ORLANDO, FLA. — What if robots ran a NASCAR pit crew? The answer to that question was on display at Wittmann Battenfeld Inc.'s exhibit at NPE 2015.
Wittmann Battenfeld is becoming known for mind-blowing robotic demonstrations. At NPE 2012, a crew of robots played basketball.
The pressure was on for NPE 2015, said Kenny Pond, technical project lead, who coordinated a team of three robot experts to build the NASCAR pit crew.
“Two years ago, we were throwing around concepts. I came up with the concept to do NASCAR,” said Pond, a racing fan.
Pond sketched out the idea, then located a real, race-proven NASCAR shell car body — no engine and no transmission — on the website racingjunk.com. Then the team had to find a mock engine for the show car, and find vendors for other tools used in the pits.
Early last year, Pond and Rob Eselby, a mechanical engineer, began working to build the display at Wittmann Battenfeld headquarters in Torrington, Conn. “It took months of research and testing to put it together,” Pond said.
In January and February of this year, a team began assembling the robotic pit crew. But then the fun began — if you think programming four robots to do complex tasks in unison to be fun.
“Four of us were working seven days a week, at times for 16 hours a day,” Pond said.
They finished the job, ran it for the employees of Torrington, acknowledged the applause, then broke it all down for shipment to Orlando.
One of the robots — a W832 pro series — was on a truck that was stolen on the way to NPE, but was not damaged when the trailer tipped over. Last week at NPE, that robot “fueled” the car (with resin pellets), checked air pressure and assisted another robot with a rear suspension tool.
The other robots ran a tire changer, opened and closed the hood and worked on the engine.
You couldn't see the robot pit crew at Disney World — only at NPE.