A device for precise drilling of holes
nLink’s prize-winning robot will revolutionize construction and make worksites safer
Last year at the RoboBusiness conference in Boston a Norwegian startup won both the best startup and beloved audience choice award for their Mobile Drilling Robot. According to the jury, there is no shortage of robotics technology that already exists. The real issue in the industry is to find more problems to solve. The Norwegian company had the clearest direction of all the entrants and that is why they won. They identified a real problem for businesses and found a solution. The founders were happy and thankful for receiving such good feedback, and for winning the PitchFire event.
The name of the startup is nLink. It was founded five years ago at Fosshaugane Campus in Sogndal, on the west coast of Norway. Their ambition is to revolutionize the construction industry worldwide. Their mobile drilling robot allows manual labor to perform five to 10 times faster depending on complexity of the hole pattern and equipment to be mounted. It is also good for the health of the workers. Use of the robot reduces work-related musculoskeletal disorders and musculoskeletal conditions. Pain from these conditions is the complaint most frequently reported in health interview surveys. These medical conditions lead to high costs for both businesses and society. Elimination of construction dust improves the work environment on large construction sites.
The robot will revolutionize the way heavy manual work is done. Imagine drilling the 400,000 holes needed in the ceiling of a large shopping mall, with or without robotic help. The men behind the company are Håvard Halvorsen and Thomas Hennige, both with masters degrees from NTNU, the technical university in Trondheim. From the start they were financed by private investors. Early on they were backed with an industrial R&D contract with Vintervoll AS and Innovation Norway. Today they also have an office in Oslo Science Park. nLink’s robot was recently demonstrated at the Labor Party’s Industry Conference. According to media reports, the boss liked what he saw.
At the end of last year nLink finalized a great patent application with the help of American and Norwegian patent attorneys. This spring they started on a large housing project in Trondheim that was well suited for robotic drilling. Typical equipment to be installed in the precision-drilled holes was lighting fixtures, ventilation shafts, and fire sprinkler systems. The robot allows robots and manual workers to work side by side, without a safety cage. Good news for electricians, plumbers, and other craftsmen who need to mount equipment to concrete ceilings. It provides accurate and efficient drilling, but does not replace the human construction worker. A human must operate the robot using an iPad application.
nLink’s robot is going to be sold as a service through partners. This removes the need for customers to invest in their own robot and allows them to rent it for days or weeks depending on their building size. The company has attracted interest from the U.S. and many other countries. This shows the international potential of the product. Both the construction and robotics industries are predicted to grow fast as we approach 2025, making the future look bright!
This article originally appeared in the Nov. 13, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.