Robots climbing high

Michael Woloschuk

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Three climbing robots designed by CityU's Centre for Intelligent Design, Automation and Manufacturing (CIDAM) have scaled new heights at the 2002 Hong Kong Awards for Industry, where they won the Chinese Manufacturing Association Machinery and Equipment Design Award.  

The robots, named Cleanbot I, Cleanbot II, and Cleanbot III, eliminate high-risk tasks at high-altitude normally required by traditional maintainence and cleaning methods at tall buildings and large structures. The robots also help reduce cleaning and building inspection costs and speed up the maintenance process.

"It is really gratifying that the design of the three climbing robots was awarded this way----it's an encouraging recognition of the R&D efforts that we have made," said Professor S K Tso, Professor (Chair) of Mechatronics and Automation at CityU's Department of Manufacturing Engineering & Engineering Management "CIDAM is dedicated to the promotion of technology development and service automation through conducting application-driven researches on intelligent design, automation and mechatronics to meet the needs of the modern society and to provide better training to our students."

The Cleanbots can climb vertical surfaces, carrying with them cleaning or inspection tools, and operate on projected walls and non-vertical walls. They can also operate in windy conditions and can be controlled remotely by an operator or pre-programmed to perform tasks automatically. Sharing common state-of-the-art computer controls, advanced sensor technology, vacuum gripper design, mechatronics and teleoperation technology, the three Cleanbots, however, are quite different in their mechanical design so that they can cope with big differences in building structures.

Designed mainly for cleaning large glass wall surfaces with window frames and obstacles, Cleanbot I is the biggest and the heaviest of the three robots. Cleanbot II is designed to move on large flat surfaces including tile walls. Designed to incorporate the main advantages of both Cleanbot I and II, Cleanbot III uses a chain-track mechanism to provide locomotion.

A labour-free system, the Cleanbots are one of a series of service automation and robotic projects designed by CIDAM under CityU's Department of Manufacturing Engineering and Engineering Management. CIDAM has developed service robots for building and estate management maintainence, healthcare, medical and household services. Automated education and entertainment facilities are also being developed.

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