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April 23, 2024

ACWA Robotics Drives Engineering Innovation with Ansys and AWS Startup Programs

In water supply management, efficient and accurate pipeline inspection is important in detecting issues such as blockages, corrosion, or leaks. Sustainable and cost-effective solutions are vital to maintaining the infrastructure of a town or city.          

To address these problems, ACWA Robotics, a French-based startup company located in Corsica and Aix-en-Provence, France, created the Pathfinder, the first autonomous robot solution that addresses critical water supply challenges. It can reduce costs and environmental impact in water supply systems. The startup, founded in 2017 by Jean-François Rossi and Jean-François Guiderdoni, was highlighted at CES 2023 and in a recent case study for its innovative solution to a widespread problem.

The Pathfinder can assess pipeline condition in real time by using advanced robotic technology. Water supply authorities can use the Pathfinder to navigate through pipelines and address potential problems before they occur, which prevents service disruptions and minimizes water loss. The Pathfinder's autonomous inspection capabilities facilitate efficient and cost-effective pipeline maintenance.

Pathfinder rendering

ACWA Robotics’ autonomous Pathfinder robot

Rapidly Innovating with Ansys

Ansys Discovery, a rapid design exploration software, was pivotal in the development of ACWA Robotics’ Pathfinder technology. It was used to create 3D models of its robotic solution. Heavy computational fluid dynamic (CFD) simulation files were sent to Ansys Fluent using Ansys Gateway powered by AWS. Fluent was used to inform the Pathfinder’s design to meet strict criteria and help engineers understand how the robot would behave under changing water speeds, pressures, and flow. These tests had to be modeled digitally via Ansys software, as the team could not reproduce them in a physical environment.

With support from 4CAD Group, a French-based Ansys Elite Channel Partner, ACWA Robotics used the cloud to run their complex CFD simulations in a high-performance computing (HPC) environment. This removed hardware limitations while speeding up the process. “To do it the best way, we have to use the best tools to help us,” says Robin Persiaux, a mechanical engineer at ACWA Robotics.

Pathfinder Discovery simulation
Pathfinder in use

ACWA Robotics team members conduct simulations by leveraging Ansys Gateway powered by AWS (left) and test the resulting Pathfinder robot in situ (right).

“We are going to send this robot inside the water supply networks of our customers, so there's a lot of trust element there,” says Jean François Guiderdoni, cofounder and business development director of the French startup. “And for trust, you need resilience, security, and safety. And the testing and simulation bring us an additional layer of resilience and safety, making sure we reduce the risk of failure inside a mission. And for us, having some failure in the first missions with the customers would make it extremely difficult to go back to them. So, it's essential that we achieve that.

Pathfinder Fluent simulation

Robin Persiaux, mechanical engineer at ACWA Robotics, explains the design phase.

“We reduce the time we are taking for testing by reducing the number of physical tests and improving them. Cloud computing is a must-have. We wouldn't be probably able to use Ansys, or it would be very complicated, if we didn't have the cloud computing approach because it gives us a reduction of the economies of scale.”

The Ansys Startup Program provides ACWA Robotics with industry-leading simulation tools and support at an affordable price. With resources from the AWS (Amazon Web Services) Startup program, engineers get almost unlimited access to simulations and on-demand cores to scale up and down very quickly. 

ACWA Ansys Gateway

With support from the Ansys and AWS startup programs, the team utilized the cloud to launch virtual machine and HPC clusters.

“We can run all the simulations we want because we don't really have limits in the cloud, as we have all the power we need. We just launch a bigger virtual machine if we need a bigger one. All these elements put together allow us to have complete access to powerful software that leads us to optimizing our robot and being able to better understand its behavior,” Persiaux says.

ACWA pipeline

ACWA Robotics’ autonomous robot technology is creating easier and more cost-effective ways of monitoring water pipe functionality.

Looking Toward the Future

ACWA Robotics faces a bright future with the important mission of ensuring that the challenge of water pipe inspection is addressed by its autonomous robot. The technical challenge of eliminating leaks is under control by this growing startup. ACWA Robotics quickly understood that to design great products, it's important to spend a lot of time on design and research and development (R&D) to boost innovation. Thanks to startup programs from Ansys and AWS, the team was able to greatly benefit from Ansys technologies and AWS's latest hardware on the cloud, as well as best-in-class support provided by 4CAD Group.

Watch the testimonial video from ACWA Robotics. 

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