Mahidol UniversityRobot to Support High-Risk Work in Covid-19 Pandemic

Robot to Support High-Risk Work in Covid-19 Pandemic

The global Covid-19 pandemic has placed extra strain on healthcare services around the world. In many countries, the number of patients admitted to hospitals, particularly those in intensive care, has increased significantly, creating additional work for doctors and nurses, as well as support staff, orderlies, cleaners, and other hospital staff. On top of the additional workload; the risk of staff becoming infected, which could lead to their own illness and absence from work, or passing the infection on to other patients, has necessitated additional safety procedures.

The Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University, has been investigating the use of robot assistants in healthcare settings, to support the work of staff, reducing their workload and reducing the risk of infection. Dr. Eakkachai Warinsiriruk, Director of the Flexible Manufacturing System, Faculty of Engineering, has been leading 3 robotics projects aiming to support healthcare staff.

One example is the Wastie Robot, developed in collaboration with the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medical Center, Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital. The Wastie Robot collects potentially infectious waste from around the hospital, transporting it to be disposed of safely, without the need for staff to expose themselves to this source of possible infection. The Foodie Robot also limits staff contact with potentially infectious patients by automating the delivery of food to hospital inpatients.

The Wastie Robot consists of an Automated Guide Vehicle (AGV), which allows for navigation around the hospital by following a track of magnetic tape on the ground. This vehicle is combined with a robot arm (CoBot) which is adapted to lift the infectious waste bins and store them on the vehicle for transportation. A Machine Vision system allows the robot to classify objects and locations. Wastie can lift up to 5kg of waste in each container, and can transport up to 500kg of waste at one time. With a movement speed of 8 meters per minute, one Wastie Robot can transport up to 2.5 tons of waste per day.

One ongoing project from the team is the development of the AI-Immunizer robot. This robot aims to assist with vaccine development by performing the repetitive tasks needed in the process of mixing and testing trial vaccines. Due to the use of live viruses and microbes in the development of vaccines, this is another infection risk for human personnel which robot assistants can help to prevent.

Brought to you by