The Roboticist Chronicles: What’s Next for Robotics?

ARC Specialties 3M Robotics

Often, we work as hard as we can to make things as perfect as we can. But, as Dan Allford, President of ARC Specialties, is finding, there are times when a little imperfection can be a good thing.

ARC sponsored a senior project at Rice University studying orthopedic implants with hard-layer coatings on top of them and saw that total perfection actually may not be ideal.

“What we’ve found by creating these coatings and then finishing them is sometimes better is not better. We’re finding that a perfect finish, a mirror finish, doesn’t last as long as one that has a slight amount of roughness,” he said. “I thought that was fascinating because, if you do get that new knee, you’re going to want it to last as much as possible.”

The finding is one of a number of fascinating new developments in the world of abrasive processing and in robotics as a whole.

“More and more customers are looking for more consistent, uniform and finer finishes in general, which is interesting when we look at the orthopedic knee project Dan references,” said Scott Barnett, Application Engineering Manager for Robotic Abrasive Processing at 3M.

Other exciting progress is being made in the area of abrasive wear detection, with more and more information available about when to change out devices and tools and how to teach robots to know when the tool is getting dull.

“As we get into stiffer discs like fiber discs, belts, abrasive wheels and things like that, it adds complexity,” Barnett said.

Those complex challenges are just the types of things ARC and 3M are working on solving today, and the learning process continues to deliver a better that really is best.