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OC Robotics
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  • Offer Profile
  • OC Robotics designs and manufactures snake-arm robots, which are specifically designed to perform remote handling operations in confined and hazardous spaces. OC Robotics has delivered robots for industries spanning - amongst others - nuclear, aerospace, medical and security. It has also provided consultancy and analysis services for these sectors.
Product Portfolio
  • Technology & Innovation

  • Robots for Confined Spaces
    There are many industries where gaining access to a confined or hazardous space is a formidable problem. OC Robotics provides the solution in the form of snake-arm robots. Snake-arm robots have a long, slender and flexible design, fitting effortlessly through small openings and around obstacles. Snake-arm robots do not need support from the environment, which means that they can navigate through an open space, avoiding obstacles, carrying tools and conducting work. Confined and hazardous spaces are omnipresent in a variety of industries. Confined spaces are often difficult or impossible to access with a human, but are often also the spaces which require the most inspection and maintenance.

    Snake-arm robot solution
    Snake-arm robots do not have prominent elbows that potentially snag or cause damage to sensitive equipment, and they are easily manoeuvred into position and retracted back without disturbing their environment.
  • The Explorer Range

      • The Explorer Range

      • The Explorer range of snake-arm robots is designed to enable you to conduct automated operations within confined spaces. The snake-arms are general purpose tools which occupy the mid-range for diameter, reach, payload, curvature and precision. The Explorer snake-arm diameters vary from 40mm to 150mm. Payloads are provided for each diameter arm for different length arms. The table also identifies the different options available with each snake-arm size.

        Tools and processes

        Robots are ‘only the delivery mechanisms’. Designing tools and sensors for confined spaces often involves miniaturising existing designs and sometimes requires a complete rethink. We have a team dedicated to tool design and process development. Standard tools include video cameras and lighting packages. We have delivered solutions for welding, grasping and cutting and have mock-up facilities for development activities.

        Software

        SoftSnake™ is a simulation environment based on our hardware GUI that allows control of different snake-arms within a virtual model. The basic package includes one snake-arm from each of the featured sizes and some generic environments. We also offer consultancy to add new environments and confirm snake-arm suitability.

        Other ranges

        Our battery or mains powered portable 12.5mm diameter snakearm is our smallest to date. With an unsupported length of 600mm it is also our most slender. For longer reach applications we can build neutrally buoyant snake-arms for underwater applications and, along similar lines, the PipeSnake™ range of products take advantage of wall support to reach further into structures and around multiple bends.
  • Snake-arm robot basicss

  • One principle and four components:
    • User Interface

    • The user interface generally consists of a laptop or PC running the snake-arm application, and a multi-function joystick. Fixed installations may include additional controls for cameras, lights and tools. Our control software is developed in house, which means we can adapt our software to your requirements.
    • Actuator Pack

    • The shape and stiffness of a particular snake-arm is controlled by wire ropes that transfer mechanical power from the actuator pack into the snake-arm. This arrangement keeps the motors and power electronics accessible and outside the confined or hazardous space.
    • Snake-arm

    • A snake-arm is made up of articulating links. Both the number and length of the links can be varied giving a wide choice of final performance. Different snake-arms can be interchanged on the same actuator pack. All snake-arms are hollow and are designed to have minimum mass for maximum reach, whilst not compromising rigidity and stiffness.
    • Tool

    • Fixed or interchangeable tools and sensors are located at the tip of the snake-arm, although sensors may be distributed along its length. Services are routed through the hollow central bore.
  • Options

    • Introduction Orientation

    • Actuator pack orientation and gravity have a substantial effect on payload capacity. The arm payloads given in the table are guidelines based on the orientation shown (H/V). Horizontal Reach (HR) is generally much more significant than Vertical Reach (VR). Please talk to us about your specific application for more guidance.
    • Payload

    • A high payload version is available for all snake-arm options. This is achieved by choosing higher specification materials and components. Payload, speed and curvature are all interrelated, allowing for task specific optimisation.
    • Speed

    • For confined spaces we have found that overall process time is more important than snake-arm top speed. Our snake-arms are generally built to maximise payload with a typical tip speed of 1m/s. Reducing the dynamic response of the snake-arm (increasing settling time) allows an increase in payload and/or speed.
    • Precision Metrics

    • Snake-arm motion is inherently well damped. Motion Resolution (MR) is the smallest increment of controlled motion - typically 0.01mm. Repeatability is the ability to return to the same configuration - typically 0.1mm. Accuracy is a process-related issue dependent on many factors.
    • Introduction Axis

    • The Rail&Rotate™ may be replaced by a telescopic introduction axis to increase reach. Snake-arms can also be mounted on an industrial robot. A mobile vehicle mounted solution is available.
    • Arm Extensions
       

    • All the snake-arms can be provided with extensions between the arm and the actuator pack. This can be used to further distance the motors from a hazardous environment or to increase reach.
    • Quick Release
       

    • Enabling snake-arms to be exchanged allows a wider range of capability and performance. Reasons for changing a snake-arm may include: changing function (payload, length, tool); rapid recovery; disposability; sterility; and, planned refurbishment.
    • Curvature
       

    • Higher curvature snake-arms are possible. Increasing curvature of the arm requires increased rope stroke and a longer actuator pack. Payload generally decreases with increased total curvature.
    • Protective Skins
       

    • Our skins provide a simple sterile barrier between your product and process and the snake-arm for the benefit of both. Skins can be provided for the external and internal surfaces and can be made user-changeable.
    • Hazardous Environments

    • OC Robotics snake-arm robots are well suited to hazardous environments. Moving motors and electronics out of the arm means that arm materials may be chosen to allow for radiation, heat, vacuum, magnetic fields, and operations in explosive atmospheres or a range of fluids including air and water.
  • Products & Services

  • Whether your requirements are for a snake-arm robot direct from the Explorer Range catalogue,
    or for a completely bespoke snake-arm and system, OC Robotics can deliver.
    • 1. Define

    • First define the problem in terms of the confined or hazardous space, and the task that needs to be performed.
    • 2. Design

    • As a first step to designing a solution, a problem can be analysed by our team of consultants. This analysis might take the form of software simulation, case-studies and mock-ups. Talented mechanical, electronic and software engineers are on hand to design the complete solution.
    • 3. Deliver

    • OC Robotics has experience in seeing a project through from conception all the way to delivery. Snake-arm solutions are more than just a vision: they are a reality. OC Robotics has delivered robots and has provided consultancy and analysis for industries spanning, amongst others, nuclear, aerospace and security.
  • Bespoke Solutions

  • The Explorer snake-arm robots and associated technology cover most bases. But no application is the same and engineers at OC Robotics are skilled in solving a broad range of problems. Non-snake-arm solutions are also offered by OC Robotics.
  • Software

  • Snake-Arm Control
    OC Robotics uses advanced algorithms and the latest advances in software engineering tools to provide a consistent, safe and well-tested interface to their robots and affiliated hardware. The control software has matured over several years and a unified software architecture is used across all development.
    The design and ease of use of the user interface (UI) is of paramount importance to OC Robotics’ clients. Each UI is carefully constructed to the specification and requirements of the client. The UI is a visual layer (called a skin) over the top of the critical control software.

    Snake-Arm Simulator
    An advanced in-house software suite allows engineers to move between controlling actual snake-arm robots (and associated tools and introduction mechanisms) to running in emulation mode. This is a powerful tool that engineers can use for testing in addition to being an invaluable analysis tool.
    A free version of this software, Snake-Arm Simulator, can be downloaded from our website. It includes a number of sizes of snake-arms, in addition to a variety of default environments. Download and install, and control using a gamepad or your keyboard and mouse.
    We can also provide versions of Snake-Arm Simulator with your custom environment, optimised snake-arm or additional features. Contact us to discuss your requirements.
  • Consultancy & Analysis

  • OC Robotics’ approach to advising a customer on how to solve their problem is 3-fold:
    • 1. Software Simulation

    • OC Robotics’ sophisticated Snake-Arm Simulator software allows a user to control a virtual arm through a virtual environment. The environment is constructed by experts at OC Robotics, and in close collaboration with the client. This is a powerful 1st stage in investigating how best to solve the problem.
    • 2. Case studies

    • Engineers at OC Robotics have an abundance of experience in analysing their clients’ industrial environments – whether that’s the inside of feeder cabinet at a nuclear power station or the inside of a fuel tank or gas storage facility – and finding the right snake-arm for the job. OC Robotics will provide a clear report on what the best solution is and how it will work.
    • 3. Mock ups

    • OC Robotics software simulates the arm with a high level of accuracy, but nothing can replace seeing a real snake-arm in action. OC Robotics clients often benefit from seeing a snake-arm moving through a mock up of their environment.
  • Support & Training

      • Support & Training

      • OC Robotics offers training on the use of its products in the classroom or onsite. It is also possible for operators to train and plan for the use of the snake-arm robot in a virtual environment.
  • Applications & Solutions

  • The exceptional ability of snake-arm robots to manoeuvre into otherwise inaccessible spaces makes them valuable in a vast number of applications in high-value industrial markets.

    Reaching the unreachable
    OC Robotics has delivered robots and has provided consultancy and analysis for industries spanning, amongst others, nuclear, aerospace and security. Confined spaces are ubiquitous, in sectors ranging from storage to construction, and in hazardous environments such as under-water, radioactive enclosures, or toxic or corrosive fluids. OC Robotics is the key to reaching the unreachable.
    • Industrial Applications

    • OC Robotics has experts dedicated to analysing problems in industrial settings. The extent of the applications snake-arm robots is continually expanding to embrace new sectors. The success traditionally experienced in the areas of nuclear, aerospace and defence is now burgeoning into other vital areas, from fuel-storage to medicine and more.
    • Aerospace

    • OC Robotics is working with aerospace partners, focused on aircraft assembly, to develop a comprehensive toolkit for low access assembly tasks.

       
    • Security

    • OC Robotics has worked with both the US Department of Defense and the UK Ministry of Defence on technologies that demonstrate the advantages of snake-arms in hazardous situations.