WiBotic autonomous wireless charging solution targets robot fleets

1 min read

WiBotic, based in Seattle, WA, is a developer of wireless charging and power optimisation solutions that are integral to charging the rapidly growing ecosystem of aerial, mobile, marine and industrial robots.

As robotic fleets reshape logistic, delivery and inspection industries, the demand for more efficient and flexible charging solutions is increasing while the feasibility for these fleets to be managed manually and recharged ad hoc by a 24/7 rotation of personnel is decreasing. As a result, there is a growing trend towards greater autonomy, whereby normal operations can be sustained without human intervention.

WiBotic has developed a range of solutions that will enable robots and unmanned vehicles (UVs) to be recharged through wireless charging stations, eliminating the need for human operators to physically connect the robots to chargers. Not only is this more efficient, but wireless charging technology reduces wear and tear on physical connection points, removes trip hazards from power cords and floor-mounted charging stations, and the space requirement for dedicated charging rooms.

WiBotic wireless charging solutions have been designed to support “many-to-many” operation, in which multiple robots (including from different manufacturers) can be charged from the same transmitter at different times. Alternatively, an entire fleet of robots is able to move between a network of transmitters in different locations within a warehouse. According to the company, "Any robot can charge from any station, even if the robots have different battery chemistries, voltages and charging current."

The company is using the Vicor 48V VI Chip PRM Regulator - a 400W high-efficiency converter that operates from a 36 – 75V input to generate a regulated output - to power the adaptive matching transmitter onboard the WiBotic TR-110 wireless charging station, which then feeds power wirelessly to the robot’s or UV’s onboard receiver.

The PRM accepts 48V from an AC-DC power supply and the output voltage is adaptively controlled and trimmed from approximately 20 – 55V.

According to Vicor, the PRM enables consistent, high-efficiency conversion across the full range of impedances, flexibly supporting ‘full charge’ and ‘trickle charge’ modes with no significant drop-off in efficiency at lower power levels – a critical performance benchmark.

This high-efficiency conversion capability has yielded a tightly consistent, maximum device temperature of 40 – 45°C, helping to neutralize thermal management constraints across the full power range and, in turn, enabling WiBotic's' wireless charging devices to achieve higher levels of functionality and productivity to support the next generation of mobile robots.