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Badminton playing robot has a more serious role to play

31 January 2013

Researchers in Belgium have developed a robot that plays badminton, but its main role is to test a software application designed to optimise energy efficiency in machine design.

Wim Symens alongside his badminton playing robot
Wim Symens alongside his badminton playing robot

Wim Symens and his team at the Flanders’ Mechatronics Technology Centre (FMTC) in Belgium claim to have developed the first robot ever to play badminton. But this robot is only a guinea pig to test a software application that will be used to optimise energy efficiency in machine design.

Thanks to the EU funded research project ESTOMAD, a new computer program is now capable of detecting energy intensive mechatronic systems. The results are impressive. Following an energy efficiency analysis of the badminton robot with the new software, the team made some small changes where most of the energy was identified as being wasted. “We were able to cut down the energy consumption of the badminton robot by 50 percent,” claims Wim Symens.

Industry has already expressed interest in performing this type of energy efficiency analysis. For example, PICANOL, a key actor in the production of weaving machines, was able to cut the energy consumption of their existing machines by 10-15 percent by adapting the software to its production line.

In the future, engineers could use this software for machines even before they are built. Performing a virtual analysis at such an early stage, could provide a very important competitive advantage to industry. “A virtual approach is always a preferred one," explains Tom Boermans of engineering solution consultancy LMS International, who is based in Leuven, Belgium and one of the partners in the project. "You can even simulate strange conditions: very fast or very high temperatures. In real life those tests are very expensive!” 

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