The chances are, at some point in your life, you’ve purchased a bottle of shampoo, a can of pop and a packet of headache tablets. What you may not appreciate is that those products have previously been in the hands of robots, from the moment they were invented.
In fact, it’s quite possible the products were invented by a machine intelligence algorithm. Confused? Intrigued? Let us tell you more…
Teesside firm Applied Scientific Technologies has recently won two large contracts to supply robotic and artificial intelligence systems to find the next advancement in formulation chemistry.
In deals worth a seven-figure sum over the next 15 months, two large international players – both household names – have procured the systems to formulate and characterise the products they make.
The systems will handle, mix and measure new formulations and will intelligently find the next top-selling product for use in the brands the public buys from the supermarket.
Stokesley-based Applied Scientific Technologies have developed a patent-pending robotic autonomous system that allows companies to build their own research scientist or production line operative.
The modular system uses collaborative robotics and machine intelligence to allow it to interact with humans to undertake tasks that are not normally possible or are too dangerous for humans to do.
The adaptable systems have been developed to need no programming and will interact with people as if they are another person – with the exception that the robot will work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. No lunch breaks, no sickness, no holidays.
The systems can easily be configured by its human ‘colleagues’ to undertake a variety of tasks, ranging from handling monoclonal antibodies to mixing chemicals together or assembling electronic components.
Using robotic arms, vision and a robotic hand, the systems can handle a variety of differently shaped objects and move them around a laboratory or factory.
Built into the system are docks that allow a range of modules to be loaded into them to undertake specific tasks. Once physically loaded, the robot uses its machine vision to ‘see’ what machine resources it has.
When it is given something to handle it recognises what to do with it and processes it accordingly, before handing it back to a human colleague or to a neighbouring robot.
Multiple robots are easily deployed next to one another and detect each other’s presence automatically. The systems communicate and autonomously work out which of them can do what and in what order.
When doing scientific research, the robot’s artificial intelligence and machine deep learning algorithms allows it to work out the best way to undertake a process and what experiments it needs to do in order to get to the answer quicker. The only information the system needs is what the question is.
Using robotics in this way allows businesses to increase productivity and compete globally by getting good quality data more quickly or assembling parts more reliably.
AST is led by experienced mechatronics expert Jamie Marsay, with financial backing and support from the directors of one of the Tees region’s leading automation and control experts, Applied Integration.
The new business, which has visions of recruiting at least 10 staff over the next three years, will look to harness cutting edge scientific technologies to bring a range of hi-tech products to market its directors believe could revolutionise a wide range of 21st Century industries.
Inventor Jamie (pictured below), managing director of Applied Scientific Technologies, recalls the moment the idea came to him: “There was a gap in the market for easy-to-use intelligent robots within the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), life sciences and speciality chemicals research arena.
“I needed a system that was so easy to use that my grandmother could configure and use it. I needed a system that was modular, so it could be used in a variety of industries. The modular, scalable, reconfigurable and collaborative approach was the obvious choice.
“I want a system that the end-users can build up or change themselves, something that was once only done by engineers. Scientists, on the whole, like data, not machinery.
“Once we’d developed the concept, we quickly realised that the approach was equally as valid in the manufacturing sector, as well.”
Applied Scientific Technologies intends to increase its workforce over the next 12 months to supply the demand for the system – and they plan to take advantage of the Teesside supply chain as much as possible.
Garry Lofthouse, Applied Scientific Technologies’ commercial director, says: “This is a product that was conceived, designed and will be assembled in Teesside.
“We aim to have all the components made in the North East. We’ll use local talent and we’ll use local training providers to help upskill the people of Teesside”.
Marsay adds: “We admire the passion of Zoe Lewis and her team at Middlesbrough College for driving forwards local training in the STEM subjects and we think she is doing an amazing job at motivating local businesses to upskill their workforce and take on apprentices”.
“We intend to do our bit by employing people from the area. We plan to make this a high-tech product from our region, built for global exports. Most of our client base is in Europe, the US and the Far East.”
The concept has been well received by clients across the world. Lee Raywood, technical director for Applied Scientific Technologies, comments: “Our intention is not to displace a workforce but to compliment them by supplying capabilities that enable them to do more – and smarter.
“Our clients are telling us that this is a step change in technology and they believe this is the next generation of robotics in the workplace.
“There have been some difficult challenges to overcome, but we are there now”.
Finally, Marsay adds “We are elated with the response from the marketplace. We knew we had a good idea. Hearing our clients telling us so is one thing, but to receive such big orders after just eight months of development speaks volumes.
“It’s so much more than we had dared dream of. We are just so pleased and are looking forward to growing to become part of the Teesside economy over the next few years.”
To find out more about Applied Scientific Technologies, contact email@example.com or visit www.appliedst.co.uk