*This article is in collaboration with PhoenixContact. The original Dutch version can be read here.


Fast and efficient loading and unloading is a crucial stage for dry-bulk ships to transport bulk goods. Often, cargo holds must be cleaned before loading on the next load of bulk material. For this process, robotic solutions are the safest, fastest, and cost-efficient. The PLCnext Technology of Phoenix Contact made it possible to develop today’s most innovative cargo hold cleaning robot.

Image: VertiDrive M8 in action cleaning

Safe, sustainable, and fast cleaning

VertiDrive develops and produces safe, sustainable, and efficient robotic crawler solutions for steel surface preparation activities, such as abrasive and hydro blasting, (U)HP washing and cleaning in maritime, offshore, and petrochemical industries.

‘’Because of our remote-controlled solutions, staff can perform most of the activities from a safe distance on the ground. Therefore, minimizing the time spent on dangerous heights, making this method much safer than conventional blasting and cleaning of large steel structures‘’ Rens van den Berg, Product Development Engineer at VertiDrive.

‘’Additionally, our robotic blasting and washing solutions deliver consistently higher quality, cost savings up to 80 percent, and are up to 8 times faster than manual methods. Because of the robot’s efficiency, it is also a more environmentally friendly solution since the robots consume less (fresh) water and use less cleaning agents.’’ Rens van den berg, Product Development Engineer at VertiDrive.

For a new generation of cleaning robots, VertiDrive needed an industrial control platform that would offer much more openness and flexibility than the classic PLC. First, to allow non-experienced robot operators to work even safer, faster, and more cost-efficiently. And second, to be able to offer VertiDrive customers maximum service now and in the future.

PLCnext Technology offers the solution

The combination of a classic PLC with an industrial PC, an obvious solution, would be too large in terms of dimensions and increase the chance of malfunctions. An integrated, compact control solution would provide many more benefits for both the customer and the hardware, software, and service engineers.

Rens van den Berg and his colleagues at VertiDrive saw that the PLCnext Technology not only offers the necessary openness and flexibility for this but also makes it possible to use other programming languages ​​and tools for real-time, deterministic control applications. This allows certain control applications to be developed faster, better, and with higher quality. This is especially important now that there is an increasing scarcity of programmers trained in PLC programming.

Most innovative cargo hold cleaning robot

The M8 Cargo Hold Cleaner is VertiDrive’s latest generation cleaning robot controlled by a PLCnext Controller. Thanks to the integrated lane assistance, the different cleaning programs, and the user-friendly Teach-in functionality, the M8 robot stays perfectly on schedule and offers maximum results with high accuracy. The wireless control allows the operator to easily operate the high-pressure nozzles up to 3000 bar of the robot from a safe distance (500 Bar for the M8). These and other smart features already make the M8 the most innovative cleaning robot in its class.

VertiDrive M8 Cargo Hold Cleaning Robot

Unlimited Possibilities

Rens foresees that an infinite number of more innovative functions can be integrated thanks to the PLCnext Technology: “Consider, for example, an automatic Teach-in function. Because Open Source Software can also be used for the control application, we can add completely new functionalities to the cleaning robot.”

On the PLCnext Community, you will find a lot of information about the possibilities of the PLCnext Technology and knowledge is shared. But Phoenix Contact also offers expert support and good training. For example, Rens and his colleague Justus attended the PLCnext Technology workshop, after which they had the necessary knowledge for a flying start.

Have a look at the M8 solution

More into technical specifications of the M8? We got you covered! Download the specifications sheet on the button below.