E D U B O T S
SHAPING THE FUTURE OF ROBOTICS
KITE Robotics Part III: The Product Reveal, 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, or KITE Robotics, develops innovative robotic solutions for precise, safe, and cost effective cleaning of building exteriors. In EduBots Parts I and II, we went from the inspiration (my visit to New York’s Empire State Building) to prototype to field trials on the final design. The KITE team has now completed successful field trials and we’re ready to approach customers and investors with a unique, cutting-edge product.
Our system has three unique factors that no other system has. First of all, it cleans automatically: the cleaning unit precisely follows a pre-programmed path using a sophisticated cable system, so window and facade cleaners no longer have to work at dangerous heights. Secondly, it offers simultaneous cleaning: several surfaces can be cleaned at the same time. Last but not least, it cleans sustainably: the system uses demineralized water without added cleaning products. It’s a proven fact that surfaces stay cleaner for a longer time because no soap residue is left behind to attract dirt. The fact that the system is nonpolluting is a vast improvement over existing cleaning systems with soaps and sulphates. We are very proud of this benefit.
While all of this progress was exciting, we faced a real dilemma concerning the product reveal. So far, experiments had all been conducted in the atrium of an empty building. This gave us security and privacy while working, however it also limited the height of the surface, resulting in a limited length of the smart movement cable system. Ultimately, we were going to set up the system on an exterior façade for the final test. This posed a problem: once outside, people would see it in action, which would destroy the impact of a reveal for the media. We were therefore forced to invite the media for our very first exterior test, taking a risk that something might go wrong.
On 22 October, after three years of development, we set up our robot on the Spiegel, a glass-paneled high-rise building near the campus of Twente University. While the pressure was intense, together with the TV news crews and newspaper reporters we observed our initial system launch. We had great success in the atrium, but whether the system would work as well on this larger exterior was unknown since we were transitioning from 8 x 8 m to 20 x 35 m. We were confident it would work very well (according to our calculations), but the question was: Will it work on the first attempt or do we have to make some adjustments? Yet those adjustments were not feasible since the media was covering the very first test!
All team members were holding their breaths. At 10 a.m. the KITE Robot began its first assignment, cleaning the Spiegel building. The risk paid off. That evening, the Dutch news coverage was so positive that immediately interested parties started contacting us—architects, contractors, and cleaning companies. We decided to hold a public demonstration on 10 November at the Spiegel since the response was so enthusiastic. This second cleaning demonstration also went smoothly, according to expectations.
This success would never have been achieved without the hard work of our dedicated team members. An accurate description of the KITE team is “young but experienced beyond their years,” each having been immersed in robotics, engineering, operations and mechatronics at work and in school for many years. We are a good fit, all able to multi-task, with overlapping skill sets. The team consists of Thomas Blekkenhorst, Bas de Vries, Daniel de Zeeuw, Simon Schepers, Ron Slomp, Stefan Timmermans, Mike Voss, Vincent Weijn, Koen Zeggelaar and myself. We all thrive on challenges and have adopted the American attitude of “Work hard, play hard.”
In the next edition of EduBots in Robot magazine’s May/June issue, I’ll be reporting on progress with investors and the initial marketing campaign. Check out the new animated short film “How It Works” at our website www.kiterobotics.com/how-it-works
In the meantime, visit our website and Facebook page for updates!