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Robot maker returns to Sault to set up shop.

An industrial robot designer-turned-businessman has returned to the Sault to set up a high-tech robotics and software company.

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Armed with some innovative proprietary technology, budding young entrepreneur Blaine Wallace designs, engineers and installs automated systems using high-performance robots that grind and polish rings for the jewelry industry.

After working for a now-closed ring polishing company in Buffalo, the 32-year-old graduate of Lake Superior State University's robotics program acquired the robotic-based systems and PC-based software he originally designed and assembled, and relocated back to the Sault after Christmas to form his own company, Superior Robotics.

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The technology takes raw jewelry, fresh from the casting mold, and grinds off the excess metal using robotic systems similar to those used in the automotive industry.

Traditionally, jewelry polishing and finishing is carried out manually, with a skilled craftsmen sitting behind a grinding wheel for hours on end.

"It's a dirty job," says Wallace. Trainees need two months of instruction to obtain proficiency. The turnover rate is high and repetitive strain injuries are common. That is why companies are eager to explore automated alternatives.

"With this you can program a ring style within a half hour and it will produce a high quality ring every time."

With intuitive software, his R-100 robot displays a deft touch with airplane-like yaw, pitch and roll commands, and accuracy of up to 0.4 of a millimetre.

"The user doesn't have to know how to use the robot to run the system."

Though the product is specifically designed for grinding and polishing rings, Wallace says their PC-based software can be adapted for use in other industries, including palletizing, machine tending, packaging, material handling and assembly.

"It can do anything; it's just a matter of programming."

Superior Robotics Inc. will provide two versions, the R100-G, developed for grinding rings, and the R100-P, used for polishing rings.

Since his former employer closed, Wallace has sold two systems from their inventory at $125,000 (US) a piece, using the cash to start up this venture, and hopes to sell four more systems later this year.

He plans to brand the technology under his own name and showcase it at an upcoming international jewelry manufacturing trade show in Las Vegas in June.

"There is going to be a lot of international exposure there," says Wallace.

"This concept is brand new. (In Buffalo) we were the only company really involved in the jewelry industry. Because jewelry-making is such an ancient profession there is not whole lot of automation, but it really is up and coming."

Wallace says he will likely hire additional support staff in the near future to make use of the qualified labour pool from the engineering and technical programs at Lake Superior State and Sault College.

www.superiorrobotics.com

By IAN ROSS

Northern Ontario Business
COPYRIGHT 2004 Laurentian Business Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Title Annotation:Sault Ste Marie; Blaine Wallace starts new robotics company
Author:Ross, Ian
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Apr 1, 2004
Words:468
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