuver and that the payload increases, says Patrik Fernberg, professor at Luleå University of Technology.

Increases the practical benefit

The goal is to increase the practical use of the maintenance robots, for example through improved range.

− But they will also be able to carry heavier work tools with them on their assignments and in precision work, especially if the robot is located far from the place where the work is performed, lighter robot arms mean that the risk of deflection of dead weight is reduced, says Patrik Fernberg.

The maintenance work at CERN is already carried out by robots at the places in the facility where there may be a risk of radioactive radiation or where the range and weight become too much for human hands. The robots, however, are heavy and made of metal, which impairs performance and range of action. The researchers at the university are therefore initially working on a solution that replaces the heavier metal components with the much lighter material carbon fiber composite.

−Together with the maintenance engineers at CERN, we have selected a metal component that is found in their robots but at the same time suitable for initial generic studies. We are still early in the development process and are conducting a theoretical evaluation of how much weight can be saved by using carbon fiber composites instead.

Challenging requirements profile

During the autumn, a student project was initiated where a student works to develop and evaluate the new robot arm solutions. During a later phase of the project work, it is planned to demonstrate the chosen manufacturing concept and make a material technical evaluation of the composites that have been produced.

− Both the student project and the entire initial collaboration with CERN are carried out in collaboration with Composite Service in Piteå. A company with many years of experience in composites, its manufacture and use of carbon fiber-based materials for high-precision fixtures.

For Patrik Fernberg and the research group in polymeric composite materials, the collaboration with the world-leading laboratory is an exciting challenge.

− As researchers, it is always stimulating to collaborate with the users of the technology and the theories we develop. Working with CERN and their maintenance department is especially interesting because they have an extremely challenging requirements profile. Then you should not hide under a chair that it is a little extra tickling and exciting to contribute to such a high-tech facility. We perceive it as an exciting trust that we try to manage in the best way.

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Patrik Fernberg

Fernberg, Patrik - Professor

Organisation: Polymeric Composite Materials, Materials Science, Department of Engineering Sciences and Mathematics
Phone: +46 (0)920 492883