Pvilion Working with Rensselaer Robotic Team
ARM grant supports autonomous robot team developing Rapidly Deployable COVID-19 Vaccination Rooms
This challenge is being met by Pvilion, a Brooklyn, New York based manufacturer of rapidly deployable robotic structures, including solar fabric structures. Pvilion is working with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on a project to use computer automation to improve its manufacturing processes. Pvilion was recently awarded, a Phase II, $1.5 million Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract by the United State Air Force (USAF) Rapid Sustainment Office (RSO) to deliver its rapidly deployable, flexible Hands-Off Expeditionary Tent, known by the acronym HEXT.
In a research project funded by the Department of Defense through its Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Institute, Rensselaer is now working with Pvilion to develop a group of self-aware, human-directed robots to assist in manufacturing a product similar to Pvilion's HEXT.
HEXT is Pvilion's advanced design. It reduces the labor and manpower required to erect and dismantle buildings, tents, and other structural systems. HEXT structures can be entirely deployed without human intervention in less than a minute. Pvilion's structural systems reduce the time and labor needed for deployment, allowing the focus to be on the medical service to be provided.
This marks the fourth time Pvilion and Rensselaer have partnered together on projects. Previously, they partnered together on programs funded by New York Empire State Development (ESD) for both the Defense Diversification Assistance and the Defense Industries Assistance programs.
The Pvilion – Rensselaer project's goal is to improve quality while reducing manufacturing time. In addition to its value in the current COVID crisis, Pvilion is positioning the product for use in future large medical emergency needs as well as for temporary housing needs; for example, following a natural disaster.
The manufacture of these structures requires manipulating and joining together multiple pieces of large waterproof fabrics within which solar panels are integrated. The Rensselaer team will design, build, and program a team of small robots that will be capable of holding the material, rotating it, and pulling it taut while it is being welded and heat sealed together. The robots will work in unison, guided by humans, as well as software and algorithms that will also be developed and built by Rensselaer researchers.
"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."
Pvilion and the Rensselaer team will also be working with Albany Medical College (AMC), which brings it experience in healthcare and specifically in caring for COVID-19 patients. The AMC team will share its medical perspective to improve the design of the structure.
This research is being expedited within a one-year timeline to address current challenges brought about by the pandemic.