The routine cleaning of large floors by a newly-developed automated cleaning machine can yield significant cost savings.
Cleaning large floor spaces such as in stations, airports and supermarkets can be made significantly more efficient through the use of a new cleaning robot developed under the ACRO project. Building on the technical advancements in mobile robotics over the past decade, ACRO's automated cleaning machine is designed to carry out independently the simple but time-consuming cleaning of open floors, leaving the operator free for additional cleaning tasks. The user interface has been designed for ease of use by unskilled operators, and the navigation system makes use of low-cost and robust components. The development of the application has brought together leading technology suppliers, manufacturers and cleaning service providers to address how technology can benefit a sector which is often neglected in this context. The resulting system is being used as a basis for a structured assessment to identify the most appropriate strategy to introduce the technology taking into account human and industry infrastructure issues.
Increasing overhead costs associated with cleaning - cleaning of a station or airport terminal can run into millions of ECUs per annum - have led to expectations of a rising demand for automated services which can enhance the efficiency of the cleaning process by freeing the operator from the simplest floor cleaning tasks. Technological developments have not often been brought to bear on improving what is generally regarded as a low-skill, low-value industry, but the savings associated with efficiency improvements are substantial.
The application has placed great emphasis on the development of robust, low-cost components, and a user interface suited to unskilled operators, which avoids the necessity of making significant alterations to the operating environment. Navigation is model-based without the need for reference to fixed beacons, and uses inexpensive components, combining information from a gyroscope, ultrasonic sensors and dead-reckoning.
Prototype machines tested at public locations have proved the feasibility of normal cleaning operatives using such machines in real environments. A further full public domain application demonstration is due in 1997.
In addition to the development of the cleaning robot system, ACRO has also developed a number of stand-alone components which are being mass produced for a wide range of applications. One example is a low-cost controller area network (CAN) actuator which is already in mass production for use in a variety of applications including climate control in buildings. The CAN-based process controller has also been incorporated in standard cleaning equipment, and demonstrated in other mobile robot applications, such as a mobile information display for museums and exhibitions.
tel +49-4531-806-213 -- fax +49-4531-806-224
Research Area Integration in Manufacturing
Keywords robot navigation; service industry; service robotics;
|European Passenger Services UK|
|Fraunhofer IPA DE|
|Hako-Werke GMBH & CO DE|
|LINAK A/S DK|
|Universität Stuttgart - IFF DE|
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