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Bench Talk for Design Engineers

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Bench Talk for Design Engineers | The Official Blog of Mouser Electronics

New Tech Tuesdays: Autonomous Mobile Robot Development Tommy Cummings

New Tech Tuesdays

Join journalist Tommy Cummings for a weekly look at all things interesting, new, and noteworthy for design engineers.

We've seen the futuristic movies in which human-like robots—C-3PO and R2-D2 come to mind—are accomplishing tasks for the benefit of mankind.

That future isn't in a galaxy far, far away, but here today. Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) are doing the literal heavy lifting, along with other tasks, that help manufacturers. These AMRs might not be droids saving us from the dark side of the Force, but they're integral in handling material in a manufacturing environment.

To realize this future, AMRs need to have human-like capabilities and flexibilities. Designers require development tools and hardware systems for these complex devices to achieve these enhanced capabilities with safety and reliability in mind.

Designers aim to develop AMRs to be autonomous with the ability to operate with preprogrammed directives gained from artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning (ML) algorithms. This requires AI/ML cores, or toolkits, that are designed and developed to be readily repurposed and integrated with various compatible hardware and software options.

The future of industrial automation is dependent on AMR hardware development. To solve these needs, a wide range of AMR hardware solutions are available that are supported by development tools to reduce the design cycle and optimize system performance.

In this week's New Tech Tuesday, we'll look at products from Intel®, Bosch, and NXP Semiconductors that allow AMRs sensors to see, navigate, and process commands.

Products to Keep AMRs on the Right Track

An AMR needs reliable eyes. The Intel® RealSense Depth Camera D405 is a short-range camera that provides sub-millimeter accuracy for close-range computer vision needs. System integrators will find the D405's small size and ease of integration of the camera subsystem provide flexibility to design into a wide range of products. The depth cameras are designed for easy setup and portability, making them ideal for makers, educators, hardware prototypes, and software development. The device operates at an ideal range of 7cm to 50cm with minimum object detection down to 500 microns at 7cm. The D405 also features high-resolution, color, global shutter depth sensors providing matched RGB and depth data.

An AMR also needs navigation help. Bosch BHI260AP Self-Learning AI Smart Sensor with Integrated Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) is a versatile solution for always-on sensor applications. These include navigation, machine-learning analytics, orientation estimation, and fitness tracking. The sensor has various software functionalities, 32-bit customer-programmable microcontroller, and a six-axis IMU. The sensor is ideal for use in wrist wearables, head-mounted devices, smartphones, augmented/virtual/mixed reality headsets, and controller devices. The sensor is available in a compact 3.6mm x 4.1mm x 0.83 LGA-44 package, ideal for space-constrained applications.

An AMR needs to be smart, too. The NXP Semiconductors i.MX 8M Nano UltraLite Applications Processor provides scalable, secure, low-power quad-core processing to edge IoT devices. The device is an ideal choice for smart, connected, power-efficient devices requiring graphics, vision, voice control, intelligent sensing, and general-purpose processing. The processors are part of NXP’s EdgeVerse edge computing platform. It also features advanced implementation of a quad Arm® Cortex®-A53 core, which operates at speeds of up to 1.5GHz. The i.MX 8M Nano UltraLite is available in a compact 11mm x 11mm package.

Tuesday's Takeaway

When it comes to Autonomous Mobile Robots, the future is here. Manufacturers and fulfillment centers are capitalizing on the development and adoption of AMR hardware to be more efficient, reliable, and safer. Come to think of it, that also seemed to be the objective of C-3PO and R2-D2.

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Tommy Cummings is a freelance writer/editor based in Texas. He's had a journalism career that has spanned more than 40 years. He contributes to Texas Monthly and Oklahoma Today magazines. He's also worked at The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, San Francisco Chronicle, and others. Tommy covered the dot-com boom in Silicon Valley and has been a digital content and audience engagement editor at news outlets. Tommy worked at Mouser Electronics from 2018 to 2021 as a technical content and product content specialist.

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