Specialty Fabrics Review March 2021 - 14

[ BRIEFS ]

swatches

A project to develop robotics for the
manufacturing of emergency shelters
such as Pvilion's rapidly deployable
structures answers " a timely challenge
in both manufacturing and health care, "
according to senior research engineer
Glenn Saunders. Illustrations: Pvilion.

Pvilion and Rensselaer developing robotics
to manufacture rapidly deployable structures

W

hen tents are needed immediately-for
disaster response, a public health crisis or
a military action-time is of the essence.
A new research effort led by a robotics team
from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute of Troy, N.Y.,
and Pvilion, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based manufacturer
of rapidly deployable structures, including solar
fabric structures, aims to improve the manufacturing
process for these structures.
Pvilion was recently awarded a Phase II,
$1.5 million Small Business Innovation Research
(SBIR) contract by the United States Air Force
(USAF) Rapid Sustainment Office (RSO) to deliver its
rapidly deployable, flexible Hands-Off Expeditionary
Tent (HEXT). In a research project funded by the
Department of Defense through its Advanced
Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Institute,
Rensselaer is working with Pvilion to develop a
group of self-aware, human-directed robots to
assist in manufacturing a product similar to HEXT.
The Rensselaer team will design, build and
program a team of small robots that will be capable

12 SPECIALTY FABRICS REVIEW / March 2021

of holding the shelter fabric, rotating it and pulling it
taut while it is being heat sealed together. The robots
will work in coordination, guided by humans as well
as software and algorithms.
" We'll know the location of each robot, we'll know
which direction they are pointed, and we will know
which direction they are exerting forces, " says Glenn
Saunders, a senior research engineer within the
Center for Automation Technologies and Systems
at Rensselaer. " The swarm behavior happens when
the robots begin pulling and rotating the fabric at the
sewing machine or heat sealer. "
The project is being expedited within a one-year
timeline to address challenges brought about by the
pandemic. " The robotic precision will permit Pvilion
to increase consistency in its quality assurance processes, " said Pvilion's Colin Touhey. " From a quality
perspective, this will take our products to another
level, ensuring Pvilion can ramp up its manufacturing
to meet a sudden surge in demand as we have seen
happen with the COVID crisis. "



Specialty Fabrics Review March 2021

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Specialty Fabrics Review March 2021 - 1
Specialty Fabrics Review March 2021 - 2
Specialty Fabrics Review March 2021 - 3
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