A team at City of Glasgow College are working on a device that could revolutionise how small workplaces, such as textile factories, operate in the future 

IN THE textile factories of the not-too-distant future breakthrough technologies will help boost the UK’s place at the forefront of the industry.

One such technology is being pioneered by City of Glasgow College, where the STEM and Innovation team is working on a device that could revolutionise small factory working.

The team has received Interface Innovation Voucher funding for the project, a partnership with Glasgow-based company BeYonder, who specialise in prototyping, sampling, small batch and bespoke manufacturing for independent product design engineers, fashion designers and other end users of high-quality textile-based items.

The company helps early-stage start-ups and growing businesses of any age take their own designs from initial concept to finished product. Director David Scott explains: "Seeking new technological innovation for our own near-future expansion into volume manufacturing in Scotland, we have just been gifted a huge leap forward with this Interface Innovation Voucher. 


The autonomous support vehicle, or ‘rover’, has been developed at City of Glasgow College


“The project team at City of Glasgow College has developed a prototype of the autonomous control and navigation systems that will sit at the heart of the Cordless Modular Workstation we envision."

The autonomous support vehicle, or ‘rover’, has been developed at City of Glasgow College initially for a sewing machine factory, where it can locate and travel to different locations, identified by IR beacons, whilst employing object detection to avoid collisions.

The rover can be programmed using different wireless technologies and commands can be given through an Android app. It has been designed by Christian Hammond, City of Glasgow College lecturer in electrical, auto and digital technology. “The rover is essentially a small table on wheels, programmed to move around the factory floor,” he explains.

“If you consider a standard factory layout, which includes people working at different benches with small spaces in between, each bench would have an ‘address’ that the rover would then be programmed to recognise.

“So if you require a piece of equipment, or a repair, the rover will work like an in-home delivery robot – it will work out where you are and move towards you without crashing into any obstacles.”

Mr Hammond adds: “You receive what you need safely and without having to leave your bench – so there is no disruption to the workflow. For example, needles breaking is a particular issue in a sewing machine factory, and there is considerable downtime required in the repair. With the rover, a new machine can be delivered and the old one taken away for repair quickly, without loss of working time.”

Joe Mulholland, City of Glasgow’s Associate Dean (Electrical, Auto and Digital Technology)  said the partnership with BeYonder was a fantastic opportunity for the college.

“As far as we know, with the exception of the automotive industry, this has not been done anywhere else,” he explains. 

“We have taken great care to future-proof the device, making it easy to integrate further technologies when needed - such as, for example, voice recognition software in place of physically inputting details into an app. The aim is to make it as easy as possible for the user.


Christian Hammond lecturer in electrical, auto and digital technology


“What is particularly exciting for the college is that our electronics students can work on this right now – taking hardware and software that we have designed and looking at ways to enhance it. That really is a fantastic opportunity for them.”

Mr Hammond agrees: “It is a great example of a real-life project at the cutting edge of innovation, happening in industry right now.

“The Innovation grant is a great help in getting projects off the ground – we are currently working on another project looking at key safety, which will have many benefits for older people.”

Mr Mulholland adds: “As a college, we have to take the lead from industry to ensure our students are benefiting from relevant knowledge and current thinking.

“Our partnership with BeYonder has been excellent and while the rover will undoubtedly have a huge impact on the textile industry in the first instance, it also has the potential to work in any small factory environment.”