An autonomous grit-blasting system for steel bridge maintenance developed at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) in partnership with the Roads and Maritime Services, NSW, Australia (RMS) will be promoted by UniQuest at the 2012 World Steel Bridge Symposium.

Held in Dallas, Texas, from 18-20 April, the annual event attracts more than 3,500 steel bridge asset owners, engineers, fabricators and contractors from the United States and around the world.

UTS commercialisation partner UniQuest is working closely with the UTS research team from the Centre for Autonomous Systems and RMS to develop the SABRETM technology as a commercial venture in Australia and overseas.

UniQuest Manager of Innovation & Commercial Development at UTS, Martin Lloyd, said the SABRETM  system is the outcome of a six-year research partnership between UTS and RMS, supported by an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant.

“It’s the first system of its kind capable of autonomously sensing and mapping a steel bridge environment, and then planning a suitable collision-free grit-blasting pathway, all with the human operation outside of the blasting zone” said Mr Lloyd.

“Steel bridges are a major part of any city or region’s infrastructure, but in order to remain functional they need regular maintenance. Removing old paint and rust requires heavy duty grit-blasting, which is a fatiguing and potentially hazardous task for workers.  SABRETM has been developed as a sophisticated tool to reduce exposure risks for the grit-blasting operators,” Mr Lloyd explained.

Assisting workers to do the difficult, hazardous and laborious grit-blasting task reduces the risk of injury for workers those exposed to heavy equipment, fine dust and paint particles, and dangerous blast streams. Safety for the operator is also improved as the system can be supervised and interacted with remotely, outside of the containment area.

“RMS’ attitude towards Work Health and Safety is safety first, work second. The system provides a safer working environment by reducing the time our ‘suited up’ operators have to spend in the grit blasting environment,” said Phil Brooks, RMS Technology Development Manager.

The SABRETM system is also able to perform work on areas that are difficult for humans to reach, such as corners, upper beams, ceilings and roofs, without additional scaffolding.

Investors and industry partners with an interest in large infrastructure maintenance are encouraged to learn more about the innovation’s potential whilst attending the Symposium.

“The SABRETM technology is an excellent example of how collaborative research and development between universities and industry can lead to significant innovations and solutions to real-world challenges,” said UniQuest Managing Director, David Henderson.

“The SABRETM technology aims to have a significant health, safety and economic impact, and the World Steel Bridge Symposium presents a unique opportunity to promote it in the US, where there are more than 200,000 steel bridges that need regular maintenance.”

Prospective investors and industry partners not planning to attend the Symposium can still register their interest in the technology by contacting Martin Lloyd directly on +61 2 9514 2370 or

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