ASTRI and TDK/SAE’s Award-Winning Partnership

A robotic vehicle equipped with vision and depth sensors as well as a manipulator conducts autonomous navigation, parks itself and picks up items round-the-clock on a factory floor without humans.
This is the Collaborative Mobile Manipulator (CMM), for which ASTRI and TDK/SAE Magnetics (Hong Kong) Limited (SAE) won the Equipment and Machinery Design prize at the prestigious Hong Kong Awards for Industries in 2018.

Hong Kong Awards for Industries 2018

With the support of the Hong Kong government’s
Innovation and Technology Fund (ITF), the CMM was created for an industrial magnetic head clean room, an innovative design supporting flexible material logistics and exchange, that has been in operation on a TDK/SAE factory floor in mainland China since late 2017.

But the story of the successful partnership between ASTRI and TDK/SAE, one of the world's leading manufacturers of magnetic recording heads for hard disk drives, began years before.

In December 2015, the organisations joined forces to establish the ASTRI-SAE R&D Centre to capitalise on each other’s unique capabilities – such as ASTRI’s expertise in applied research of robotics, machine learning and data analysis; and TDK/SAE’s strengths in manufacturing and engineering – to focus on Smart Factory innovations.

Since then, ASTRI and TDK/SAE have embarked on various collaborations, including the CMM, which deployed the
concepts of digital and physical development twins to enable concurrent system design, simulation,
implementation and testing by engineers in Hong Kong and mainland China. This distinctive collaborative approach resulted in significant cost and time reductions in the
engineering life cycle while accomplishing design objectives.

Other ITF-funded projects include the Manufacturing
Execution System (MES), which has allowed TDK/SAE to
automatically analyse and utilise previously unused IoT data, and an Automated Inspection System with Deep Learning for enhancing the efficiency of inspection processes. Both of these projects have greatly lowered costs and improved
operations, as well as production output.

As the two companies continue to explore new ventures together, TDK/SAE’s CEO and Chairman Dr. Hong Tian says: “I don’t mind spending money and resources for development, but sometime down the road there must be deliverables. And that’s why all this gives me the confidence to support ASTRI and their projects.”