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12 Essential Factors to Consider When Starting Your Next Robotics Project

So you’re starting a robotics project and you need to know where to begin. Whether you’re new to the robotics process or have a team of experts in-house, you need to create a solid specification to ensure a successful robotics project. Thinking through the basic robot requirements and capabilities will help you and your robotics integrator choose the right platform and technology add-ons.

Here are 12 Factors That Define Your Robotics Project Needs

  1. Environment: Consider the environmental conditions your robot will operate in. These conditions determine the base platform and also affect other components and capabilities like the battery and navigation. Determining the typical use or any special conditions for your project will help your robotics integrators find the solution best suited to your project.

If applicable, you should provide details about the following conditions to your robotics integrator:

  • Outdoor exposure
  • Rain, or other weather conditions
  • Wet or muddy terrain
  • Extreme hot or cold temperatures
  • Toxic conditions like Radiation

Environmental factors will determine optimal wheels, enclosure and chassis for your robotics project.

  1. Platform dimensions: The footprint of your robot is critical so it will fit in the space you intend to use it. The platform size and construction determines the size and weight of all of the hardware mounted on your robot. It will also determine whether you can maneuver the platform in tight spaces like down a warehouse aisle or in a mine with a low ceiling.
  1. Payload: Payload is a crucial element of your robotics project. The amount of weight that your platform needs to sustain impacts other factors. Payload is also directly related to speed, size and platform weight. Make sure you communicate both payload and speed requirements to your robotics integrator.

    Learn How the Expected Payload of Your Mobile Robot Can Affect Speed and Overall Performance

  1. Speed: Depending on your project and objectives, the required speed will vary. Keep in mind that the higher the payload, the slower it will go with the same motor configuration To run the platform at a high speed as payload increases, you must alter the propulsion system.
  1. Clearance: What clearance will your robot need? Will it need to easily maneuver over brush or other low obstacles? Will it need to move under low-hanging impediments or easily travel under equipment or into limited height situations? This will determine the size and type of platform, as well as how it is mounted to the wheels.
  1. Maneuverability: You are building a mobile robot so having the capability to maneuver in your intended environment is critical. Ask your robotics integrator what platform and type of maneuverability will fit your project needs.

Here are the basic types of Segway RMP platforms that Stanley Innovation offers, and their limitations or best use cases:

  • 2 wheeled — 0 turning radius, indoor tight spaces
  • 4 wheeled skid steering — outdoor, rugged
  • 4 wheeled omni-directional — indoor heavy payload moving in many directions
  • 4 wheeled articulating — outdoor rugged inconsistent terrain
  1. Battery Technology: Most robotics solutions offer lithium-ion or lead acid batteries. Lithium-ion is considered the most advanced technology for transportation systems based on factors such as safety, environmental impact, capacity, charge time, efficiency, size/weight and extended life cycle. Lithium-ion batteries combined with advanced sensing allow for even more efficient energy use leading to longer battery life. Systems like the RMP also use regenerative braking to recharge the battery during deceleration. You should consider all these factors when selecting a battery for your system.
  1. Propulsion System– We typically see two propulsion systems offered by mobile robotic companies: electric drive systems and belt drive systems. RMPs come with the same electric propulsion system used in the personal transporter. In addition to being clean and efficient, electric propulsion enables fine adjustments to each wheel (for accurate tuning), and a precise, software-based approach to traction control and braking. The propulsion systems include motor drive redundancy for maximum safety and reliability. Motor drive redundancy is unique to the Segway platform. Redundancy is essential for certain robotics applications. For example, if your robot is performing dangerous work inside a nuclear facility, a redundant motor drive will ensure that if the platform fails, the backup motor will return the platform safely from the radiation zone.
  1. Control software: Depending on the application of your project, and the amount of customization you plan on doing, you may need access to the main software of your robotics platform. Depending on the platform, the software may be open source or proprietary. If you need access to the software, make sure you get an open-source solution, or integrator with a robotics expert that has access to the proprietary software. Stanley Innovation is the only robotics firm that has access to the Segway RMP software, and our founders were part of the team that developed this software. Our engineers continue to adjust and update the software and are able to customize the software to fit any project’s goals.
  1. Navigation: There are several basic types of navigation: tele-operated, semi-autonomous or autonomous.. The sensor set required to enable semi-autonomous or autonomous navigation will depend on whether you want to operate the platform in a structured indoor environment or outside.
  2. External Integrations/Add-ons: You also need to consider external integrations or add-ons that you plan on using for your robot. This can affect the weight of the overall platform, which will impact motor power and battery capacity. If you plan to integrate manipulators, you need to consider factor like weight, duty, and the degrees of freedom/maneuverability. These factors will determine placement and mounting options.
  1. Timeline: And finally, timeline is a crucial element to include in your initial communication with a robotics integrator. Compressed project timelines may result in a significant increase in cost or limit options for potential robotics integrators. Make sure your timeline is realistic, but keep in mind that an experienced robotics engineering team can accomplish your goals in a shorter amount of time than a lesser-experienced team you may have in-house.

The factors above just scratch the surface of the specs you will need to define to scope your robotics project. However, a thorough grasp on these foundational elements is a great place to start the conversation with potential integrators.

If you have any questions about how we approach our robotics projects, or have specific questions about your robotics project, contact us.

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