Don’t Want to Descend to the Depths to Inspect a Structure? Send Square Robot

Square Robot was borne of the realization that the mid-sized oil and gas industry was underserved with automation.

Square Robot specializes in the manufacturing of industrial inspection robots. Their technology inspects pipelines, storage tanks and other similar structures. These robots navigate complex environments all while collecting data, which is used to spot potential issues before they become major problems. 

(Image: Square Robot.)

In a recent customer spotlight at 3DEXPERIENCE World, Square Robot’s chief mechanical engineer, Charles O’Connell, highlighted the common practice of inspecting above-ground storage tanks. These tanks are drained and cleaned so that a person can enter and inspect the tank. Not only is this time-consuming and costly, but it also leads to harmful waste disposal, unnecessary emissions and subjecting a person to work in confined spaces.

A traditional out-of-service inspection averages 700 high and low-risk man-hours. The down-time involved leads to a might-as-well-repair-it-now attitude: making those repairs that are not required now, but done in case they may be needed later.

Square Robot’s bots have autonomous hovering while submerged for oil and gas inspections. By using this robotic equipment, the in-service inspection time is reduced to 60 low-risk man-hours. And most importantly, nobody enters the tank.

(Image: Square Robot.)

“Quality data means quality decisions,” says O’Connell. To summarize, Square Robot focuses on innovative solutions helping companies find problems while minimizing downtime. Keeping equipment like tanks in service means the equipment continues to do its job. It earns income and creates value, uninterrupted.

(Image: Square Robot.)

The Start

Founded in 2016, when the cloud had become commonplace, Square Robot founders architected the business to run in the cloud. This was important as the company had many offices and teams were spread across multiple locations—and it keeps IT costs low. This means no local servers, only a collection of cloud-based tools. Square Robot used applications like and Trello for project management, Slack for communication and Google Drive for data storage. 

Two desktop applications, Matlab and SOLIDWORKS, were able to sneak in. These tools were familiar to the engineering team, and became the main design and engineering tools. But desktop applications store data locally, so the users manually stick-handled the data into Google Drive. How? By using pack-and-go, so the large datasets could be worked on by others. 

With SOLIDWORKS in many locations, data was manually managed by the users—and although Google Drive is capable of storing CAD data, it doesn’t do it intelligently (like maintaining the links between parent-child relationships). This became burdensome and dangerous as they were unintentionally overwriting and duplicating data.


Square Robot used the cloud-based 3DEXPERIENCE to create, simulate, manage and share product designs. This let the teams work effectively together across multiple locations through a secure and scalable platform. 

As Square Robot’s team was spread across many locations and the amount of data was small at that time, they became the first member of the cloud-based “Lighthouse Program.” This led to Square Robot being early adopters of PLM Services (now 3DEXPERIENCE), and they now have seven SOLIDWORKS users on the platform through multiple collaborative workspaces.

Is 3DEXPERIENCE a product data management (PDM) system? ENOVIA, the PLM application by Dassault Systèmes, can do PDM. ENOVIAWORKS, the version used by Square Robot, allows users to manage files directly within SOLIDWORKS.

One person no longer needed to be the gatekeeper, and soon after starting to use the platform Square Robot saw a significant collaboration improvement. Like Google Drive, ENOVIAWORKS supplies a centralized location for data storage. However, users could now instantaneously upload parts and assemblies directly from SOLIDWORKS. Others were notified of the changes and could synchronize the changes with their local copies. 

Bookmarks as one of their “best friends” for the organization of parts. Although not as good as knowing what you are looking for, they tag each commercial part (like hardware) so that they can scroll through parts in a category.

The platform handles data organization and controls who has ownership. As a PDM tool, users reserve files for changes, locking them and making them read-only to others. You can iterate on the current design, bumping the revision. Or branch off into a new design, merging it back in later.

(Image: Square Robot.)

Reservations forced single-user edits and no longer did the last save win. Although users now had instant access to data, ENOVIAWORKS maintains the revision history, and users no longer needed to manually archive old revisions. 

Square Robot uses both the browser-based and the SOLIDWORKS add-in. No investment in hardware infrastructure was required.

ENOVIAWORKS provides a collaborative environment for cross-functional teams to work together. The platform’s tools allow non-CAD users to review and collaborate on models through the 3DPlay app with the assurance that they are looking at the most up-to-date versions. They have transitioned from paper-based redlining to 3D markups within ENOVIA.

(Image: Square Robot.)

The embedded project management allows users to track project progress. The included tools allow for managing compliance data as well as documenting compliance activities. 

Although most of Square Robot’s task management still occurs in Trello, the mechanical engineers are using collaborative tasks within the 3DEXPERIENCE platform. Why? The tasks are associated with SOLIDWORKS items, meaning direct navigation and no manual updates.

“Don’t be scared of the immense capability of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform,” says Matthew Hall from SOLIDWORKS.

ENOVIAWORKS came “just in time” for Solid Robot as they started iterating on their SR-1 inspection robot. Although changes were occurring, they had access to the older revisions, as they were built, so they could review vehicles in-service. Additionally, they could push changes to the assemblies of their choice, including publishing changes to the entire fleet.

Because of the regulatory process, they must be diligent in the as-built conditions. The built-in controls facilitated locking down CAD data about new revisions and releasing the mature (good-to-go) states.  All parts are released using the ECO process, documenting the changes as they occur.

Solid Robot uses Collaborative Lifecycles to set the maturity of the product. In Work is the start where anyone can work on the design. However, a user can demote the component to Private in order to work on it solo, with no possible interactions from others. With the design complete the component transitions into Frozen, a temporary holding state while the design is reviewed and then into Released when it is ready for the field. 

What’s Next for Square Robot

Future initiatives for Square Robot are removing the redundancy of day-to-day activities. 

Dassault Systèmes developed ENOVIA as a cloud-based PLM solution for medium and large businesses. It offers data management, collaboration, project management and workflow automation functionalities.

Square Robot currently uses Fusion 360 (Manage) as their PLM. Fusion does the part number generation, and they currently use it for bills of material management, cost tracking, ECO’s (engineering change orders), non-conformances and serial number tracking. 

(Image: Square Robot.)

But Fusion does not integrate with SOLIDWORKS so users must bounce between the two systems. They use SOLIDWORKS to start the design, Fusion for the part numbering then its back to SOLIDWORKS to complete the design before returning to Fusion to complete the change order and build the BOM.

Is ENOVIA a product lifecycle management (PLM) system? Yes. ENOVIA offers end-to-end product lifecycle management capabilities, and allows users to manage the product from ideation to retirement. And not just the design, but also manufacturing, quality control and service.

So, one initiative for Square Robot is to integrate the PLM capabilities of ENOVIA, replacing Fusion.

Another is to broaden the usage of ENOVIA Planner including collaborative tasks, integrating related tasks and incorporating manufacturing processes. This will reduce (and hopefully eliminate) the reliance on Microsoft Project and Trello.

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