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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.
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.
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
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- First define the problem in terms of the confined or
hazardous space, and the task that needs to be performed.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.
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
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
- 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.
- OC Robotics is working with aerospace partners, focused
on aircraft assembly, to develop a comprehensive toolkit for low access
- 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.