If you follow ARC Specialties you may have noticed a trend. We are moving robots out of the factory into the locations where they are needed.

One of the most interesting applications we have done lately is robotic assembly/disassembly of risers on drill ships. Running risers is a dangerous job. The riser which connects the drill ship to the blow-out preventer on the ocean floor may be miles long. Flanged connections are bolted together with 50-pound bolts which are torqued to 18,000-foot pounds. A great job for robots. For humans, not so much. We’re doing this with two robots to speed the process and balance the assembly forces.

This job requires much of the technology we’ve developed over the last 40 years while working with industrial robots in factories. We’re using harsh environment foundry grade FANUC America Corporation robots, 2D vision, torque, displacement and pressure sensors, and several different communication protocols. Each robot uses multiple custom end-of-arm tools with ATI Industrial Automation tool changers. It works very well. We’ve made multiple risers runs offshore.

But anytime you introduce robots into a new environment or a new industry, your problems go beyond the technical. It’s all about acceptance of this new technology by the professionals and the engineers that you’re working with. So when we had an opportunity to demonstrate our technology to a large group of offshore professionals, we jumped on the chance. What it meant was we had to reinstall the riser robot on the back of a trailer, along with a riser bolt rack and a generator to make it a fully self-contained system. Then we drove the entire system across town.

John Martin, President of Offshore Robotics along with James Lippold CTO, and Jim Walker did a great job of demonstrating the system to our audience. I think we convinced a lot of people that the place for robots is on a drill ship.

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