An upside-down football robot
It has been a few years since mechanical engineer and patent scientist Claudio Uriarte, 40, saw a football robot in action on YouTube. The small robot moved around on wheels which could be steered in any direction, making the robot very agile and flexible. It gave Uriarte, who at the time was a research associate at the Bremen Institute for Production and Logistics (BIBA), a great idea: why not turn the robot on its head and use the wheel technology to transport objects?
Using bits and pieces he found lying around his workplace, he constructed a small hexagonal surface with three independently controllable wheels. The first prototype of the ‘cellular conveyor’, or Celluveyor, was born.
Cells can be combined to create systems of any size
The Celluveyor’s USP is that any number of cells can be combined to create systems of any size, and thanks to custom software they can then be used to complete a wide range of tasks. Sorting objects, transporting them at different speeds in straight lines or around corners, rotating, filling pallets – anything is possible as each wheel can be controlled separately. “We’ve basically created the Lego bricks of conveyor technology,” Uriarte says.
It soon became clear to him and his colleagues at BIBA, Hendrik Thamer and Ariandy Yoga Benggolo, that this invention has the potential to revolutionise conveyor systems. The technology was successfully patented, and the three applied for funding from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, which supports business start-ups within the research community through its ‘Exist’ programme. “We could see the technology’s huge potential right from the outset,” says Hendrik Thamer, who is 38 and has a PhD in engineering.
At the same time, the two founders took part in the 12-month coaching programme of the Starthaus Bremen from April 2015 to April 2016 and prepared themselves conceptually and entrepreneurially for the step into self-employment.
Each cell in the Celluveyor consists of a hexagonal plate with three wheels, three electric motors and an integrated control circuit.
© WFB/Jörg Sarbach