James Klassen, CTO of Genesis Robotics of Langley, with an articulated robot arm. He hopes new actuators made by Genesis will allow robotic devices to be cheaper, faster, and safer for humans. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance)

Lower Mainland firm wants to revolutionize robotics

A new technology could make robots cheaper, faster, and better, said the firm’s CTO.

Behind the walls of an unassuming industrial building in Langley, a local firm is working to revolutionize robotics.

“We’ve finally solved a 50-year-old problem in robotics,” said James Klassen, the chief technical officer and one of the founders of Genesis Robotics.

Genesis is focused on actuators – the parts of the robot that create movement, allowing mechanical arms and legs to flex and swing.

Traditionally, actuators required both an electric motor for power, and a gearbox to control that power and provide sufficient torque.

“The problem with the gearbox is it’s heavy, and it’s expensive,” said Klassen.

It can also cause the “herky-jerky” movement that is typical of older models of robots.

After two years of work, the engineers at Genesis have come up with a new type of electric actuator – they’ve dubbed it the LiveDrive – that does away with the gearbox entirely. It has three times higher torque-to-weight-ratio compared to other similar motors.

That means it can be smaller, lighter, and in many ways, safer than older actuators for robots, said Klassen.

Genesis didn’t start as a robotics company.

As Genesis Advanced Technology, Klassen and CEO Michael Gibney, another founder, tackled technological problems for other firms, building things like pumps and suspension systems.

One area they worked in was medical robotic devices, and they decided to focus on trying to create an improved actuator.

They suspected it was possible, but the choice was a leap of faith.

“We set out with the confidence that we were going to make a discovery,” said Klassen.

A combination of “eureka!” moments and a lot of work did more than that.

“We actually made three major discoveries,” said Klassen.

One of those includes a new way of integrating the magnets into the electromagnetic motors that helps shrink their size.

The second two were necessities of the first – creating a rigid enough motor to withstand the forces generated, and a way of dissipating the heat of the motors.

It will be a year or two before LiveDrive components start showing up in robots, but Klassen said the company expects they will make an impact.

“We expect a number of applications that aren’t possible with present technology,” he said.

One of the big differences will be in getting industrial robots to interact with humans.

Many industrial robots currently live in “cages,” either literal metal enclosures or behind safety markings. That’s because a large industrial robot can’t stop if it encounters a squishy human while swinging its arm.

Klassen said the LiveDrive allows better “backdrive ability,” which is the ability to stop instantly if the robot senses it has hit an obstruction – whether another piece of equipment, or one of those fragile human beings.

Because of their precision, strength, and lightness, helping humans is one of the ways the company would like to use the LiveDrive motors.

They’re considering using the machines to create robots such as mobility aids, even exoskeletons, for people with limited mobility.

With more than 60 employees in Langley right now, the company has been expanding rapidly.

They also recently entered a new deal with a huge American firm.

KCTG, the industrial arm of Koch Industries, has bought a controlling investment in Genesis Robotics.

But Klassen said the team won’t be moving out of town.

They’ll be staying here and using the investment to keep working on bringing their device to market in practical commercial applications.

Members of the Genesis team recently returned from the Hannover Messe, a major industrial trade fair, in Germany.

Just Posted

Chilliwack firefighters douse Yarrow shed fire

No one injured in the Tuesday afternoon blaze

Chilliwack gymnast to compete in Pan American Championships

Canadian national teamer Zachary Clay travels to Peru in September for international competition.

Harv Westeringh announces run for Chilliwack council

The local realtor/builder has strong interest in municipal issues and fiscal responsibility

Night patrol on Chilliwack waters leads DFO to seize 48 sockeye and harbour seal from poachers

Charges pending after two poachers arrested for fishing at night

Highway 7 down to one-lane alternating as crews fight Mt. Hicks wildfire

150-hectare blaze prompted closure of a provincial park

Average Canadian family spends 43% of income on taxes: study

Fraser Institute’s consumer report shows taxes accounting for larger chunk of income each year

Women-owned businesses generate $68,000 less revenue than men’s: survey

When Dionne Laslo-Baker sought a bank loan to expand her burgeoning organic popsicle and freezies business in 2014, she was “shocked” by the feedback she received from one of the bankers.

Hedley frontman’s alleged sex offences case returns to court

Jacob Hoggard faces three sexual assault-related charges will return to a Toronto courtroom this morning.

Climate change likely to cause more sewage leaks, says environment minister

More than one hundred municipal wastewater systems did not report how much raw sewage overflowed from their pipes in 2017.

Priests molested 1,000 children in Pennsylvania, report says

The “real number” of abused children and abusive priests might be higher since some secret church records were lost and some victims never came forward.

Defiant as Trump rages, Omarosa says she won’t be silenced

Manigault Newman declared she will not be silenced by President Donald Trump, remaining defiant as her public feud with her former boss shifted from a war of words to a possible legal battle.

Death toll hits 39 in Italy bridge collapse; blame begins

The collapse of the Morandi Bridge sent dozens of cars and three trucks plunging as much as 45 metres (150 feet) to the ground Tuesday.

RCMP to search for body after man drowns in B.C.’s Buntzen Lake

Officers and fire crews responded but the man from the Lower Mainland is believed to have drowned.

Police chiefs call for stricter controls on pill presses to fight opioids

Canada’s police chiefs are urging Ottawa to beef up its fight against the opioid scourge by closely vetting people who import pill presses

Most Read