For a long time, before it's health hazards were really understood, asbestos was a preferred building material and was sprayed on the ceilings of both public and private buildings. Now, decades later, we're faced with the huge, complex and time consuming task of removing it all. And, it has to be done in a way that doesn't expose the workers to additional heath hazards. Sounds like a perfect application for a robot...
BL-Autotec, based in Kobe, has developed a robotic arm system that solves many of the major asbestos removal challenges without creating additional exposure.
The new system, which is scheduled for commercial release in the autumn of 2007, removes the asbestos coating from ceilings and other surfaces while providing for remote operation. The robot arm is mounted on a movable cart, and has a reach of 1.8 meters allowing it to clear a large ceiling area without having to reposition itself.
Removing the asbestos from a 10 square meter portion of the ceiling takes approximately 2 hours, which is reported to be about three times faster than human workers doing the same task.
The company's plans include adding remote radio control and camera functionality to the robot that will allow it to operate without exposing human operators to the hazards in the room being cleaned.
BL Autotec website (Japanese)
Yomiuri News article (Japanese)