Members press release

Schunk, Germany - IFR Robot Supplier member

Mobile robots for professional industrial cleaning

March 2014

Will the cleaning robot be as much a natural part of professional industrial cleaning as a sweeper or a steam cleaner soon? The Federal Ministry of Economy and Technology (BMWi) wants to explore, in the course of the joint "Plug & Play for automated systems" (AutoPnP) project, how robot-supported cleaning can be implemented, and if it can be efficiently transferred onto other robot platforms. This project is led by Fraunhofer IPA in Stuttgart, in cooperation with Dussmann Service, an expert in services for facilities management. The project is utilizing the standardized lightweight arm, a gripper hand, and an electric quick-change module from SCHUNK, the competence leader for clamping technology and gripping systems.

70% of all the cost incurred in professional industrial cleaning works concern the cleaning of floors, and waste disposal. In order to automate this work, scientists at the Fraunhofer IPA further evolved the robot assistant "Care-O-bot® 3", and programmed the necessary software functions with the aim that this mobile robot butler could also be used for cleaning business premises. It autonomously moves through the offices, and inspects the floor surfaces. Soiling is automatically detected, mapped, and cleaned with a cordless electric broom. If the attempt fails, since a dried coffee strain cannot be removed with a broom, the robot marks the position of the soiling on its map, and informs the cleaning personnel. Moreover, the robot can recognize wastepaper baskets, inspect their fill level, and empty the contents of full wastepaper baskets into a collection bin. A powerful SCHUNK Powerball lightweight arm and a multi-purpose SCHUNK SDH-2 3-finger hand are used for handling the wastepaper baskets, and the positioning of the cleaning trolley for the necessary endurance and the required freedom of movement. 

Modular software and hardware

The SCHUNK lightweight arms are specifically designed for such mobile applications. They are robust, designed for relatively high payloads, and due to the 24 V technology, they are mobile applicable. In daily operations they are very economical: the energy required for a 100 W bulb in the past, is enough today for the operation of a complete SCHUNK lightweight arm. Its lightweight, highly rigid design increases energy efficiency, and in the case of mobile applications it pays off in terms of longer runtimes.  At a repeat accuracy of +/- 0.1 mm, the lightweight arm offers the optimum prerequisites for precise handling. Since the drive amplifiers and controllers are directly integrated in the modules, they don?t need a separate cabinet. Moreover, the system architecture is designed in an open way. Via a flexible electrical and data interface concept, the arms can be integrated into various plant controls.

In order to be able to operate with maximum flexibility, SCHUNK has developed an electric quick-change module for this project, which puts the robot into the position to flange-on other tools instead of the gripper hand, for example a cordless electric broom for cleaning the carpet. The compact quick-change module with its integrated 24 V technology opens up new scope for the flexible use of various effectors in the field of mobile service robotics. Via a quick-change module with integrated bus system (CAN), the gripper hand, the cordless electric broom, or other tools can be centrally controlled by the robot. In order to ensure that the cleaning robot really meets the requirements of commercial use, the project is being executed in close cooperation with the cleaning specialist Dussmann Service of Berlin. A modular software structure that allows an easy integration of hardware and software components, ensures that the solution can later be adapted to the field of application, and then transferred to cost-efficient robot platforms.