Amsterdam, The Netherlands ó"Excuse me, I must polish the floor." Supermarket shoppers at Dutch retail chain Albert Heijn B.V. politely step aside as "Schrobbie" passes by. The cleaning man, after all, deserves as much respect as the next person, even if he is a robot. Besides, he does such a good job.
Manufactured by Hefter Cleantech (Prien am Chiemsee, Germany), the robot relies on an intelligent navigation system developed by the Siemens Automation and Drives Group (A & D). Called SINASô, the Navigation System for Autonomous Service Robots will help the robot detect and avoid obstacles, as well as enable it to maneuver out of tight spaces or dead ends.
Three components make up the SINAS package: A controller with navigation software, laser scanner, and optical gyroscope. Piezoceramic ultrasonic sensors can be added to supplement the laser scanner for greater robot accuracy.
"Teach-in" tours program the robot to its working environment. For example, the laser scanner creates a "features-based" map of its surroundings, making reference to walls, shelves, or pillars. The cleaning robot, consequently, is able to orient itself with the aid of such landmarks.
A second teach-in routine demonstrates the cleaning path to be followed. The robot regards any areas not recorded during this tour as "no-go areas" that it will not enter during automatic operation.
Because the navigation package consists of modular building blocks, it is easy to configure SINAS for various application environments. Modular design also permits easy parameterizing for different robot geometries and kinematics.
Hefter Cleantech recently exhibited the cleaning robot at Supermarket 2000, part of Germany's Hanover EXPO. Other applications include factories, hospitals, airports, or train stations.