Press Release

NSK Autonomous Transport Assist Robot Selected for Industrial DX Program

  • Medication carts with NSK Transport Assist Robot autonomously move and navigate hospital environments
  • Sensors on the robot scan each hospital floor in real time and optimize task order/travel route
  • Turnkey solution that attaches to existing carts, stretchers, and other equipment can reduce costs, accelerate implementation of robot-assisted work in medical application

NSK has been selected for the “Fiscal 2023 Kanagawa Prefecture Industrial Digital Transformation Project Program” for the development of a transport assist robot with autonomous driving. As part of the program, NSK's autonomous Transport Assist Robot will be field tested on medication carts at a hospital in Kanagawa Prefecture from July 2023 to February 2024, and is scheduled to be put into full operation at the facility from March 2025.

Accelerating implementation of robot-assisted work in medical applications
Accelerating implementation of robot-assisted work in medical applications

The current environment surrounding the medical industry is at a major turning point, including governments mandating reforms of the way doctors work and a declining workforce. However, at present, many medical facilities are not equipped with robots.

The introduction of robots in medical facilities can involve significant costs and effort, sometimes even requiring that a facility be rebuilt from the ground up to secure the space and conditions required for medical robots. This has hindered the spread of robotics in medical facilities.

NSK has developed a solution that can keep costs low and speed implementation time. NSK's Transport Assist Robot now features autonomous navigation, and can be attached to existing carts. The robot's various sensors enable it to detect people and objects and optimize path planning appropriately.

The arrangement of objects in medical facilities changes from moment to moment, as medical equipment is frequently moved due to sudden changes in a patient's condition, making autonomous navigation a challenge. In the program, NSK will field test the robot and further enhance its capabilities to effectively navigate, contributing to reducing overall costs and robot transformation of medical facilities.

Going forward, NSK aims to commercialize the robot platform in the medical industry by 2026 as a data business that utilizes transport-assist robots.

NSK is working to expand new products and business areas under its mid-term management plan, MTP2026, which calls for “Growth with Profitability,” and aims to provide new value to society by combining tribology and digital technologies cultivated over 100 years to both contribute to solving social issues and achieve sustainable growth as a company.