Cobots Man Test Bed for Fridges

| Manufacturing

Cobots are being used to test fridge efficiency in supermarkets with repeated openings

Test procedure with collaborative robots trials new technology for improving energy efficiency for supermarket fridges

Williams Advanced Engineering (WAE), Aerofoil Energy and Inovo Robotics are working together on an innovative new R&D programme that uses robots to further improve the energy efficiency of supermarket fridges.

Based at WAE’s site in Grove, Oxfordshire, the pioneering new initiative sees Inovo’s collaborative robots – called ‘cobots’ – repeatedly opening and closing the doors of test fridges to emulate real-world supermarket trading conditions. These fridges feature the revolutionary F1-inspired Aerofoil shelf edge technology along with Aerofoil Energy’s new “Vortex” energy efficient fridge technologies.

The three companies set up the robotic real-world supermarket emulating test programme at Grove in 2019. It has delivered 10 new energy saving technologies which have already entered the market and are delivering significant energy savings for supermarkets.

Aerofoil’s shelf edge technology, which has been rolled out across many of the UK’s supermarkets since 2017, is inspired by the design of a Formula One wing. This aerodynamic device channels the cold air that falls from the top of a fridge down the front, preventing it from spilling out into the aisle, saving up to 30% of a supermarket’s energy costs.

Aerofoil Energy and WAE partnered together on this design in 2015, the collaboration inspiring the creation of the Foresight Williams Technology Funds with Foresight Group, which was launched in 2016 and helps grow small and medium-sized UK technology and engineering businesses, giving them access to expert technical expertise and investment.

In 2018, Inovo Robotics received investment from the fund in its collaborative robotic technology, whose USPs are its ease of programming installation and a versatile, modular robotic arm which can be adapted depending on the application.

Henry Wood, Inovo Robotics Co-founder, said: “Inovo’s ‘cobots’ are designed for batch manufacturing. They are modular, versatile, collaborative robots with a user friendly interface which makes configuration for new tasks extremely easy. They are ideally suited to support the latest round of Aerofoil tests which require a repeatable and reliable system to open fridge doors, emulating in-store conditions and supporting
round-the-clock testing.”

Paul McAndrew, Aerofoil Energy Limited Founder and Technical Director, said: “Aerofoil Energy designs and delivers energy-saving technology to the UK’s leading supermarkets to improve the energy efficiency of display refrigeration. In 2019, in partnership with Williams Advanced Engineering, we set up a cutting edge R&D facility. To date, this has delivered 10 new energy saving technologies which have already entered the market and are delivering significant energy savings for supermarkets.”

Maria Nelson, Williams Advanced Engineering Senior Partnerships Manager, said: “Williams Advanced Engineering is delighted to support both Aerofoil and Inovo with a test programme here at Grove which is designed to emulate in-store conditions whilst measuring product temperatures and energy consumption. The robots have proved invaluable during this programme and we’re proud to bring two of our Technology Ventures companies together to support the testing of further energy efficient technologies.”

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