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Q-Bot Robots Easily Install Insulation Underneath Floors
The new system from a small English startup makes older homes warmer and more comfortable.
By Judith Pfeffer - Filed Jul 03, 2014

This illustration from Q-Bot shows how the robotic system does its work without disruption of the residents or even of their flooring.

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Robots small enough to enter under a building's floor and apply insulation from below are being developed in England, helping to decrease heat loss and increase comfort for residents while reducing heating bills. London-based Q-Bot says it hopes to "assist human labor where there are significant cost or health/safety benefits."

Current methods of applying much-needed insulation are expensive, time-consuming and annoying as they require residents to move out of the property for the duration of the work, the company says. But those days, apparently, are numbered.

"By entering the narrow space between the floorboards and the ground, Q-Bot's robots can spray insulation in a place that human workers cannot reach," the company says in a statement. "Using the platform, the operator directs the robots to perform a survey of the target area, but the robots make their own assessments about the best way to apply the required treatment to the particular location, whether insulation or another enhancement. This demonstrates the potential of Q-Bot's robotics platform to perform tasks that are too expensive, impractical or dangerous for unassisted human labor."

Q-Bot currently serves the South East, South West and Midlands of England, specializing in properties with suspended timber floors.

The robots are not available for home purchase, but they are soon to be leased to trained installers and contractors, managing director Matthew Holloway told Robotics Trends. "We have successfully run commercial trials with our lead clients and plan to launch the service fully next year … the service is around 2/3 cheaper than traditional methods."

Q-Bot's CEO, Thomas Lipinski, has been known by the London public for working toward high-quality insulation systems since at least 2009, according to The Guardian; Lipinski is also technical director of Ventive and former CTO at Green Structures.

Here are the details on how the robotic insulation process works, according to Holloway:

"Entry: Access is gained through a number of methods; removal of an air vent on the outside of the property, drilling a hole or removing a brick in a wall, or through access points from within the property, e.g. cellars, by lifting floorboards, etc. The robots are highly innovative and can fold, stretch and bend through small gaps in order to fit through relatively small access holes (core drill or standard air vent). 

"Deployment: Once inside the void, the robot deploys and then using a powerful drive mechanism explores and traverses sand, rubble, bricks, rocks and other obstacles. 

"Treatment: The robot applies insulation to the underside of the floorboards, forming an airtight barrier and adding a layer of insulation 100-150 mm thick. By applying insulation to the underside of the floorboards, the ventilation gap above the ground is maintained, allowing the ground to breathe and moisture to escape, while the floorboards remain on the warm dry side, reducing condensation and dampness, and extending their life. 

"Because the robot is inserted through an air vent on the outside wall or from within the property through an opening in the floor, this method does not involve the disruption normally associated with underfloor insulation including removing furniture and lifting floors. The insulation forms a barrier between the ground and floor, keeping the floorboards on the warm side, reducing heating bills and improving comfort.

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