The R&D&i project EALS (Automatic Sanding Station for large Surfaces), led by the EMTE engineering company, has developed a robotic station allowing the sanding of large structures, such as the surfaces of trains, aircraft and ships, after a three-dimensional analysis of detected imperfections. It is an innovative project because, until now, there was no automated system on the market capable of performing these functions.
More specifically, the station that has been developed incorporates a 3D laser system, installed on the wrist of the robot, which runs over the surface to be treated and builds a three-dimensional map that includes small irregularities. Based on the information collected, it determines which points should be filled and which should be sanded. Finally, it calculates and transmits the trajectory of the robot over the surface in order to perform the sanding while taking into account the actual morphology of the object.
This technological development will mean a reduction in costs for companies compared with the manual procedure, and an improved finish, given that the robot is able to objectively detect imperfections and precisely establish the trajectory for the sanding, its pressure and speed.
In addition to satisfying the aesthetic criteria established by the customer, the automated polishing of large surfaces will make it possible to endow the objects with specific physical, usually aerodynamic, properties, which is particularly important in the case of wind turbine blades, aircraft wings, boat keels or solar panels, where the quality of the finish and the sanding carried out impact directly on efficiency. For this reason, the station is suitable for the renewable energy, rail, aviation and maritime sectors, both in the processes of manufacturing and rehabilitation.
The EALS R&D&i project, funded by the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness through the INNPACTO 2012 tender process, is led by EMTE and also involves the participation of the company TAMAutomation and the Intelligent Robotics and Systems Group of the Polytechnic University of Catalonia.