Meet the exhibitors at the Natural Stone Show 2023, 6-8 June, ExCeL London: The robots of Planet Granite
In a room that wouldn’t look out of place at the Kennedy Space Center, Steve Murphy, of Planet Granite (https://www.planetgranite.co.uk/), and his 17-year-old son, Stevie, look out of long windows on either side into workshops where three hefty ABB robots (that they have named Raphael, Michelangelo and Leonardo) are cutting stone.
The workshops that house the robots were put up by Steve and Stevie during the Covid restrictions. The control room houses the supercomputers that run the robots and isolates the computers and the operators from the work areas.
Steve Murphy is impressed with the way his son has mastered the programs that run the robots – so impressed that he has nominated him for an Emerging Talent Award at the Natural Stone Show at ExCeL London, 6-8 June. Planet Granite is exhibiting at the exhibition (on stand E57) to explain the capabilities of the robots. Terzago Robotics, the Italian company that supplied the machines initially, is also at the exhibition (on stand B17).
Both Steve and Stevie went to Terzago in Italy for instruction on how to program the robots, although they have had to hone the process of putting that knowledge into practice by learning as they go in the Planet Granite workshops.
Stevie started studying engineering at college in Coventry after leaving school but found the pace pedestrian after what he had learnt at Planet Granite, so he has quit to work full time in the family business. And a separate company, called Planet Sculpture, has been set up for the robots.
One of the first major stone projects they attempted was cutting a bigger than life-size Batman into a block of granite that had stood for years outside the Planet Granite showroom a few hundred metres from the workshops. A natural fissure in the stone has left Batman with a dramatic gaping wound in his arm.
The intention is to bring the finished Batman sculpture to the Natural Stone Show. Afterwards it will be put back in front of Planet Granite’s new showroom. More drama will be added by a 100,000 lumin torch shining the Bat sign into the sky at night in the same way as the authorities of Gotham City call Batman when they need his help.
Planet Granite has four robots all together. The fourth is a saw jet on a 10m run in a second workshop. It is called Scarlet after Steve’s daughter.
Asked now what his customer base is going to be Steve is frank: “I have no idea.” Which is why he is exhibiting at the Natural Stone Show in London and has also employed a company to make 15-minute podcasts for him to promote the business.
One possible area for the computers is a growing trend among avant-garde furnituremakers to use solid blocks of stone. French artist Arthur Vallin working in New York and Kelly Wearstler (https://www.kellywearstler.com/gallery-view-all), also in America, are among those making chairs, tables and other furniture in solid stone.
Cars, sculptures of people and animals, and many other solid, 3D objects that can be designed on computers or scanned from models can be produced by the robots.