WA made robot ‘spider’ unveiled

An Australian company that is exporting robotic parts to help with the clean-up of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant has unveiled its latest invention: a spider-like robot with magnetic feet for use in hazardous area inspections.

On Friday, Western Australia robotics company Nexxis officially unveiled Magneto-EX, a small robot that managing director Jason De Silveira said could be used by not only the oil and gas sector, but any industry where there’s a need for hazardous, confined space inspections.

The Magneto-EX robot.

Developed with the financial assistance and industry support of the CSIRO’s Data61, SixDe and National Energy Resources Australia, Magneto-EX can place its feet in small gaps and on narrow beams, adapting its body configuration to navigate complex geometry and through narrow apertures.

The company is now seeking partners for viability testing and a commercial release.

“Whether it’s operating at heights, deep underground or in the presence of toxic chemicals, industrial worksites are dangerous places,” Nexxis’ Mr Silveira said. “And confined spaces pose the biggest risk in terms of death or injury. Anything that can be done to keep humans out of these environments is a great step forward.”

A promotional video of the Magneto-Ex.

Until now, robotic inspections haven’t been possible in such spaces due to the risk of ignition, he said. But Magneto-EX changes that.

“With its design approved, EX-certification, our prototype can work safely and reliably in the most extreme conditions, alleviating the risk to human operators,” he said.

“We’re confident Magneto-EX will not only save lives but will also dramatically reduce downtime costs at an industrywide level.”

Nexxis estimates that working in confined spaces is estimated to be 100 to 150 times more hazardous than operating on an open site, due to confined spaces not being designed for people to work in, often with poor ventilation that allows for hazardous atmospheres to quickly develop.

Western Australia’s Innovation and ICT Minister Don Punch said Nexxis’ Magneto-EX was a prime example of how the state’s robotics sector was “thriving and competing globally”.

“Innovation has an important role to play in growing and diversifying the state’s economy, and the Western Australian Government is committed to nurturing local innovators,” Mr Punch said.

Western Australia Chief Scientist Professor Peter Klinken: “Nexxis is a prime example of how innovative and technological expertise can be found right here in Western Australia.”

The National Energy Resources Australia’s chief executive officer Miranda Taylor said it had been “exciting” to help Nexxis on its journey so far.

“NERA’s support of Nexxis dates back to 2018 when they were a team of just eight and it’s been wonderful to have been able to provide that early support to them as they have grown.”

Ms Taylor said the next step for the company was to partner with early adopters and trial and refine the device, with the aim to make it available commercially “sometime next year”.

“Nexxis is helping to position Australia as a world leader in automated robotic inspection research and manufacturing,” she said.

“They’re already exporting robotic parts to help with the clean-up at the Fukushima nuclear plant. Magneto-EX is a major step forward in safer inspections in the industry.”

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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