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OC Robotics receives Queen's Award for Enterprise in Innovation
Article Type: News From: Industrial Robot: An International Journal, Volume 36, Issue 6
OC Robotics has received a Queen's Award for Enterprise in the Innovation category. OC Robotics is the leading commercial manufacturer of snake-arm robots in the world. Snake-arm robots are flexible robotic arms which have many joints so they can “follow their nose” into confined spaces (Figure 2).
The Queen's Award for Enterprise is the most prestigious business accolade in the UK. OC Robotics is among an elite group of winners recognised for outstanding success in their field. Dr Rob Buckingham, Managing Director of OC Robotics, said: “We are extremely proud to have been given this award. This achievement is a testimony to the dedication of our employees, the support of our customers and the expertise of our suppliers. The Queen's Award recognises the hard work and innovation that has gone into making snake-arm robots a commercial reality.”
OC Robotics was founded by Rob Buckingham and Andrew Graham in 1997 and raised venture capital in 2001. Since then the company has grown from a two-person start-up in a garage to a 17-strong company in 10,000 ft2 premises. OC Robotics has worked with some of the largest companies in the world across aerospace, defence, nuclear and other industries building snake-arm robots for a wide range of applications.
OC Robotics recently announced a contract with Ontario Power Generation to design and build a snake-arm robot mounted on a mobile vehicle that will be used to inspect complex pipework and structures within CANDU reactors. The snake-arm will be 2 m (7 ft) in length and will have a rectangular cross-section measuring 25 mm (1 in.) in width and 50 mm (2 in.) in height. This is a breakthrough contract for OC Robotics as this is the first time they have been the prime contractor to a nuclear utilities company. OC Robotics won the contract by demonstrating previous nuclear experience and the ability to meet the stringent quality requirements including ISO9001. This contract is a huge achievement considering the company was bidding against some of the largest companies in the world. Dr Buckingham said: “Our expectation is that this contract will increase awareness of our products throughout the nuclear sector. Nuclear power plant life extension is now a critical issue for global electricity supply and we aim to provide generic solutions to some challenging problems. Our technology is also relevant to nuclear decommissioning so we expect nuclear to be a growth sector for the company.”
In 2008, OC Robotics developed a snake-arm robot that is only 1/2 in. (12.5 mm) in diameter. The arm is the smallest snake-arm robot to date and uncoils out of a portable, briefcase-sized box where it is stowed. The arm is 24 in. (610 mm) in length, with longer arms under development, and was designed for the US Department of Defense (DOD) who needed a way of inspecting and working inside confined or cluttered spaces. The first two devices of this type have been delivered to the US DOD for operational evaluation.
In the aerospace sector, OC Robotics has been working with Airbus UK and KUKA for a number of years to develop aerospace robots to deliver end effector packages capable of inspection, drilling, sealing, and swaging in confined spaces such as in a wing. Snake-arm robots enable the aerospace industry to reduce health and safety costs by allowing operators to conduct work from outside the confined spaces. There is also significant potential to increase production rates and reduce costs by simplifying and speeding up processes.
In September 2007, OC Robotics was visited by HRH The Duke of York in his capacity as UK's Special Representative for International Trade and Investment. His visit to OC Robotics formed part of a tour of several aerospace companies in the South West of England. Rob Buckingham commented “It was an honour to host His Royal Highness, especially considering we were only 11 people at the time and by far the smallest company in the tour. OC Robotics is standing tall in a flattening world.”