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Robot dog monitors manufacturing equipment at Hams Hall

Posted on 24 May 2024. Edited: Colin Granger. Read 412 times.
Robot dog monitors manufacturing equipment at Hams HallAn autonomous robotic dog named ‘SpOTTO’ has joined the team at BMW’s Hams Hall plant in the UK. Equipped with visual, thermal, and acoustic sensors, it is used in a variety of roles including collecting valuable data for the plant’s ‘digital twin’, as well as and serving as a watchdog and overseeing the maintenance of production facilities.

The digital twin operates on three levels. On the first, 3-D representations of the entire plant are generated. The second level comprises a large data layer into which the autonomous robot dog, production facilities, and IT systems at the plant feed all relevant information. On the third level — the application level — dedicated programmes sort the data that’s been collected into comprehensible and traceable units.

Dirk Dreher, director of BMW Group Plant Hams Hall, said: “It is the combination of these three levels that makes the fully connected digital twin unique. Using apps, experts at the plant then evaluate and utilise this data for quality assurance and production planning; and thanks to the digital twin we have an enormous quantity of precise data and evaluations, as well as a real-time picture of production processes. The project team at Hams Hall has created unique use cases for our four-legged friend — and integrated him perfectly into our processes.”

Thanks to its visual, thermal, and acoustic sensors, SpOTTO can perform numerous maintenance tasks, including monitoring the temperature of manufacturing equipment and recognising if an installation is running too hot, and so indicating an early sign of potential component failure. It also specialises in identifying leaks in the compressed-air lines used in production (detecting leaks quickly can lower energy consumption).

In 2023, more than 400,000 engines were produced at Plant Hams Hall, which employs around 1,600 people. Before SpOTTO’s introduction at the plant, a dedicated team tested which activities the robot dog would be suitable for in a year-long development process.

SpOTTO, which was created by Boston Dynamics (an American engineering and robotics design company founded in 1992 as a spin-off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and given the product name ‘Spot’, is a nimble robot that is small enough to use indoors, can climb stairs, and traverse rough terrain with ease. Other potential uses currently being trialled include reading analogue operating controls and undertaking complex sequences of movements for accessing hard-to-reach areas of production.

Other BMW Group plants are also currently testing the use of robotic dogs.