Engineering innovation solves the problem by eliminating the problem

Sorin Dinu and Mihai Dinu have 15 years of experience on sewerage project work sites in their native Romania and beyond.

So, they know what it’s like to work in a 3-meter-deep trench. And what they learned is that the best way to improve working in a 3-meter-wide trench is to not work in a 3-meter-wide trench at all anymore.

They invented Roboterr, a small, stainless-steel robot that performs all the tasks essential to building sewerage systems in the trench, while the human controls the work comfortably from the surface above.

“Roboterr Romania is an evolution and a revolution in the field of sewerage construction, from the worker inside the trench with a shovel, to the surface with a remote control,” said Sorin Dinu, inventor and director of Roboterr.

“We developed this solution as a response to the difficulties we met in our day-to-day activities on the worksite. We are contractors who built something so we could do our work more easily. And it had so much potential that we made it into a professional technology with market exclusivity, in the basis of the patent.”

ASCE recognized Roboterr with the Innovation Contest Award (and $5,000 prize) at the 2020 ASCE Innovation Contest during the ASCE 2020 Convention in October.

Developed as part of the ASCE Grand Challenge, the ASCE Innovation Contest serves as a springboard for forward-looking infrastructure ideas. In its fifth year, the contest invited finalists to showcase their innovations before an international audience through a virtual competition during the Convention.

ASCE recognized Roboterr and its founders, Sorin Dinu and Mihai Dinu, with the Innovation Contest Award (and $5,000 prize) at the 2020 ASCE Innovation Contest during the ASCE 2020 Convention in October. PHOTO: Sorin Dinu

Roboterr levels the sand bed in the sewerage trench within a centimeter-precision; it mounts the sewer pipes together and levels the sand again over the pipes. The engineer can operate the robot manually with a remote control or program it to function automatically. The robot is built to withstand possible trench collapses and has an operation cost of just one euro per day.

This all means potentially much safer work environments, thinner trenches, less excavation, and, ultimately, less expensive projects with higher quality work.

“So many domains are going from manual to automatic,” said Mihai Dinu, who leads marketing and design for Roboterr. “Roboterr changes the way we build. We can do it much more rapidly. We are transitioning from the worker inside the trench to the worker with a remote control.”

Throughout the research and implementation phase, the Roboterr team used the technology to build 30 kilometers of functional sewerage networks in Romania. Roboterr is internationally patented, including in the United States and Europe.

“We have an open discussion with two European firms with which we will collaborate to implement this technology in a professional manner in European sewerage projects,” Sorin Dinu said. “Through the exposure in this contest with ASCE, we hope to find collaborators to implement this technology in the U.S. in the near future.”

Learn more about Roboterr.

Read more about the 2020 ASCE Innovation Contest winners: https://source.asce.org/tag/innovation-contest/

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