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“Always at Your Service”: The R2300 Multi-Layer Scanner from Pepperl+Fuchs

Mobile robots—some recognisable as machines, some human-like or in a futuristic design—are becoming an increasingly popular option as service providers in public areas. Some of these assistants, such as cleaning robots, simply need to detect environments and react correctly to obstacles to get their jobs done. By contrast, others like information robots at airports such as Munich or Seoul, interact with people, deliberately approach them, or follow them. The R2300 multi-layer scanner from Pepperl+Fuchs enables service robots to detect their working environment in three dimensions to be able to move freely and function correctly.

The R2300 from Pepperl+Fuchs is a 3-D LiDAR (light detection and ranging) sensor for measuring the optical angle and distance. The multi-layer scanner generates four easy-to-use scanning layers, resulting in noncontact and highly accurate 3-D scanning of the environment. Compared to 2-D sensors that have only one scanning layer, the R2300 provides significantly more measurement information, resulting in more detection reliability and functionality. This enables the sensor to meet specific challenges posed by service robotics. This includes, in particular, the detailed detection not only of a surface, but of complex environments and of changes within them, the right response to stationary, temporary, and moving obstacles, and deliberately approaching or following people.

Economic and socio-economic conditions ensure growth in the market for service robotics.

With the R2300, a sensor solution is available that can act as enabling technology for service robotics and is thus fully on trend. In its World Robotics Report 2020, the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) estimates the sales volume of service robots for the year to be around 13.9 billion USD. The focus is on logistic systems such as driverless transport systems and inspection and maintenance robots, integrated into digitalisation and personalised production scenarios. Alongside other fields of application in outdoor or mining areas, the report also predicts the rise of medical robotics due to new technical possibilities and to demographic changes in all developed economies. These can include therapy robots in rehabilitation centers or service robots in the care industry. In addition, more and more fields of application are emerging for service robots in public institutions. Mobile information robots are already as much of a reality at airports today as they are in museums. They are becoming increasingly prevalent in supermarkets and the hotel and restaurant industry—as shown by the examples of the “Kofookoo” Asian restaurant in Hamburg and the “Neue Epoch” Chinese restaurant in Moers. Room service, taking orders, clearing tables—all activities that service robots are designed for. And that are designed for such service robots. The economic and socio-economic environment favors the development of differentiated forms of service robotics. As diverse as the fields of use in industrial or public environments are, all service robots are united by the need for the sensory detection of their working environment to be able to move within it. This is ideally captured in 3-D so that nothing is overlooked.

R2300: 3-D Vision for Service Robots

With its high precision, reliability, and compact size, the R2300 tackles mobile service robots applications in a technically and economically efficient manner. It is based on Pulse Ranging Technology (PRT), the innovative, direct distance measurement method developed by Pepperl+Fuchs. A high-performance laser diode in the “eye-safe” class 1 sends short, high-energy light pulses, which are reflected by the target object and detected again by a receiver element in the sensor. The distance to the target object is calculated from the time it takes for the pulses of light to travel from the emitter to the receiver. The special feature of this process, and thus the superiority of PRT over indirect processes with light sources that emit permanently, lies in the up to 1000 times higher energy content of a single pulse. This results in an ideal measuring range for applications including service robotics. Starting just a few centimeters from the lens, the R2300 can detect objects on black surfaces up to four meters away and up to ten meters away on white surfaces. At the same time, a measuring rate of 90 kHz and a high angular resolution of 0.1° guarantee high measurement accuracy and detection reliability, which gives service robots a high level of vision. Combined with the precise infrared light spot typical of lasers, which, although invisible, projects sharply onto the object, the R2300 is able to reliably detect delicate object structures and contours. The resilience of the PRT against extraneous light, HF lamps, reflections from the field of application, and other noise pulses, prevents the autonomous mobile service personnel becoming disoriented and ensures high availability.

Boasting Excellent Integration and Easy Commissioning

Most service robots are space-saving and maneuverable—a design to which sensors and other vehicle components must adapt. The compact design of the R2300—with a height of just 58 millimeters—offers the required high level of space efficiency. The sensor measures in four levels simultaneously, providing 3-D functionality that would otherwise require multiple sensors, and therefore additional space and wiring. The R2300 can also be electrically integrated into a service robot’s control system quickly and safely. The measured data—including angle, distance, and reflectivity—are output via the sensor’s Ethernet interface in a manner that supports automation.  The provided raw data can thus be transferred directly to their automation solutions by integrators.

Service Robotics Is Becoming a Key Technology

Experts predict that in a few years, mobile service robots will have a much more significant presence as flexible assistants for day-to-day tasks and situations in public areas than they do today. They will support people in more and more industries and contribute to value creation. In addition to economic requirements and socio-economic developments, this is also due to the fact that the sensor technology for such autonomous units is becoming ever more powerful and versatile. The R2300 is an important milestone on this path.


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