UK company Createc collaborated with a range of businesses to develop a robotic solution as part of an £8.5 million industry competition.
Now the company — a holder of two Queen’s Awards (for Innovation and International Trade) — is further developing its solution with the aim of deploying it in a range of industries around the world, including nuclear, oil and gas, construction and engineering.
The Integrated Innovation in Nuclear Decommissioning (IIND) competition was aimed at bringing more innovation to decommissioning. It involved applicants being asked to find solutions to a specific challenge at the Sellafield site in Cumbria.
Createc, which is based in Cockermouth, collaborated with a range of partners — RACE, REACT Engineering, RED Engineering, Structure-Vision, OC Robotics and Italian firm IIT — to develop its ‘Elephants to Ants’ concept.
Instead of building one ‘giant elephant-like robot’ that might be good at tackling a single task, Createc built a “network to support a diverse range of smaller robots, or ‘ants’, which work together effectively to provide an extremely versatile, robust and resilient group of robots capable of adapting quickly to changing conditions and different challenges”.
Managing director Matt Mellor said: “It’s a LEGO kind of approach. It means that when we do engineering to try to resolve one problem, it can then be re-used for a range of situations.
"We also wanted users with no robotics or programming knowledge to be able to safely and effectively reconfigure a robotic system without needing to write any code. We wanted to make sure it is very usable, with either no training required or very minimal training.”
) developed Iris, a scalable ‘tool-kit’ of off-the-shelf robotic software modules that can be easily reconfigured to solve many hazardous challenges which at the moment are tackled by people. Mr Mellor said:
“This will accelerate decommissioning and maximise the re-use of technology across projects, sites and countries.”
The IIND challenge was funded by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, the Business Department and Innovate UK.
The challenges that were set involved characterising the environment, planning, decontamination, contamination management, cutting, holding, moving and packing.