Robotics Research and Development at Sandia
Sandia's 70,000-sq.-ft. Robotic Manufacturing Science and Engineering Laboratory.
In general, robots are machines that can be programmed to perform work. They typically are guided by a computer control system. Many robots also have sensors that permit them to move and perform programmed work, or they can be guided by human remote control. Robots are ideal for performing work that is precise, repetitive, or involves high risk to humans, such as nuclear waste cleanup or the exploration of space.
Sandia's robotics program divides into three principal areas, each comprising about one-third of the overall program:
Sandia has developed several telerobotic vehicles that are ideal for performing potentially dangerous tasks. The Remote TeleRobotic Vehicle for Intelligent Remediation (RETRVIR), for instance, is able to locate, excavate, and remove unknown and potentially hazardous objects from a site using advanced sensor-based graphical control technology and a remotely operated vehicle. The rugged RETRVIR rests on a Honda all-terrain vehicle and has a robotic arm that can dig and pick up objects weighing up to 250 pounds.
Sandia's 70,000-square-foot Robotic Manufacturing Science and Engineering Laboratory is the nation's premier facility for research and development of intelligent robotic systems. The $33 million facility, completed in 1996, has two stories, 36 individual labs, conference facilities, an auditorium, an outdoor robotics test track, and areas that allow visitors to view robots at work.
Sandia is the primary agency responsible to the Department of Energy for carrying out needed robotics research and development. Future DOE work will require extensive robotics and automation technology to meet environmental, safety, health and cost goals for the inspection, disassembly and certification of retired nuclear weapons and their components. Smart robotics and automation technologies under development at Sandia also will provide DOE with the capability to upgrade nuclear weapons remaining in the stockpile as needed for continued national security. In addition, DOE environmental restoration and waste management activities will rely heavily on robotic systems to safely and quickly perform many operations including the characterization and cleanup of waste sites across the country.
Last modified: June 25, 1998
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