RoboHouse has engaged in a partnership with Voestalpine, an Austrian firm that “coats products to make them better”, as project manager Tim Themann likes to phrase it. Specialised in the optimalisation of production, Tim is looking forward to reaching a new innovation stage after starting as production consultant three years ago.

Voestalpine is an ambitious steel and technology company. Tim and Gerhard are visibly proud of their motto: ‘one step ahead’. This phrase expresses the companies’ eagerness for continuous progress, not just in production technology, but also in sustainability. Among other things, the company coats drill bits to enhance their performance and increase their lifetime, with an anti-corrosion coating for example. During the enhancing process, the Voestalpine operators place the drill bits in tubes by hand. They feel this is a repetitive and quite unpleasant task that could be improved upon. That’s where RoboHouse’s Discover programme and the new partnership comes in.

The robotic solution is not so straightforward. This makes it interesting. Guus Paris, smart robotics consultant at RoboHouse.

“In the Discover phase, it is all about determining exactly where within the process the areas of improvement are and how robotics can be of value,” says Guus Paris, smart robotics consultant at RoboHouse. “In this case, the Voestalpine operators can be relieved of the tiring and tedious task of filling the drill bit tubes. However, the robotic solution is not so straightforward, since the drill bits fit loosely into the tubes and can move around quite a bit. This makes it interesting for us as engineers.”

It’s sometimes difficult to turn those ideas into action. That is why Voestalpine wanted to join forces with RoboHouse. Tim Themann, project manager at Voestalpine

So the challenge here is to make sure that the robot can sense the exact location of the drill bits in real-time. Companies can come to the Discover and Develop programmes with specific problems such as these, and get into practical work-mode with robotics. “Internally we tend to discuss intensely the problems and challenges of our process, and the possibilities for improvement,” Tim says. “But it is sometimes difficult to turn those ideas into action. That is why Voestalpine wanted to join forces with RoboHouse. This place is a wonderful playground for us, where we can get to work with robotics, guided by experts.”

It looks like we’re off to a good start with this project and we are excited to see what this promising partnership will bring. As a community member, do check out Voestalpine’s website and let us know if you come up with inspiring opportunities!

A robotic arm would need to sense in real-time where exactly the drill bits are in order to move them.