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Robots re-charge their own batteries

The future is here—Autonomous robot and drone usage is growing quickly, especially in Industry 4.0 —the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Wireless robot or drone charging, when battery power is low, becomes a critical function, especially in an autonomous system. Enter Wibotic, with a wireless power re-charging system that enables continuous operation without human intervention.

WiBotic off-the-shelf wireless charging system using GaN Systems' power transistors

WiBotic off-the-shelf wireless charging system using GaN Systems’ power transistors

Wibotic has chosen to work with GaN Systems who has some really efficient Wireless charging solutions with a trio of Wireless Power Amplifier evaluation boards at 50W, 100W, and 300W.

Wibotics has a turn-key solution that can get a user started with one or a fleet of robots.

Once the system is configured, the WiBotic wireless power system becomes fully automatic with intelligence. Their fleet-level architecture enables many robots to share the same charging station one-at-a-time. A single robot may move between multiple re-charging stations if a designer chooses.

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WiBotic wireless power system transmitter and receiver set

WiBotic wireless power system transmitter and receiver set

The wireless power transmit coil can be mounted vertically in a wall station, horizontally in a drone landing pad (or floor mat), or almost any other orientation to make it convenient for the robot as it arrives for a charge.

The Transmitter Unit will recognize an incoming robot equipped with an Onboard Charger Unit and Receiver Antenna Coil and automatically ramp up to deliver the right amount of energy. Energy is conveyed through air, water or other non-conductive materials, and then collected by the Receiver Antenna Coil on the robot and conveyed to its Onboard Charger. The Onboard Charger converts the signal back into a DC voltage and controls battery charging functions to safely replenish a wide range of batteries.

Many battery chemistries are supported, including:

  • Lithium Ion (LiIon)
  • Lithium Polymer (LiPo)
  • Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4)
  • Lead Acid (LA, SLA)
  • Nickle Metal Hydride (NMH)

The system architecture deliver wireless power in this way: the Transmitter will first check to be sure a robot is within range. The system can easily handle robots with completely different battery voltages and they can share the same Transmitter Unit. It automatically recognizes each robot and adjusts charge parameters accordingly.

This design architecture enables a highly effective charging station deployment. The stations deliver power opportunistically to keep robots topped off and operating for long periods. This is much better than the outdated “full drain and recharge strategy” other systems use.

How does the robot fleet know when to charge?

What happens if a battery fails unexpectedly?

How much does downtime actually cost?

WiBotic power optimization software brings a high level of intelligence to fleet management. Embedded robot identification and communication systems enable a many-to-many architecture, where any robot can charge from any station, even if the robots have different battery chemistries, voltages, and charging rates (amps).

System settings are configurable through WiBotic APIs. The “Network API” allows computers on the same network as the transmitter to monitor charging and set desired charging parameters. Operators, for example, might integrate robot scheduling systems to be sure robots are charged at the highest available power level during the day when multiple missions are required, but more slowly overnight so battery lifespan can be maximized. The Wibotic “Onboard API” allows the robot or drone controller to access the Onboard Charger directly to perform the same functions.

In the future, Wibotic plans for new software and services that can provide fleet-wide energy utilization analytics as well as individual battery charging recommendations based on the age and performance of every battery in the fleet. Users will always know the exact State of Charge (SOC) for every battery. Coordinated networks of wireless charging stations allow robots to stay charged, minimizing downtime and reducing the overall cost of robot fleets.

What are your thought about such a system? Please share with our readers and start a discussion.

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