Vicor achieves breakthroughs in power conversion to fuel a robotics revolution
OLogic integrates advanced, integrated power modules from Vicor Power to power a new generation of mobile robots
Innovations in power conversion technology are enabling a transformation in robotic design.
Today’s integrated power modules meet the size, weight, power budgets, and cost-effectiveness requirements needed to move robots from industrial, residential, and commercial applications to a vast new landscape limited only by imagination.
We are reaching a tipping point where robots are bringing huge benefits to our lives. And OLogic is a big reason why we see their proliferation.
OLogic, a Santa Clara, California-based electronics consulting firm, has over 15 years of experience helping customers bring robotic designs to market in large and small volumes by providing electrical, mechanical, and industry, as well as in software and firmware engineering.
This includes expertise in the integration of power electronics, which is a primary design consideration that determines the range, functionality and load capacity of mobile robots.
OLogic has designed dozens of robots in many industries, including agriculture, smart homes, and inventory control, to name a few. OLogic traces its robotics clientele back to a start-up considered by many to be the progenitor of mobile robotics in Silicon Valley.
Willow Garage has been noted for its ability to link off-the-shelf open-source software from universities and other entities to help robots perform difficult tasks.
When the company disbanded in 2014, it sparked a diaspora of robotics software experts who went on to found almost every major robotics startup in the Bay Area. This opened new business for OLogic with companies such as Savioke, Knightscope, Fetch, and Dusty Robotics.
Example of a robotic power distribution network: OLogic uses Vicor power modules (Buck, Buck Boosts and PRM) in its robots because they are powerful, efficient and easy to use.
“We now use Vicor ZVS Buck regulators everywhere on mobile robots. I never have to think, ‘Oh, I need five or ten amps at 12 volts, so I’m going to build my own power supply’. I don’t never think that way again,” says OLogic CEO Ted Larson.
“The real rock stars in the robotics industry are the ones making high-level software for things like machine learning or algorithmic navigation of robotic tasks,” Larson continues. “Electronics is kind of an afterthought. What happens is people think they can get away with buying all this stuff off the shelf and then plugging it together. quickly turns into a house of cards.
Putting power first
Mobile robots have unique power challenges and require an array of power levels. The sensors, servo motors, actuators, data servers, communication systems and other devices that operate the robot have different power and power density requirements.
Some are power hungry. Others may work infrequently. This requires the ability to deliver power quickly, cleanly and cost-effectively from a battery power source.
“The parts we’ve used most recently are the Buck Vicor ZVS regulators,” says Larson. “We use them everywhere on mobile robots now. I never have to think, “Oh, I need five or 10 amps at 12 volts, so I’ll build my own power supply.” I never think that way again.
Save time and money by automating building layouts
One customer working closely with OLogic to optimize their power profile is Dusty Robotics (Dusty). Based in Mountain View, California, Dusty builds robotic tools for the modern construction workforce.
For centuries, the construction industry has used two simple tools to lay out building floor plans: a tape measure and a chalk line. Even today, when architects design buildings using sophisticated 3D CAD models, the process still requires the layout to be printed on paper, transported to the job site, and manually transferred to the ground.
The tape measure and marker process is slow and prone to human error that impacts schedules and budgets. Mistakes lead to rework, which typically accounts for 10% of the cost of a construction project, according to Dusty.
“When plans are drawn up by hand, many mistakes are made, in fact far more than the construction industry realizes,” says Philipp Herget, co-founder and CTO of Dusty Robotics.
“We have heard of cases where layout errors have caused construction companies to go bankrupt. We prevent mistakes from happening because everything is marked correctly – not by hand, by a robot. »
Dusty FieldPrinter is 5 times faster with zero errors
Dusty eliminates the conventional and laborious process of physically transferring building plans to the ground with a robot programmed to the jobsite to automate the same task.
The Dusty FieldPrinter robot loads a digital version of the floor plan and then prints the floor layout for things like walls, doors, plumbing and electrical circuits. And it does so at speeds about five times faster than a human and within one-sixteenth of an inch by spec.
This innovation helps the construction industry operate more like a digitized manufacturer, increasing consistency, predictability and reliability while improving working conditions for the skilled craftsmen who are at the heart of the construction process.
“If you can reduce the time allotted in your schedule, you can speed up how quickly the building will be built,” Herget said. “And the sooner the building is finished, the sooner you can start collecting revenue. Time is money.”
Power the Dusty FieldPrinter robot
Dusty’s FieldPrinter is a battery-powered mobile robot that works for long periods of time in a variety of weather conditions. It includes many different electronic devices, including sensors, drive motors and motorized components, computationally heavy processors, and a printer – all of which have different operating voltage and current requirements.
That’s why Dusty hired OLogic to build the basic electronics for his robot. OLogic started out using discrete power solutions. Over time, however, Vicor Corporation introduced OLogic in a modular approach to building Power Distribution Networks (PDNs) for robots.
OLogic realized that they were unable to design something as operationally and thermally efficient and with the wide operating range as a Vicor power supply module. Additionally, Vicor modules, such as the ZVS Buck Regulator, are extremely cost effective considering the 200 to 300 watts of power they provide and their 97% efficiency.
With long battery life and cutting-edge power conversion technology, Dusty’s robotic innovation is helping to digitize the construction industry by creating a single source of truth on the jobsite, based on the digital model .
Instead of the architect, general contractor and each business partner working from their own paper plans, everyone now builds from the single design printed on the floor.
The ability to provide a digital layout improves coordination between these myriad partners, enabling better planning, better execution and faster completion.
“Building automation enhances what humans can do,” Herget says. “People used to use screwdrivers, and now they’re using power tools. It just makes their job much easier.
“Our robotic tools enable the construction industry to move forward, creating better results while improving the working environment for skilled tradespeople.”