Modular Robots are created during Flexible Working Manners

Ann-Sofie and Anders are currently writing their thesis, together with Inwatec, to finish their bachelor’s in mechanical engineering. Their project is practical-oriented, just like their whole study program at SDU in Odense.

Anders already did his internship at Inwatec and discovered the opportunities to further work on the challenge, they are now dealing with in their thesis. Anders says: “We selected Inwatec as a collaboration partner since I already experienced how easy and satisfying it is to work with the company.” The students are free regarding their work location and can switch between the office, the university or any other place they feel most productive.

 

Modular setup and simple aesthetics

Not only student projects are organized flexible, but also Inwatec’s systems are flexible and scalable due to their modular design. Ann-Sofie is fascinated: “Every robot can be connected to make the handling of laundry articles as intelligent and reasonable as possible.”

In case you are now curious to learn more about our modular setup, check it out here.

The students are working on improving a major part of one of Inwatec’s robots. They are constructing a component and calculating several aspects like carrying capacity or overall costs. Ann-Sofie and Anders target to back up all their decisions with analyses. “Our focus is to reduce space and material while providing increased safety,” both students agree.

Anders is impressed by the simplicity of Inwatec’s machines: “Although we are dealing with innovative robotics, the systems are build up straightforward and the functionality stands in the first place.”

Bringing in a breath of fresh air to never stop improving

Inwatec attaches great importance to bring a breath of fresh air into their development processes and to constantly improve their machines. “We are really free to implement our own concepts and our colleagues guide and support us whenever needed, but they would never restrict our ideas,” tells Ann-Sofie.

“We are provided with all essential information and data, helping us to really understand all processes and giving the opportunity to get the best out of our project –for Inwatec as well as for ourselves,” adds Anders.


We wish you the best of luck to finish your thesis project and we are sure you will rock the upcoming presentation!

Smart People – Smart Robots

Benedicte and Mads are studying towards a Diplom within Integrated Design at SDU in Odense. They are trained to take the challenge and develop new products, less emphasizing on detailed calculations but more on knowing the overall strategies and approaches including different perspectives and departments. They are educated to be generalists, being able to gain more specific knowledge within one area if required.

Their final project is not a theoretical thesis but more a practically oriented report that should include, engineering, design, and economic aspects and should be conducted in a company ensuring hands-on experience. Important in here is to justify decisions and methods. Within their practical project, they should develop their idea to a final concept.

“My main goal is to make the laundry robots smarter.”

Mads started as an intern at Inwatec and took Benedicte, his fellow student, on board. At Inwatec they had the opportunity to build up process stages of a new robot and to test their concept via different prototypes, that are simulating the single steps of the future machine. Mads is certain: ” My main goal is to make the laundry robots smarter.”

Benedicte is happy about: “The atmosphere is really positive and we were included in the team from day one.” In the very first week, the students got the possibility to visit two laundries and to gain a deeper insight into the industry, the needs, and potential pain points.

“Inwatec is a great company to write the project with. They understand student’s needs and they are interested in putting the educational requirements as a priority,” says Mads. The students hence were also able to conduct tests, that were not primarily Inwatec’s needs, but were required by university-rules.

The robot, they worked on, was requested by a customer. Very important for the students was to get a real-life scenario and to obtain actual data. These criteria were definitely fulfilled and the Inwatec supported them from the very beginning to the end of their project. They additionally had their own office space to freely develop ideas.

Benedicte and Mads really enjoyed working with Inwatec. Whenever they had questions or issues, colleagues provided helping hands. A programming specialist supported the two students during their whole project and programmed the necessary codes to make the testing possible.

Trust and freedom lead to innovative robots

“We could test our ideas by building up prototypes in original size and we were also supported in buying material,” says Mads. Also, a modified version of the existing machines was included in the testing phase.

Benedicte adds: “It was a great feeling that everyone in Inwatec trust in our work and that we were treated as experts in our field, although we are still studying.“

In the end, both agreed: “It is a pity that we just have one semester and that this time is of course not enough to develop our idea to the very end.”

Mads furthermore starts to work full time at Inwatec from February. He is looking forward to joining the Laundrynerds as Project Engineer with tasks across sales, sales support, construction, installations, and development.

Good luck to both of you with the final project and your future career life!

Nor Tekstil’s specialized laundry for hotels is a success

 

In May 2018, the Norwegian Nor Tekstil celebrated the grand opening of a new laundry in Oslo. This laundry was built specifically to handle hotel laundry, and it's inauguration was accompanied with high expectations.

Half a year later, CTO Ove Belsvik acknowledges that the concept has proven to be an excellent idea:

"We think long-term, and we wanted a very modern facility based on innovative technology, and we feel that we have gotten that in Oslo. We had several laundries, and we wanted to move our hotel production to a single plant to make it more efficient. Here we do not wash for hospitals or other customers, it is exclusively hotels. In this way, we are able to specialize the production lines," Ove Belsvik explains.

The brand new laundry in Oslo includes an Inwatec Stack Storage Solution, which keeps the washed and ironed linen in its buffer before packaging and shipping. With this setup, the production can be streamlined as much as possible.

Continue reading below the slideshow:

At the same time, the new setup was designed with a wish for improved workstations for the employees, and Ove Belsvik is pleased that this part of the solution also has proven to be a success.

Nor Tekstil is Norway’s dominant player in the laundry industry. The company serves a significant share of Norwegian hotels, hospitals, and nursing homes, as well as a large number of customers in the offshore industry and other firms in the industrial sector.

"The stack storage solution from Inwatec has had a significant impact on employees. We work with HES (Health, Environment, and Safety), where we look at ergonomics and workflows, and we have significantly less stress now. It's no longer the machines that regulate the pace. When we have a buffer in front, the manual handling at the packing station is done at a reasonable pace, and we've got significantly better ergonomics for our employees. It is very positive," says Ove Belsvik, who is certain, that the set up in their new laundry will set the standards for future laundries:

"We are convinced that what we have built in Oslo is the future. We also see that after half a year of operation we have had excellent results with the combination of our five ironer lines and the stack storage," he ends.


Find more information about the Stack Storage here.

Investing in youth means investing in the future

It is so important for us to work together with educational institutions in Odense and the surrounding area. Especially as it is no empty phrase to say that the youth is our future. Of course, we are also always proud to show how exciting it is to work in our field!

At the beginning of December, we had the pleasure of welcoming another enthusiastic student in his school internship: Bjørn, a 14-year-old student from the Egholmskolen School near Copenhagen. He stayed with Inwatec for a week and got to know various aspects of our work, such as mechanical engineering with 3D drawings, PLC software engineering, and the construction of our control cabinets.

“I have already done two more internships, one for three and the other for two days,” explains Bjørn. In an aluminum workshop, Bjørn programmed an old drill to cut a shape into the aluminum. At the Teknologisk Institute in Odense, Bjørn had the opportunity to test a Nao robot, a programmable humanoid robot, by writing a few lines of code.

We are pleased that Bjørn has also liked the challenges at Inwatec: “It was very interesting, but also a bit difficult because there were some things I had not done before; only the programming of the RFID unit is actually a bit similar to what I already knew before,” says Bjørn.

During the five days, Bjørn worked with various experts in the different fields at Inwatec and it was a pleasure to see that his excitement grew with the time he spent with us. We wanted to give him a comprehensive overview of the tasks of robotics engineers, mechanical and software engineers, and our technicians in the workshop.

Bjørn explains: “It was just cool, I think it was a good variation between working directly with the machines, 3D drawing, and programming in my internship.” He is already planning a technical education after completing his ninth grade, in order to be able to work even more with robots, controls and similar in the future.

From experience, we can say that internships can also turn into further collaborations! The most recent example is the 15-year-old student Mustafa, who completed a three-day school internship at Inwatec in May 2018. One month later, Mustafa entered our team as a student assistant and is supporting our image classification for training our Artificial Intelligence for a few hours each week since then.


We are glad that you enjoyed the time at Inwatec as much as we enjoyed having you with us, Bjørn! In addition, we are confident that the internship was not the last time we worked together.

Learning by Doing while writing the Master Thesis within AI

A master thesis related to garment and linen handling sounds unusual at the first glance, hence if the topic is related to Artificial Intelligence (AI) it will be a really interesting as well as challenging project. Laus combines precisely these two subjects in his thesis. He writes about developing AI to find the best gripping points of laundry articles and is totally satisfied with his choice.

“I definitely wanted to write my master thesis in a topic involving AI, as this is a big part of the future and of technology in general,” says the student. Laus is studying Robot Systems – Advanced Robotics Technology at the SDU in Odense. You might have read about him before, as he started a student job at Inwatec in July. In case you missed that, check the story out here.

From collecting data for that project in his student job, Laus then went on with this topic for the thesis and solves other issues during his student job now.

His master thesis is in total 40 ECTs. Laus needs to gather 10 ECTs this semester and will spend even more time at Inwatec from February to gain the other 30 ECTs during his last semester.

The student is still at the very beginning of teaching the robot via reinforcement learning. In here the machine is learning by trial and error and it for sure will take some time until the final aim is reached.

Also at Inwatec the focus is on trying things out and learning by doing. Laus really likes this work attitude including a lot of freedom and flexibility and he tells: “My main goal is to learn something new every day.”

He really likes spending a lot of time at the workshop and he enjoys the possibility to see how the robot actually moves. Laus has a lot of space to implement own ideas and test them. “Playing around with the machines and gaining practical knowledge is great,” in Laus’ opinion.

The robotic student really values the nice and helpful colleagues and likes that everyone is honestly interested in the different projects that are going on.

Best wishes for continued success with your master thesis!


Are you interested in doing your thesis, an internship or any other university-related project in collaboration with Inwatec? Check out our open positions.

 

Inwatec named apprenticeship employer of the year

Every year, almost 4,000 apprentices from the different educations at Syddansk Erhvervsskole (Business College of Southern Denmark) have the opportunity to nominate their workplace the apprenticeship employer of the year. We are very proud to announce that Inwatec was awarded the 2018 edition. Automation technician apprentice Thomas Johannes Mortensen was the man behind the nomination.

“When I arrived at Inwatec, I was immediately given responsibility of testing testing machines, power boards and more … Whenever I faced problems on how to perform the tasks, I got help right away, as well as an explanation of what / how / why … I’m happy when I go to work and enjoy everything we do. Even the work that can be boring in the long run is done with a smile on my face,” wrote Thomas Johannes Mortensen.

Electrician Claus Klit Munksgaard supervising apprentice Thomas Johannes Mortensen

The award is based on the following criteria: academic, collegial, management, guidance, and social. And Deputy Director of the South Danish Business School, Mette Tram Pedersen, who was part of the panel that picked the winner of the candidates, emphasized at the award ceremony that Inwatec fully meets the criteria when reading the recommendation from Thomas Johannes Mortensen:

“As an educational institution, we worry about teaching, while the apprenticeship places teach the students how to behave in a company. Both socially but also professionally with customers. The good relations between the colleagues is emphasized in Thomas’s recommendation, and he feels that he is on equal terms with the rest of the team regardless of whether it is birthday celebrations, Friday BBQs or business trips,” says Mette Tram Pedersen.

Proud boss praises colleagues

“It’s extraordinary for us that Thomas has nominated Inwatec to be apprenticeship employer of the year. Of course, I’m incredibly proud of that. Thomas emphasizes all the good things that Inwatec would like to be known for, but with apprentices like him it’s now also effortless to perform well. He is a gold nugget; a bundle of energy that always spreads a good mood wherever he is,” Mads Andresen stated before he forwarded the honors for the award:

“In fact, it’s mainly the workshop colleagues who earn the credit for the award. They know when Thomas needs to be teased – and Thomas also knows when he needs to reciprocate,” the Inwatec CEO said.

Inwatec just received the third Gazelle growth award in a row, our fourth overall, from business daily Børsen, and for Mads Andresen, it’s important to emphasize that growth and innovation are closely linked to the recruitment of both apprentices, graduates, and specialists.

Since Inwatec was founded in 2009, the company has continuously put considerable effort into spreading the word, and that strategy is not going to change.

“We work with all the knowledge and education institutions in Odense and surrounding areas, and we do everything we can to show how exciting it is to work in our field. Obviously, we need some of those who get trained, and I think that Inwatec as a company, have a social commitment to invest in the youth, “says Mads Andresen, who hired a high school pupil not long ago.

“In the spring we had two boys from 8th grade in school practice, and they had so much spark and enthusiasm that we ended up hiring one of them, Mustafa, in a study job. So now he is helping us with some artificial intelligence projects. That’s also pretty great, ” Mads Andresen says smiling.

Detecting foreign elements in laundry articles – White Paper

Dive deeper into the topic of the detection of foreign elements in laundry articles and the difficulties regarding this task with Inwatec’s first white paper.

The paper helps in understanding the complex issue by pointing out challenges based on research findings within technology and current market development. In the end, it presents an innovative solution, developed by Inwatec, which removes the pain points within soiled side handling and guarantees a highly efficient and accurate workflow.

View and download the white paper here:

 

From outer space to the laundry universe – our new software developer Jeppe

At the beginning of November, Jeppe Salomon Hvidkjær Clausen joined our team to support our project department in software engineering.

“So far I like it a lot. I have been received nicely by everyone and the place appears to have a good ‘young’ vibe to it.”

Before Jeppe started at Inwatec, he has been working as a software developer at Danish aerospace company (DAC) for almost four years.

Jeppe is 28 years old and lives in Tårup, close to Nyborg, together with his wife Christina and their kids Magnus and Valdemar. Most of Jeppe’s spare time is dedicated to being with his family and his sons of 3 years and 11 months. Besides meeting with friends, he also enjoys doing gardening and maintenance works at his house. In the winter season, Jeppe occasionally goes hunting.

Already during his education in electrical engineering with a specialization on embedded software development, Jeppe took a 6-months-internship period to gather relevant practical experience. At the internship, Jeppe was programming microcontrollers for Falck Schmidt defense systems’ masts and designed electrical schematics and PCB’s.

Developing equipment for manned space flights

After finishing his degree, Jeppe started at DAC with a focus on embedded software development. He has been involved in all aspects of the development cycle: participating in designing systems, implementation, and finally the actual in-field-usage of the applications and hardware.

“At DAC, they make medical and training equipment for manned space flights,” explains Jeppe. “One of the bigger projects I have participated in was developing the prototype for their new rather advanced training equipment combining multiple exercises capabilities in a relatively small form factor.”

This equipment Jeppe worked on will soon be tested by ESA and NASA on the International Space Station (ISS) for future use on the ‘International Lunar Orbital Platform’ that is planned to be established in the orbit around the Moon. Read more about the project Jeppe worked on at DAC here.

Besides the hardware development, DAC also acts as one of the decentralized control centers for the space station. Jeppe participated in many live orbit sessions where the crew was using DAC’s equipment. Another big part of his previous job was focused on documentation and performing lab tests of the software development there.

New challenges at Inwatec

Now, with his new job at Inwatec, Jeppe is diving into a new universe: the industrial laundry industry. With his first project, he is directly getting started on a double sorting line for a large laundry in Italy:

“I’m primarily going to be focusing on the automation software (PLC programming). The setup consists of two identical lines having an LF and HF RFID reader, an X-ray machine, a reject line, and 6 Silos, meaning that this machine is HUGE! Which I think is kinda cool,” explains Jeppe.

Jeppe enjoys that at Inwatec, processes are fast, as everybody is free in testing new approaches without having to go through extensive approval procedures and documentation. Also, he points out that he very much likes Inwatec’s practical approach to solving basic needs for a company by using mostly cloud-based solutions.

“Currently, I am looking forward to taking the code I am working on and putting it on the machines in the workshop. A small section is being set up at this moment in the workshop. And I know from experience that getting to know how a system works is just so much easier when you have the machines right there to play with. The next thing I am excited for is going to Italy and actually setting my up my first machine together with some of the other “nerds” and the craziest thing is that it is in just about 3 months! I have a steep learning curve and many lines of code ahead of me”, Jeppe smiles.

Welcome to the Laundrynerds, Jeppe. We are glad to have you in our team!


Are you ready for new challenges as well? Check out our open positions here.

Private customers subscribe to clothing in China

As technology evolves, business opportunities arise for industrial laundries.

An example of the development is found a mere two-hour drive outside of Shanghai in the city of Nantong, where Fornet Laundry Service has a production facility for an unusual customer who runs an internet clothing rental service.

The rental company addresses private customers who can choose which clothes they want to wear in the coming days with an internet-based subscription solution. When the garments need to be washed, they are returned to the rental company, and then the customer can choose another dress, a different pair of other trousers, or something else.

Production Manager at Fornet, Shanghai

 

To make the solution profitable and to keep the stock as low as possible, the returned items must be registered, quality assured, sorted, washed and pressed, so everything is ready for the next customer who has ordered it.

This is where Fornet Laundry Services comes into the picture, and in order to secure a fully integrated process the Fornet laundry is located in a building between two warehouses of the rental company.

Simple workstations provide high quality

Among the early investments was an Inwatec RFID sorting system that ensures that the clothes are sorted correctly before washing.

“It is a fascinating challenge when we have to handle so many different types of clothes. We have over 30,000 different garments in the database, and we have them mapped with different sorting logic, so we separate items for dry cleaning and get the right colors and textile types in the right washing machines,” explains Lei Pai, Manager at Fornet.

In the unpacking area, the operator unpacks the returned parcel, checks for defects and wear, scans the barcode to update the system, and then attaches the RFID chip with a rubber band. The chip and barcode are then paired in the system database and that way all relevant data on the individual piece of clothing is preserved and processed correctly.

Fornet is using HF-RFID chips, as it is the most suitable in terms of workstations spacing to avoid reading the wrong chip as it could happen with UHF.

Inwatec’s Software Engineer Tudor at the installation

“The customer has focused on keeping the workstations as ergonomic as possible, and also the HF-RFID solution made it economically viable to put scanners up at all tables in the unpacking department. That way everything is checked, scanned and marked correctly when the units are put on the conveyor belt that leads to the sorting for further processing, and we can maintain high production capacity without sacrificing quality,” Lei Pai states further.

 

Manual handling with an automatic twist

The initial quality control is carried out by employees, who will, among other things, handle damaged garments. There are no plans to do alternate that part of the setup, but when it comes to the rest of the process, Fornet will automate as much as possible.

“Sorting is very labour intensive, so it’s a big win that we can handle it automatically. We have 13 bins with static sorting to ensure that the same type of garments ends in the same place. If we move the positions we risk more human errors,” says Lei Pai, who in early September had a trouble-free grand opening of the laundry with a lot of interested guests.

“We have launched production with an existing inventory, where all garments were not mapped optimally in relation to how it should be washed. However, we are well prepared to adjust that on the run and with all the new garments that come in, we know how to get all parameters correctly set up, and our logic in the sorting can also be optimised accordingly,” Lei Pai tells.

 

Good service and openness

Fornet Laundry Services operates several laundries around China, and since the company previously purchased a larger Inwatec system with x-ray and RFID sorting to a department in Shanghai, there was no hesitation in sending a new order to Denmark when the project in Nantong was to be implemented:

“We were in Denmark to see a system in a hospital, and we realised that it was a great idea for the laundry in Shanghai. The solution has worked as we wanted, and we also had an excellent dialogue about this project too,” says Lei Pai, stressing that the distance from Nantong to Inwatec in Odense is irrelevant.

“When we need support for the technology or software, it’s always on time, and we were completely confident in choosing Inwatec again. There was no doubt,” says Lei Pai.


Full speed at EXPOdetergo: 15.4 tons passed the X-ray

Inwatec’s booth in the morning – the lull before the storm

Thank you for the massive attention at Inwatec’s stand at EXPOdetergo in Milan! It was overwhelming.

Fortunately, this time our designers had created an infinite loop, where some conveyors made sure that both the separator and the x-ray scanner were fully employed without our help.

We experienced a great interest in the Robot Separator

During the four days, the system was running non-stop, and we are proud to tell that FRIGG the robot and ODIN the X-ray scanner in average separated and scanned for unwanted items in the pockets on 1,600 pieces of garments per hour during the exhibition, resulting in an entirely automated production volume of 15.4 tons!

It gave us time to talk to all the visitors without having to stop and re-load laundry into the system.

The X-ray machine automatically detects foreign items such as pens, needles, and similar.

Apart from showcasing our soiled site sorting setup, we also could introduce our new TYPHOON mat roller together with the VORTEX.

We received a lot of great questions and contacts in Milan, and everyone at the office and at the workshop is working to get the full pressure to follow up on the inquiries.

If there was anything you forgot to ask in Milan or if you were not there, you can always call or write to us!

 

Watch a short video of the Robot Separator at the fair: