Giant Japanese robot repairs the cables of the railway network

By : Franyi Sarmiento, Ph.D., Inspenet, May 20, 2022.

Japan has started using a giant robot to maintain part of its railway electrification system. Those responsible for its development describe it as a “heavy aerial work platform” and say that its main objective is to prevent workers from carrying out dangerous tasks at height and reduce the risk of accidents.

The robot does not go unnoticed due to its enormous size and humanoid appearance. His torso is designed to work coupled to a hydraulic crane that allows him to reach the height necessary for his work. The truth is that it does not work by itself, but rather is an “extension” of the workers, who are controlling each of its movements to the millimeter from a control base.

According to manufacturers West Japan Rail Company, Human Machinery and Nippon Signal, the android can lift part of a heavy catenary structure of an electric railway and clean the contact wires suspended above the railway on a line between Osaka and Fukuoka.

In the control cabin, an operator has virtual reality glasses that have movement tracking, that is, the robot’s head, where the cameras are located, moves like the person’s. The arms, meanwhile, are controlled with commands that provide feedback and are precise enough not to damage components due to excessive force.

West Japan Rail Company notes in a press release that the adoption of this robot will improve worker productivity by 30%. In addition, they ensure that they will reduce to zero the risk of accidents due to electrical discharges in the maintenance of the railway electrification system and, in general, will make the activities of workers safer.

This prototype will continue to develop tests for the next two years. If everything goes according to plan, they will incorporate other units in 2024.

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