Date: Oct 03, 2013 Author: Elise Vider Source: Keystone Edge (
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Take a Pennsylvania firm's core technology and an unaddressed need by the military and you have the formula for the latest research funding awarded to Pittsburgh's RE2.
"We are known as experts in mobile manipulation, essentially robotic arms on things that move," says CEO Jorgen Pedersen. "And this is another application for our core technology, a custom design that solves this particular problem."
That problem is the military's need for a system to recoat damaged or worn air inlets on performance aircraft. Many engine air inlets become worn or damaged by foreign objects while in service. Between overhauls, this damage needs to be repaired, increasing aircraft downtime. And the maintenance requires a person to manually recoat any damaged areas, placing the worker at risk and often yielding unacceptable thickness variability.
The possible solution is RE2's Automated Air Inlet Coating (A2IC) system, a robotic manipulation system with the dexterity and accuracy required for the job.
RE2 won $150,000 in highly competitive Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funding, which will cover A2IC development through February. Meanwhile, the company is preparing to compete for a Phase II award, which could start in spring 2014 and allow RE2 to further pursue the project.
The company has a good track record with SBIR. Of 11 Phase I projects, 10 have gone on to Phase II, Pedersen says, and several have gone on to Phase III and commercial success.
The A2IC project has allowed RE2 to maintain its workforce of about 40. Meanwhile, Pedersen is hopeful for a major contract for next-generation robots for disposal of explosive ordnance. That project could mean a doubling of revenues and dozens of new jobs in 2015, Pedersen says.