E D U B O T S
SHAPING THE FUTURE OF ROBOTICS
KITE Robotics Part II: Trial Phase, by Stefan Spanjer
Stefan Spanjer is part of the Mechanical Engineering & Mechatronics program at Twente University, Enschede, Netherlands, and the Founder and CEO of KITE Robotics.
Key Innovations in Treatment of Exteriors (KITE Robotics), develops innovative robotic solutions for precise, safe, and cost-effective cleaning of building exteriors. Inspiration can come from almost anywhere. The inspiration for KITE came to me while observing window washers at the Empire State Building in New York City.
In the last installment of EduBots (Robot Magazine Nov/Dec 2015), I outlined the steps involved in establishing KITE Robotics: completing my master’s thesis at Yale University in the United States; visiting the Empire State Building; returning to the Netherlands, then finishing my degree and working out the ideas.
At this writing, KITE Robotics is now in the all-important test phase, wherein every operating detail and every possible scenario must be considered, trialed, and evaluated. My expanded team for these trials consists of former students from Twente University and from Saxion Applied University. The squad: Thomas Blekkenhorst, Simon Schepers, Ron Slomp, Stefan Timmermans, Vincent Weijn, and Koen Zeggelaar.
While testing, unexpected difficulties will always show up. Thomas Edison famously said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” And that’s how it is! It’s important to keep a positive attitude and to learn from your attempts. That’s exactly what we are doing. With the pilot going well, we’re learning a great deal. Of course, there are obstacles and problems, but so far we have found a solution to each of them.
Testing on Version Three began in August in the atrium of an unoccupied building… the perfect location. Our patented technology is simple: just plug and play. The robot consists of a cleaning platform and four lightweight winches, which can easily be connected to a building. After connecting, the robot takes over and cleans not just windows, but the entire facade. It traverses the facade on a platform via four cables, making everything spotlessly clean. With its special suspension, it effectively cleans all types of materials, uneven surfaces, and architectural elements.
Testing and research have shown an interesting point regarding scheduled cleaning: Buildings near railways are constantly being defaced by small particles, which are said to “burn” into the facade. Similar damage and pitting is found on buildings near airports, highways, and bodies of salt water. This damage can be avoided with regular cleaning, but until now this has not been feasible. With KITE, buildings can easily receive this important maintenance. It is shown that cleaning six times per year preserves all surfaces. Buildings out of range of this pollution can be cleaned four times per year. If customers would like to clean more frequently, that is of course possible. With the plug-and-play feature it is extremely easy to do so.
Besides the importance of tested and proven technology, it is also important to explain the technology in a simple way to customers. That’s why a new logo was necessary for KITE. The old one gave a wrong impression. An eye-catching logo is a branding device, which doesn’t have to be expensive; it just has to be creative and unique. For the KITE logo, we visited a website where we could enter the company’s information. Graphic designers from all over the world created possible logos and we chose the one that represented our company in an appropriate way. From there, we went back and forth until it was exactly what we wanted. Now we have a logo that perfectly matches our company and shows the innovative technology at a glance.
Next to an excellent logo, media exposure is of high value. Media exposure, conventions, and technology fairs bring attention to your project. KITE Robotics got lots of attention during the Technology Precision Fair in Veldhoven. Dutch television even interviewed us and broadcast their report on TV for an entire week. The video clip for this interview can be found at www.kiterobotics.com.
In the next EduBots report in Robot magazine’s March/April issue, I’ll have more test results and modifications to tell you about. In the meantime, check the KITE Facebook page or our website for updates!