Atkins and COVVI to collaborate on robotic hand for nuclear sector

Atkins and COVVI, a Leeds headquartered prosthetic hand developer, are to develop a robotic solution that delivers near-human dexterity for use in nuclear environments.

Building on Atkins’ patented work to deploy collaborative robots in the nuclear sector, the two firms will adapt COVVI’s bionic hand, which was originally developed for people with an upper limb difference. The hand, an end effector, will be attached to a robotic arm and enable workers to perform dangerous manipulations remotely, even when a high level of dexterity is required.

The product will be integrated into Atkins’ collaborative robotic solutions in the nuclear sector, including its use in glovebox operations to handle nuclear materials and waste. According to Atkins, teleoperation will reduce the presence of humans in hazardous areas and enable glovebox operations to continue over longer periods of time.


In a statement, Sam Stephens, head of digital, nuclear at Atkins' parent company SNC-Lavalin, said, “Robotics hold huge potential for the nuclear sector and we expect their use to become increasingly common over the coming decade as the industry seeks to improve safety, increase efficiency and address increasing skills shortages.

“Working with COVVI to reconfigure their bionic hand for teleoperation combines our knowledge of nuclear, digital and robotics capabilities with COVVI’s expertise and world-leading prosthetics. It’s an example of how collaboration is crucial to help accelerate innovation and bring forward new solutions that address some of the sector’s biggest challenges swiftly and cost-effectively. The new robotic hand has the potential to reduce risk and improve productivity for the nuclear operators that we work in partnership with around the world, and we look forward to seeing it deliver results soon.”

The two firms have been working together for the last six months to develop the integration between the robotic hand and collaborative robots such as Kinova’s Gen3 arm that Atkins uses to work in gloveboxes. Atkins is also developing a digital twin to rehearse and pre-plan glovebox activity.