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Testing fibres at micro-scale is now easier and faster than ever

A unique robotics system has been developed at TUT to measure the properties of natural fibres. Sweden’s most prominent technological institute, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, will be the first to purchase one of the new systems.
The microrobot measures the properties of natural fibres and creates three-dimensional models. Pasi Kallio, Artem Kulachenko and Mathias von Essen discuss the many applications of the device.
The microrobot measures the properties of natural fibres and creates three-dimensional models. Pasi Kallio, Artem Kulachenko and Mathias von Essen discuss the many applications of the device.

The industry and research facilities utilise a wide range of methods to measure fibres. Until now, they have all been fairly slow and laborious, but this is finally about to change. TUT has developed the world’s first robotics system to facilitate and accelerate fibre-level measurement.

“TUT’s system is unique in that, for the first time, it can measure the strength of an individual fibre, produce a three-dimensional reconstruction of it and measure the bending stiffness”, the head of the development team Professor Pasi Kallio, explains. 

First system to be delivered to KTH, Sweden

Kallio’s team has been developing the technology employed in the system at TUT’s Department of Automation Science and Engineering for approximately eight years. Alongside him, Doctoral Student Mathias von Essen has been involved in the work. The efforts have required expertise in materials science, robotics and software engineering.

After a long period of development, the device is finally ready for research use. Sweden’s most prominent technological institute, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, has decided to be the first to purchase the new solution. TUT was selected as the supplier through an international competitive bidding process.

“TUT is the world’s leading expert in microrobotics, which is why it was selected as the supplier. A system of this kind cannot be purchased anywhere else”, says Associate Professor Artem Kulachenko of KTH, who visited TUT in December and is clearly pleased with what he saw.

“The system makes fibre analysis much faster and easier than before since the number of research phases that require precise manual procedures is reduced. In addition to this, the system can be used to study fibres with controlled humidity and temperature combined with advanced imaging necessary for accurate interpretation of the results. It will provide us the opportunity to extract valuable statistical data from a batch of fibres. This has not been possible before.”

At the department of Solid Mechanics at KTH, Kulachenko and his colleagues work with a number of materials including steel, rock, composites, paper and paperboard. The researchers cooperate with both universities and companies, such as Tetra Pak, StoraEnso, BillerudKorsnäs, Scania and ABB.

The system can also be used in other fields where highly precise measurement data on various fibres is required.

“In addition to paper and packing materials, KTH studies fibres in the human tissues, which is one of the areas where we intend to make use of the new system”, Kulachenko says.

The first batch of the delivery will be shipped to Sweden next autumn, and the subsequent ones will follow by the spring of 2018. The procurement was funded by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation. The equipment will be a part of Odqvist laboratory for experimental MUlti-SCaLE mechanics – MUSCLE.

Innovation towards commercial solutions

The analysis system purchased to Sweden was developed specifically for the measurement of natural fibres, but TUT is in the process of taking the system even further.

“We are currently in the middle of a two-year project called Fibrobotics where the goal is to develop similar technology for glass fibre and carbon fibre. We are aiming at creating a fully automated analysis process”, the project manager and the father of the FIBRobotics system von Essen explains.

Fibrobotics is a project funded by Tekes (Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation), which seeks to commercialise research results to form profitable business operations.

News submitted by: Tuuli Laukkanen
Keywords: science and research