PRE2018 3 Group11:Brainstorm

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Brainstorming Sessions

In multiple brainstorming sessions, we brought forth various possible project ideas. Some of these ideas lasted longer through sessions than others. We explain these ideas knowing that even the minor ones contributed to our thought process. This discussion helped us make a more informed decision on choosing the final topic.

Main ideas

Underwater welding robot

One of the most dangerous professions is being an underwater welder. A common misconception is that this danger is due to using electricity underwater. This is generally not the case. To elaborate an explanation on the different types of welding techniques is needed, namely, one needs to know that there is a difference between wet and dry welding (both of which occur underwater). In the case of wet welding, one uses special types of electrodes in a wet environment to weld freehand. The limitation of this technique, however, is that it requires the power source to be on dry ground. In contrast to wet welding, there is dry welding, also known as hyperbaric welding. This means that one creates a (sealed) chamber filled with gas (usually helium with half a bar of oxygen) in which welding is performed (in a dry environment). This is where the danger comes, namely, the pressure differences that you get by creating said chamber.

The underwater welding robot would perform dry welding without the need to put humans in danger. One part would create a sealed chamber filled with any type of gas (since there is no requirements that people should be able to enter said chamber). Another part of the robot would be manually controlled to perform the welding.

As far as USE aspects go, having such a welding system does not only tremendously decrease danger involved with the profession, it allows for new business opportunities for enterprises. Users are no longer in danger, which is beneficial to society in general.


Underwater Welding - Present Status and Future Scope (link): Gives an overview of different types of welding techniques specific to underwater welding (SMAW, FCAW, (AC) TIG/GTAW, FRW, Laser Welding). Goes quite into depth on how these techniques work, and has clear enough images.

Scrutinize Research on Underwater Welding Process: A Review (link): Similar to above, gives an overview of the different techniques without too much detail. Has a nice classification image that can be used.

Underwater Welding - Recent Trends and Future Scope (link): Similar to the first one, but gives clearer explanations. Includes specific techniques as in the first one. Has a nice section on advantages and disadvantages of dry and wet welding in underwater conditions.

Underwater Welding (link): Not the best article, but it explains the problem of underwater welding from the standpoint of the chairman of a HKISC, a welding group. No real techniques are mentioned, but it is a good read to understand their point of view.

Underwater Welding techniques (link): A very scientific looking paper, but it doesn’t actually go into the details. Most of the text also has been largely copied from earlier listed articles / sources.

Underwater Wet Welding Products Operating Instructions (link): Operating instructions of a Broco SofTouch and Broco EasyTouch wet welding electrodes. Extremely interesting as this explains all dangers involved with operated such machinery.

UNDERWATER WELDING IN THE DEEP SEA (link): Old (1978) thesis from David Paul Erickson under supervision of Koichi Masubuchi. As mentioned in the title, this is about welding in the deep sea so it might not be completely relevant, but as it is a thesis it is very thorough with its explanations (even though they’re old techniques).

Garbage collector

As human jobs are being automated one by one, garbage collection seems to be ready for the taking. Robots are able to perform the same task more efficiently and can extend human abilities. One of the main challenges posed by this problem is detecting of pieces of trash before picking them up. Computer vision is one way of dealing with this problem. Then, picking up trash can be done using a robotic arm or using vacuum suction. Furthermore, the robot should patrol an area such that it visits busy areas more than others. Solving these problems would result in a cleaner environment, as well as potential profits for cleaning companies.

Another take on this global issue is to clean the oceans. There is a large amount of floating microplastics in the oceans, which has a significant impact on flora and fauna. Robotics could be applied to clean the surface of the ocean, while minimizing harm done to any fish.


Garbage Collection Robot on the Beach using Wireless Communications (link): A design and prototype of a garbage collection robot, with caterpillar tracks and a shovel to pick up items on the beach. Not very well written and many details are missing.

Trash cleaning robot controlled by you (link): Kickstarter project for a remote-controlled boat that collects trash from rivers. The actual design is not detailed, but it looks like a shovel and a net (?) on the front of the robot.

Development of a Vision System for an Outdoor Service Robot to Collect Trash on Streets (link (english), link (japanese)): Detailed design and prototype of a robot that patrols streets and collects PET bottles. Second article contains more details, but seems to be Japanese (characters are not showing correctly for me).

Collecting Trash: A Test of Purposive Vision (link): Article mostly about using computer vision to detect trash, but could also be used for other things.

Continuous Area Sweeping: A Task Definition and Initial Approach (link): Describes an approach to making an autonomous robot move around an area, such that it visits all points in this area, as specified by a cost function. The approach has been simulated and implemented using an existing robot.

A Multi-Robot System for Continuous Area Sweeping Tasks (link): Extends the previous article using multiple robots patrolling the same area. Again, a simulation has been done, as well as implementation using an existing robot.

Experiences developing socially acceptable interactions for a robotic trash barrel (link): An article about human interaction with a trash barrel robot. People’s responses to the robot talking and moving around are measured. Overall, people felt neutral to positive about the robot.

Earth day website (link) Contains facts about plastic in the ocean. I used multiple sources from this site. Might be a bit biased so we might need to extend our search.

A global inventory of small floating plastic debris (link) About the amount of floating microplastics (<200mm) in the ocean. Models are used together with experimental data to find microplastics concentrations in different parts. North-Atlantic Ocean seems to be most densely concentrated. In total there would be about 30*10^12 plastic particles or 150 thousand metric tons of plastic floating in the ocean.

Plastic waste inputs from the land into the ocean (link) Every year more than 10 million metric tons of plastic waste is thrown into the ocean globally. (other sources state 8 million metric tons)So the floating microplastics is only a small part of the total. By 2025 the total mass of plastic waste in the ocean could reach as high as 90-250 million metric tons.

New Plastic Economy (link) Journal about how we need to increase the efficiency in our plastic waste management. States that the total mass of plastic could surpass the mass of fish by 2050 (though I would be careful with those numbers. Is in line with the very maximum of the results of previous article).

The guardian: Plastic found in stomachs of deepest sea creatures (link) News article with no extarnal sources but could be useful to research further. Title says it all. Plastic waste is not limited to the surface but can spread to extreme depths like in trenches across the pacific ocean.

Plastic polution primer and action toolkit (link) Another journal about how and why we need to increase our plastic waste management efficiency. Contains a lot of links to other articles. Plastic does not fully degrade but breaks up into ever smaller particles. Eventually it could be small enough to enter the bloodstream. When the organism containing the plastic is eaten, the plastic is passed on.

The ocean cleanup (link) A large project that is set to use floating devices to filter the surface of the Great Pacific garbage patch. Does not use robots.

Exploratory ideas

Kitchen robot

We present a kitchen assistant robot, a machine with several modular components which enable different cooking functions such as stirring, chopping, adding ingredients at certain times, and so on. The robot can be programmed for different recipes. We realized quickly that such robots exist in industry on a much larger scale, in fact on every manufacturing line of every industrial chemical product. Redesigning it for home use seemed like a viable project idea, however, we found that it already existed as seen in this video. We do not think that this problem is an interesting one to solve when compared with other problems to be listed on this page.

Firefighting robot

A second idea that we came up with were two types of drones that are applicable to firefighting.

  • Type 1: A firefighting drone built on a previous group (link). We quickly discarded this idea as we don’t believe we can contribute much to the design proposed by the previous group.
  • Type 2: A drone that, in case of a fire, autonomously finds children (or even animals) that are trapped in a room, either due to collapsed structure or due to the doors automatically closing. The drone would carry conventional gas masks for adults knowing how to apply them, as well as a custom made tent large enough for a small child or animal. The material of this tent would filter smoke and turn it into oxygen, prolonging the life of the child (or animal) hopefully enough until the firefighters arrive. The problem with this idea is that there are a lot of practical concerns. How would a tent be deployed? How would the drone fly in the heat? How would we deal with the fact that oxygen is created in an environment where this could lead to explosions? While these concerns are not prohibiting us from choosing this idea as our project, we don’t believe it is realistic to assume that everyone has a drone in each of their rooms.

Medical nanobot

We also thought of medical nanobots. The idea of medical nanobots is that they can transport small doses of medicine to specific parts of your body. If the medicine is dangerous to other parts of the body, then these nanobots would effectively mitigate said issue. While there is certainly a field of application, we do not believe that we have the required medical, let alone nano-engineering, expertise to design this kind of robot.

Miner robot

The idea is to eliminate the problem of people dying to due to manual labour in mines. It is clear to anyone that mines collapse too much, and that it is just in general a dangerous profession. The problem with tackling the miner robot as project is twofold, namely, there already exist autonomous mining solutions and secondly for a (not so ethical) company, the death of a person is cheaper than the destruction of an expensive mining robot.

Pet-walking robot

The last exploratory idea is a robot that can walk your pets. Immediately at the thought of going through with this, we can easily imagine that it won’t be a commercial success. Part of why people want pets is because they want companionship. Having a robot take care of your pet completely goes against the point of owning a pet to begin with. Another reason why it won’t work is because your pet will most likely be scared by the robot. It might even try to attack and damage the robot, which is undesirable. The main reason, however, for us not doing this as project is because we do not see any added value. It doesn’t solve any major problem.

Urban carbon sucking robot

As mentioned in this article, another possibility would be to create an urban drone to suck up CO2 from the air and transport it to e.g. a greenhouse where it can be filtered by plants. It is certainly a current topic, especially with global warming. The idea mentioned in the linked article has a primitive butterfly design, and is called a parasite as it uses billboards for their heat and therefore illegally obstructs advertisements. Background information on this idea can be found here and here.

Nuclear waste cleaning robot

The challenge of dealing with nuclear waste is still unsolved. We could create a design that overcomes the problematic fact that radioactivity renders electronic circuitry useless. Some introductory information can be found here. While it most certainly is an interesting topic, other topics were deemed more interesting.