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Two Rembrandts will soon be like new thanks to Systec’s know-how

The erasing robot found great interest by the press

Half of his working hours Dr. Ryszard Moroz spends bent over valuable old paintings or historical prints, an eraser in his hand. The art restaurateur is responsible for eliminating dirt and damaging bacteria from the exhibits at the Westphalian State Museum for Art and Cultural History, so that visitors to the museum’s exhibition galleries at the cathedral square in Muenster, Germany, can continue to enjoy them there. A never-ending job, for 120,000 pages in the exhibition hall’s archives are still waiting on expert cleaning.

Even when he was studying – he wrote his master’s thesis about the so-called “dry-cleaning“ of artwork – the scientist was annoyed that there was no device available to relieve him of such time-consuming labor. After all, didn’t he have other, more important things to do than spend so many hours of his time on such clean-up work?

Systec sponsors the controller and motor for an erasing robot

Dr. Moroz’ frustrations are about over now! On his initiative, a trio of participants in the technical training program for tool and die makers at the Hans Boeckler School developed during their final exams a robot to perform such erasures. And Jan Hallek, Guido Madsack and Jürgen Reinker had developed a true world novelty! “This has led to a result which can subsequently be put into standard production,” Dr. Hermann Arnold, the Director of the State Museum said with delight when presenting the innovation on February 10. For the three developers, the results were equally exciting. They were not only concerned with the question whether their erasing robot would perform as expected on its first public appearance. At the same time, their presentation to the press gathered there was a major part of their final examination: the future technicians’ teachers were also present in the hall.

The museum’s director voiced words of thanks for the Muenster company Systec GmbH: “I would like to express my sincere thanks to the Systec company and Mr. Schoeler.” Systec, a controller specialist located in the technology park in near-by Roxel, had earlier presented the development team with a free “Xemo R3 42“ controller and stepping motor “PK 268“ for the project.

Additional companies and a museum publication were also among the project’s sponsors. Jan Hallek had discovered Systec as an appropriate cooperative partner through his contacts at the Steinfurt branch of the Technical University in Muenster, where other projects had previously been conducted in cooperation with the company.


Klaus-Gerd Schoeler supported the project of the young technicians

On target after more than 1000 hours of work

Soon a three-axes motion system will start performing its fully automated restoring service in the workshops of the Westphalian Museum for Art and Cultural History. The unit weighs 12 kilograms, has a length of 1.10 meters, and can clean a surface of up to 800 by 600 centimeters fully automatically. When in operation, only the non-printed areas of the pages as well as the reverse sides will be cleaned by the unit itself. Cleaning of the sensitive areas with the actual images will be done manually. This will be carried out by an erasing stylus attached to an upright axis which will move across the surface of the selected object. Two additional horizontal tracks make it possible for the stylus to be moved by motor to any point of the object. After the dimensions of the object’s length and width have been entered into the controller module, the apparatus then moves back and forth, line by line, across the object, removing the harmful dirt. Jan Hallek, who constructed the erasing robot, estimates that it will take the device about half an hour to finish an object the size of a DIN A4 page. With a wink of his eye, he added: “It’s even easier than writing a text message!” This new device will mean an immense reduction of labor for Dr. Moroz, for only the outside borders of the object must be finished by hand. The danger of those objects tearing is too great to run the risk of treating them mechanically.

The young tinkers on the project received competent support from Klaus-Gerd Schoeler and Birgit Burdinski of the Systec Research and Development Department. On Thursday, February 9, construction of the device was completed at the Systec location. Jan Hallek described the excitement of that moment. “In August, 2005, we began working on the erasure robot.“ „We invested more than 1000 hours of work in its construction.“ Dr. Moroz added. He had followed the technical discussions between Hallek and the Systec specialists with great interest. One of the challenges, for example, had been to find the right length for the initial reference run in order to guarantee the correct starting position of the system. In another case, minor adjustments needed to be made to the controller’s “MotionBasic“ software which had been pre-configured by Birgit Burdinski.


The erasing robot at work

Systec’s complete system “DriveSets“ served as the model

Despite all the difficulties, everyone involved was certain that the erasing robot would function properly in the end. After all, earlier tests with a Systec “DriveSet M333“ had proved that Dr. Moroz’ idea could be realized. Systec is a Westphalian mechatronic specialist, and „DriveSets“ are Systec’s top-of-the-line product. These are run-ready positioning systems for automating motion tasks and – in contrast to other systems – do not have to undergo extensive – and expensive – project engineering. They have already undergone all necessary  testing in the Systec laboratories, are very versatile, and are available in a wide variety of models. The appropriate DriveSet for a specific application can be easily determined by a graphic selection wizard at Systec’s website

In this case, the „DriveSet M333“ was the system which met Dr. Moroz’ requirements. The device with the above-mentioned erasing stylus – it has a surface of only 20 square millimeters – may not apply the stylus to the surface of the painting or document being restored with more than 60 grams of pressure. Its average trajectory speed of 0.4 meters per second is quite adequate and the precision category of 0.1 millimeters fully provides the precision needed.

Based on their experiences with DriveSets, the Hans Boeckler students then constructed their own system, determined the proper linear axes, wiring circuits and all the other necessary elements, and coordinated them. This unique process is normally not necessary with the “Plug & Play“ DriveSets, because it has already been completed during the preceding product development. The fine tuning is done at Systec during final construction. As a result, the DriveSets do not experience the usual “growing pains“ of such systems. When the final product is delivered, everything works!

Dr. Ryszard Moroz is already looking forward to working with his new “assistant,“ and the innovative robot with its know-how from Muenster can anticipate a fascinating assignment, for the inventory of the Westphalian State Museum for Art and Cultural History includes two paintings by Rembrandt. “They have not yet been restored,“ the restaurateur points out with obvious pleasure at the thought of his new robot quietly humming to itself as it restores the two magnificent Dutch paintings.