Robot calibrator gets boost from IP management

Posted on 7 Oct 2009 by The Manufacturer

Protecting IP is essential in a recession, as Coller IP Management found out with industrial robot upgrade specialists Absolute Robotics.

Life is tough for organisations across all sectors in a downturn and for many companies it is a fight for survival. But it is vital to ensure that aspects of the business such as registering and updating intellectual property do not get neglected — after all, when business is hard to come by the last thing you want is someone stealing your branding or ideas and leaving, putting your survival at risk even further. It is also important for companies to remember that if you are planning to move into different areas of business, your IP needs to change with you. Too often organisations file a patent application and think that that is all they need to do. IP resides not merely in a particular invention, but in the entire way you do business. An organisation’s business plan and its IP need to evolve in tandem and it can be all too easy for them to get out of step.

The need to protect IP applies to both new companies and well-established ones. An example of an organisation that has recently sought IP protection is Absolute Robotics. Based in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, Absolute Robotics was set up three years ago to develop a concept that upgrades standard industrial robots to make them suitable for advanced manufacturing and aerospace applications.

Robots lose accuracy because of the distortion and expansion of their joints due to the effects of temperature and stiffness. Absolute Robotics developed a method that measures those changes in-line, in real-time and with a very high degree of accuracy. The heart of the system is a new measurement device that uses laser beams and imaging sensors in an entirely novel way to locate the position and orientation of two systems of axes relative to one another.

Calibration without interruption

Imagine a laser sensor that measures distance between two items at a fixed relationship to each other; a laser beam (a laser pointer) and a camera. The next step is to separate the camera from the laser and associate each item with a different set of axes. Then disregard the lens of the camera and calibrate the imaging sensor with respect to one set of axes — and finally determine the vector equation of the laser beam with respect to the other set of axes. This is the principle of the new measurement device.

This concept can be used to calibrate robots in-line under their actual working conditions, over their entire working envelope (cycle) and without interference with the robot’s tools or its productivity cycle. It is also a more general solution because it is not robot- or applicationspecific.

Any robot can be calibrated in absolute space without modification and robots can be networked together in absolute space too. This concept allows inline manufacturing to be integrated with in-line quality assurance to achieve zero scrap condition.

Absolute Robotics sensibly decided to ensure that the intellectual property of such a new concept would be fully protected from the beginning — a step which some organisations miss out and often regret later. The company worked with Coller IP Management (CIPM), an IP consultancy that helps organisations understand the value of their intellectual property and how to protect and manage it effectively. CIPM prepared and applied for the required patent applications on behalf of Absolute Robotics and helped them to evaluate the search reports on the inventions to enable the distinctive and innovative features to be identified.

Andreas Demopolous, MD of Absolute Robotics says, “The process of preparing the patent applications was quite painless. The concepts are now open to interested parties and investors for commercial exploitation via exclusive partnerships and licensing agreements.” Absolute Robotics is currently presenting the concept to interested parties and some are evaluating it. The next step for the company is to form a partnership with appropriate relevant businesses and create a working prototype. Absolute Robotics thinks that this is most likely to be an in-line measurement application and sees its main future role as the technical integrator of the various technologies involved.