Robot arm safer, greener, ship-cutting method | Inquirer Technology

Robot arm eco-friendly way of dismantling ships

05:39 PM October 17, 2023

A German company created a robot arm that dismantles old ships using water and sand. Leviathan operations director Bryce Lawrence said it would use several ship-cutting machines to recycle steel from old vessels. More importantly, it could be the next eco-friendly ship-cutting method that will make the industry safer for workers.

BBC says the modern shipbreaking industry is the “dirtiest and most exploitative in the world.” Often, it leaks heavy metals that endanger workers, marine life, and the ocean. That is why we must consider options like this ship-cutting technology using robots. These machines could be the key to recycling defunct vessels and protecting our environment.

This article will discuss how a robot arm cuts up ships, keeps workers safe, and avoids damaging the environment. Later, I will cover other interesting robotics projects.


How does the robot arm work?


The BBC says Leviathan’s prototype merges numerous established technologies. For example, the robot arm is one used in car factories, and the waterjet is from ANT AG, another German company.

It blasts a mix of sand and water at high pressures, which is so precise that bomb disposal experts use it to cut wires from bomb fuses. “Somebody has to approach the bomb, put the manipulating system on, then go as far away as possible,” says Till Weber, ANT AG’s general manager.

Fortunately, a machine can shoot the jet from half a kilometer away. Weber says Ukraine is using this technology at the time of writing. Operations director Lawrence says this system requires fewer workers than conventional ship-cutting.

The company also has computer software that automatically plans how to divide a vessel. However, the method has drawbacks, such as requiring special rigs on a dry dock.

You cannot set up the system on a beach. Still, Lawrence said it will have a containment area to capture jet water and toxic substances that may blast off ships.

The team will decontaminate the water before the robot arm resumes chopping ships. “You can have robots starting at the bow and the stern, and two points in the middle, and working towards each other,” said Lawrence.


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Also, this method is more worker and eco-friendly than the traditional method. Old vessels have been going to South Asia so humans can dismantle them with fuel-powered torches and sledgehammers.

Unfortunately, they wear little to no protective clothing, causing massive fatalities. Worse, the method leaves heavy metals to wash into the sea.

“Compared to traditional ship recycling, we’re very, very low carbon,” stated Lawrence. However, there is no guarantee that it can compete against the “dirt-cheap yards of South Asia.”

What are other robotics projects?

Innovative Robotics Projects Collage

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Japan has also been launching interesting robotics projects. For example, the University of Tokyo launched the Jizai Arms project to understand how people react to having cyborg limbs.

The arms and fingers mimic the human controller’s. Also, the arm attaches to a backpack-like battery pack that supports up to four limbs at once.

The most interesting feature is you can attach your robot arm to another person’s battery pack. As a result, you control another person’s extra limb, letting you assist them in various tasks.

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The Jizai Arms research paper said, “We found that our bodies could precisely sense the attachment/detachment of arms. We especially felt a strong impact when detaching or reducing the number of robotic arms worn.”

Tech company Tsubame revealed another robotics project for Japan. However, it doesn’t only involve a robot arm but a 15-foot-tall transforming mech a person could pilot.

Archax has two modes, “robot’ and “vehicle.” It stands at 14.8 feet in the former and can grab and carry objects up to 15 kg or 33 lbs. On the other hand, the latter spread out the wheels, letting it run at 6 mph or 9.65 kph.


A German firm created a new way of dismantling old sea vessels with water and sand. Its robot arm shoots sand and water to chop up ships into numerous pieces.

It could become a safer, greener alternative to the traditional way. Unlike the latter, the robot arm doesn’t endanger workers and reduces the likelihood of spilling harmful chemicals.

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Still, its creators believe they need more development time to make it a viable option. Learn more about the latest digital tips and trends at Inquirer Tech.

TOPICS: cargo ship, cruise ships, eco-friendly, interesting topics, robot arm, Trending
TAGS: cargo ship, cruise ships, eco-friendly, interesting topics, robot arm, Trending

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