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BMW uses robot dog to gather data for digital twin at UK site

07 May, 2024

BMW is using a four-legged robotic dog to gather data for a digital twin at its Hams Hall engine production plant in UK. The robot – a Boston Dynamics Spot model, which BMW has renamed Spotto – will also act as a watchdog and oversee maintenance of the site’s facilities.

The autonomous obot, which can climb stairs and cross rough terrain, is equipped with visual, thermal and acoustic sensors, and can to perform tasks such as checking whether equipment is running too hot – a sign of potential failures.

The quadruped is also being used to identify leaks in compressed-air pipes, helping to reduce energy consumption.

The Hams Hall digital twin operates on three levels. The combination is said to make the digital twin unique.

On the first level, the twin generates 3D representations of the plant. The mobile robot feeds data into the second level – a data layer which also receives information from the site’s production facilities and IT systems. On the third level – the application level – programs sort the collected data, which personnel use for quality assurance and production planning purposes.

“Thanks to the digital twin we have an enormous quantity of precise data and evaluations, as well as a real-time picture of production processes,” says Hams Hall director, Dirk Dreher. “The project team at Plant Hams Hall has created unique use cases for our four-legged friend and integrated him perfectly into our processes.”

Before the robot’s arrival at the plant, the team tested which activities it would be most suitable for as part of a year-long development process.

Other potential uses for the dog are being trialled including reading analogue controls, and performing complex sequences of movements to access hard-to-reach areas.

“Virtualisation, automation and artificial intelligence are central pillars of the BMW iFactory,” explains Klaus von Moltke, BMW’s senior vice-president of engine production. “Bold, innovative application examples like those at Plant Hams Hall showcase the full range of possibilities.”

BMW is using the four-legged robot to support maintenance at its Hams Hall plant, and to ensure that production processes run smoothly.

The robot dog was renamed Spotto in tribute to Gustav Otto, one of BMW’s founders and son of Nicolaus Otto, inventor of the four-stroke internal combustion engine.

The Hams Hall site, which employs around 1,600 people, produced more than 400,000 engines in 2023.

“The working environment at Plant Hams Hall is well suited for industrial inspections using a quadruped robot like Spotto,” says Marco da Silva, head of Spot product development at Boston Dynamics. “The robot can easily take over the completion of numerous, repeatable monitoring tasks so the plant’s maintenance team can focus on maintenance.”

BMW is testing the use of robotic quadrupeds at some of its other plants.

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