Moving Towards Industrial Robotics Sensors
For more than half a century, robotics has played an ever-increasing role in manufacturing, successfully transforming industries ranging from automobiles to electronics to consumer goods. Robotics brings productivity, cost-efficiency and often greater safety to a repetitive task.
Industrial robotics continue to evolve, offering greater functionality, flexibility, range of motion, speed and precision. For robots to operate in these ever-more-complex ways, they must be able to collect and process a great deal of sensing data about the environment.
Common technologies for detecting obstacles include radar, cameras, optical time-of-flight, ultrasonic, and capacitive sensors. Radar, optical, and ultrasonic sensing transmit radio-frequency waves, light and ultrasonic waves (respectively) and listen or watch for the echoes that reflect back from any obstacles. Radar sensors use antennas to find reflected radio-frequency waves. Optical Time-of-Flight (ToF) sensors use a photodiode to capture reflected light waves from obstacles.
So, it’s not surprising that as robotic technologies advance, so do complementary sensor technologies. Much like the five human senses are able to establish location, the different sensing technologies offer the best location information when deploying robotic systems into changing and uncontrolled environments.
Sensor Technologies in Robotics
Fitting Robots into the Industrial System
Industrial robots are normally fixed to a position and designed to perform repetitive tasks quickly and with high accuracy. They are controlled by a robot controller placed in the base of or next to a robot arm.
Logistics robots often operate in warehouses or within defined spaces at a factory site where they carry objects from one place to another. To do this, they sense for location for mapping and environmental conditions. Logistics robots are battery-powered, which requires good management of the available power budget.
TI demonstrates an industrial robot arm, providing a glimpse into the future where robots will take the more simplistic tasks performed by business people.
Collaborative robots are a subgroup of industrial robots designed to interact with humans. To ensure safe collaboration, these robots integrate many sensors to determine location and proximity of objects, such as the humans in the room. These sensors are also used to prevent the bumping against a human or an object, with a automatic consequence of shut-down.
Service robots are commonly used in households. Typical examples for service robots are vacuum cleaners or lawn mowers. Similar to logistics robots, service robots also rely on sensors for location and mapping. However, due to the size of the robot, the safety concept is less critical.
Select the Right Robot Sensor
Industrial Robot Sensors
Milli-meter Wave (mmWave) belongs to the class of radar sensors.
mmWave is an extremely valuable sensing technology for long range detection of items. This sensing technology is a contactless-technology which operates in the spectrum between 30GHz and 300GHz and provides range, velocity and angle information. Due to the technology’s use of small wavelengths, it can provide sub-mm range accuracy and is able to penetrate certain materials such as plastic, drywall, and clothing. This sensing technology is also impervious to environmental conditions such as rain, fog, dust and snow. Texas Instruments has two families of mmWave sensors, AWR mmWave sensors for automotive and IWR mmWave sensors for industrial, drones and medical applications.
Robot mapping and navigation data is a critical component for logistic, collaborative and service robots. This video demonstrates how Texas Instruments’ (TI) millimeter wave (mmWave) radar sensors can be used in robotics to build the location map and perform collision avoidance for navigation. The video is done with a single IWR1443 EVM mounted onto the TurtleBot 2 Robot OS reference platform. TI uses available Robot OS libraries, move base, and OctoMap with the standard TurtleBot odometry libraries. They then interface the IWR1443 EVM to Robot OS using the TI developed TI mmWave ROS package which can be downloaded from ti.com for you to replicate or prototype your own Robot OS system.
View the video: Robotic mapping and navigation
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The level of a robots sensing range resolution is a critical component for logistic, collaborative and service robots. mmWave sensors transmit signals with a wavelength which is in the millimeter (mm) range. This is considered a short wavelength in the electromagnetic spectrum. This short wavelength offers advantages by requiring a small mmWave signal antenna and rendering high resolution velocity, range, and angle results. A 76-81GHz mmWave system resolves velocity, range, and angle accuracy to a millimeter range.
Operating in this spectrum makes mmWave sensors interesting for the following reasons:
- Ability to penetrate materials: see through plastic, drywall and clothing
- Highly Directional: compact beam forming with 1° angular accuracy
- Light-like: can be focused and steered using standard optical techniques
- Large absolute bandwidths: can distinguish two nearby objects
The transmitting signal can take the form of different types of waveforms, including Continuous Wave (CW), Pulsed, Frequency-Shift Keying (FSK), and Frequency Modulated Continuous Waveform (FMCW).
The Texas Instrument mmWave Sensors implement Fast FMCW to generate robust operation, rapid sensing and reduced ambiguity in dense scenes. Fast FMCW is also able to provide accurate measurement in both range and velocity of objects enabling mmWave Sensors to provide multi-dimensional sensing.
As in the IWR1443 mmWave sensor below, a complete radar system includes transmit (TX) and receive (RX) radio frequency (RF) components as well as analog components such as clocking, and digital components such as analog to digital converter (ADC), micro controller unit (MCU), and Digital Signal Processor (DSP).
IWR1443 Single-Chip 76-to-81GHz mmWave Sensor Evaluation Module
IWR1443BOOST is an easy-to-use evaluation board for the single-chip IWR1443 mmWave sensor, with direct connectivity to the TI MCU LaunchPad™ ecosystem. The evaluation board contains everything needed to start developing on a low-power ARM®-R4F controller. The evaluation board includes onboard emulation for programming and debugging, onboard buttons, and LEDs, for quick integration of a simple user interface. The standard 20-pin BoosterPack headers make the evaluation board compatible with a wide variety of TI MCU LaunchPads and enables easy prototyping. Learn more
IWR1642 Single-Chip 76-to-81GHz mmWave Sensor Integrating DSP and MCU Evaluation Module
IWR1642BOOST is an easy-to-use evaluation board for the IWR1642 mmWave sensor, with direct connectivity to the microcontroller (MCU) LaunchPad™ Development Kit. The BoosterPack contains everything required to start developing software for on-chip C67x DSP core and low-power ARM® R4F controllers, including onboard emulation for programming and debugging, as well as onboard buttons and LEDs for quick integration of a simple user interface. Learn more
Texas Instruments (TI) has solved the 30 GHz and 300 GHz transmission/receiving challenges and designed CMOS-based mmWave radar devices that integrate the needed components.
For more information, click on the below resources.
Camera solutions are at the core of machine vision in factory automation and logistics. Cameras can be used for a broad range of applications including quality control and feature inspection, robot guidance and 3D volume measurements. Cameras can be stand-alone with digital input/output interfaces to a programmable logic controller (PLC), a robot controller, or with high-speed interfaces all to allow further remote processing. Texas Instruments offers solutions to help solve challenges when designing camera solutions for factory automation and logistics.
How to Select the Resolution and Configuration for 3D Machine Vision Applications
The detection performance of a industrial camera depends on the recognition of patterns. This video shows how to select the resolution that you need for your application, and the effects of different configuration settings.
- How to determine point cloud resolution
- Learn to calculate the resolution of your system
- Discover the effects of:
– Pattern orientation
– Creating sub-pixels
– Ambient light interference
- Discuss camera and projector triggering considerations
View the video
– Pattern orientation
– Creating sub-pixels
– Ambient light interference
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DLP 3D Machine Vision Calibration Process
The calibration of the camera and system enhances the system’s machine vision. This video will present camera calibration techniques using the 3D Machine Vision software development kit. You are going to learn about the process of calibration for Machine TI Designs. We’ll discuss both parts of calibration, the camera and the system and we’ll also discover some best practices for calibration.
- Learn about the process of calibration for Machine Vision TI Design
- Discuss calibrating the camera and the system
- Discover best practices for calibration
View the video
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TPS657095 PMU for Embedded Camera Evaluation Module
The TPS657095 is a power management unit targeted for embedded camera modules or other portable low power consumer end equipment. It contains two low dropout regulators (LDOs) enabled by the I2C™ Interface, a pulse-width-modulation (PWM)-dimmable current sink for driving one light-emitting diode (LED), one general-purpose-output (GPO), a programmable clock generator and 4K Byte of Users one-time-programmable (OTP) memory. Learn more
People Counting for Demand Controlled Ventilation Using Sitara PLSDK and 3D ToF Reference Design
The TIDA-01436 design is a subsystem solution that uses Texas Instruments’ a 3D Time-of-Flight (ToF) image sensor combined with tracking and detection algorithms to count the number of occupants present in a given area. This is done with high resolution and accuracy. This Texas Instruments Design uses Texas Instruments’ AM437x processor as the host controller, which is ideal for embedded solutions. For these reasons, ToF cameras combined with a host controller board are capable of performing real-time people counting and people tracking more effectively than traditional surveillance cameras and video analytics. Learn more
LIDAR – Light Detection and Ranging
LIDAR belongs to the class of optical sensors.
LIDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure variable distances of a target. LIDAR sensing is an extremely valuable sensing technology for long range detection of items. The sensor is a combination of a light generating device, such as an light emitting diode (LED) or laser, and a photo sensing element such as an avalanche photodiode (APD) enclosed in the device. The light emitting device generates light pulses. The reflection of these light pulses — combined with other data recorded — generate precise, three-dimensional information about the shape of the target and its surface characteristics.
Optical Distance/Displacement Sensor Measurement Based on ToF and Phase Shift
Texas Instruments’ (TI’s) 3D Time-of-Flight products, tools and development kits enable the next generation of machine vision with real-time 3D imaging depth. From robotic navigation to gesture recognition and building automation, TI’s 3D Time-of-Flight chipsets allow for maximum flexibility to customize every aspect of your sensor’s design.
This video will give a overview laser range finding techniques using high speed signal chain devices. This is followed with a discussion concerning appropriate analog-to-digital converters. We will then go into the lab and demonstrate the results for a Lidar device using a multi-frequency-continuous wave (MFCW) pulses.
View the video
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3D ToF robotics: obstacle detection, collision avoidance and navigation
3D Time-of-Flight (ToF) robotics: This obstacle detection video demonstrates how a TI 3D Time-of-Flight solution can be used for obstacle detection, collision avoidance, and navigation. TI’s 3D Time-of-Flight sensors work by illuminating the scene with modulated light and measuring the phase delay of the returned light. The phase delay is proportional to the actual distance.
This video will demonstrate how Texas Instruments (TI) 3D Time-of-Flight (ToF) solution can be used for obstacle detection, collision avoidance, and navigation. TI 3D Time-of-Flight sensors work by illuminating the scene with modulated light and measuring the phase delay of the returned light.
View the video
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LIDAR Pulsed Time-of-Flight Reference Design
This reference design documents how to design the time measurement back-end for LIDAR based on the time-to-digital converter (TDC) as well as associated front-end. View PDF
LIDAR-Pulsed Time-of-Flight Reference Design Using High-Speed Data Converters
A variety of applications utilize time-of-flight (ToF) optical methods for measuring distance with high precision, such as laser safety scanners, range finders, drones, guidance, and autonomous driving systems. This reference design details the advantages of a high-speed data-converter based solution, including target identification, relaxed sample rate requirements, and a simplified signal chain. The design also addresses optics, driver and receiver frontend circuitry, analog-to-digital converters (ADCs), digital-to-analog converter (DAC), and signal processing. View PDF
Application deep dive: Gesture control
In this video you will see how to apply 3D Time-of-Flight sensors for gesture control. TI 3D Time-of-Flight sensors work by illuminating the scene with modulated light and measuring the phase delay of the returned light. The phase delay is proportional to the actual distance. Every pixel in the TI solution performance measurement in parallel, resulting in a depth map.
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Ultrasonic sensors transmit ultrasonic waves and listen for echoes that reflect back from obstacles. Ultrasonic-based obstruction avoidance robot systems use ultrasonic transducers, where piezoelectric oscillating crystals generate ultrasonic sound waves when an AC voltage is applied and vice versa when the echo returns. The ultrasonic sensor network maps obstructions, calculates the distance from obstacles and feeds this information to the system’s central processing unit (CPU).
Ultrasound waves can travel through a wide variety of media (gases, liquids, solids) to detect objects with mismatched acoustic impedances. The speed of sound is the distance per unit time by a sound wave as it propagates through an elastic medium. For example, in dry air at 20°C (68°F), the speed of sound is 343 meters per second (1,125 feet per second). Ultrasound attenuation in air increases as a function of frequency and humidity. Therefore, air-coupled ultrasound is typically limited to frequencies below 500kHz due to excessive path loss/absorption.
The ultrasonic solution is a slower-speed, low-power, alternative to higher speed radar sensing systems. Ultrasonic sensing is more reliable than optical time-of-flight for obstacle avoidance, as ultrasonic sensing is not affected by the amount of available light reflected off of obstacles. The ultrasonic technology is ideal for detection of surfaces, liquids, clear objects, and objects in dirty environments.
TI’s portfolio of highly integrated ICs enable wide distance detection range up to 11m for applications including ultrasonic park assist, automotive kick-to-open, and drone landing assist. In ultrasonic distance-ranging automotive applications such as ultrasonic park assist (UPA) and blind-spot detection (BSD), ultrasonic waves transmitted by the system are reflected by objects present in the vicinity. The system receives the reflected wave, or echo, and compares the object’s echo amplitude against a threshold to detect the object. The echo for objects that are closer to the system is stronger than that for objects that are farther from the system. Hence, it is relatively common for the threshold to be varied with time.
For instance, the PGA450-Q1 device is a fully integrated system on-a-chip analog front-end for ultrasonic sensing in automotive park-assist, object-detection through air, level sensing in large tanks, and distance measurements for anti-collision and landing assist of unmanned systems (such as drones, cameras, and robots). This highly integrated device enables a small form-factor and cost-optimized solution compared to discrete ultrasonic-sensor solutions. The PGA450-Q1 device can measure distances ranging from less than 1 meter up to 7 meters, at a resolution of 1 cm depending on the transducer-transformer sensor pair used in the system.
Watch the videos:
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Ultrasonic sensing time-of-flight (ToF) measurement techniques can be utilized to measure fluid levels in tanks. Those measurements can either be done from inside or outside the wall of the tank. In automotive, industrial and even medical applications the ability to perform non-invasive measurements is driven from the target fluid’s corrosiveness and/or sterile requirements. The utilization of the TDC1000 and piezoelectric ultrasonic transducer produces highly accurate fluid level measurements on a tank externally.
For instance, the TDC1000 is a fully integrated analog front-end (AFE) for ultrasonic sensing measurements of level, fluid identification/concentration, flow, and proximity/ distance applications common in automotive, industrial, medical, and consumer markets. When paired with an MSP430/C2000 MCU, power, wireless, and source code, TI provides the complete ultrasonic sensing solution.
There are several methods for noninvasive level measurement. However only ultrasonic ToF techniques can measure tank levels from outside conductive tank walls, which is the case for metalized plastic.
Ultrasound has no moving parts and using a 1 MHz transducer will yield sub-mm accuracy. Ultrasound also isn’t affected by external electric field changes which can be an issue with other sensing technologies.
Ultrasonic ToF level measurement works by using a single piezoelectric transducer to create a pulse from the bottom of a tank. That pulse travels through the tank wall, through the fluid in the tank until it reaches the fluid surface. At the fluid surface (fluid to air interface) an echo is created. Measuring how long it takes for the echo to return is referred to as ToF (Time Of Flight) measurement.
Highly integrated system-on-chips enable ultra-low power precision sensing for flow metering applications.
For instance, the MSP430FR599x microcontrollers (MCUs) take low power and performance to the next level with the unique Low-Energy Accelerator (LEA) for digital signal processing. This accelerator delivers 40x the performance of ARM® Cortex®-M0+ MCUs to help developers efficiently process data using complex functions such as FFT, FIR, and matrix multiplication. Implementation requires no DSP expertise with a free optimized DSP Library available. Additionally, with up to 256KB of unified memory with FRAM, these devices offer more space for advanced applications and flexibility for effortless implementation of over-the-air firmware updates.
Multi-channel, highly integrated analog front-ends for material composition and array applications such as ultrasound, sonar and non-destructive testing.
For instance, the AFE5812 is a highly-integrated analog front-end (AFE) solution specifically designed for ultrasound systems in which high performance and small size are required. The AFE5812 integrates a complete time-gain-control (TGC) imaging path and a CWD path. It also enables users to select one of various power/noise combinations to optimize system performance. Therefore, the AFE5812 is a suitable ultrasound AFE solution not only for high-end systems, but also for portable ones.
This evaluation module features a PGA450-Q1 device which is a system on Chip (SOC) sensor interface IC for automotive ultrasonic sensors. It provides all signal conditioning and processing for the transducer echo signals and for calculating the distance between the transducer and objects. MCU and program memory allow for full configurability for the specific end application. Learn more
The TDC7201-ZAX-EVM is an evaluation module that allows users to test and evaluate the TDC7201 Time-to-Digital Converter. The TDC7201 can be used for accurate time measurements in LIDAR applications. The EVM is a BoosterPack plug-in module for the MSP430F5529 LaunchPad. The TDC7201-ZAX-EVM has two pairs of SMA connectors for the START and STOP inputs. The EVM comes with a user-friendly Graphic User Interface (GUI) to modify the registers, display time-of-flight, and export data in CSV format. Learn more
The EVM430-FR6047 evaluation kit is a development platform which can be used to evaluate the performance of the MSP430FR6047 for ultrasonic Sensing applications (e.g. Smart Water Meters) The MSP430FR6047 is an ultra-low-power MCU which integrates Ultrasonic sensing Analog Front End (USS) for high precision and accurate ultrasonic measurements. The device also includes the Low-Energy Accelerator (LEA) for optimized signal processing and helps in optimizing power for higher battery lifetime. The kit provides a flexible solution to enable engineers to quickly evaluate and develop with the MSP430FR6047 with a variety of transducers ranging from 50Khz to 2.5Mhz. The EVM has the capability to display the measurement parameters with on-board LCD Display and connectors for RF Communication Modules. Learn more
The AFE5812EVM is a highly integrated Analog Front-End (AFE) solution specifically designed for ultrasound systems in which high performance and small size are required. The AFE5812EVM integrates a complete time-gain-control (TGC) imaging path and a continuous wave Doppler (CWD) path. It also enables users to select one of various power/noise combinations to optimize system performance. Therefore, the AFE5812EVM is a suitable ultrasound analog front end solution not only for high-end systems, but also for portable systems. Learn more
Automotive ultrasonic sensor interface for park assist or blind spot detection systems
The TIDA-00151 reference design contains a PGA450-Q1 which is a system on Chip (SOC) sensor interface IC for automotive Ultrasonic sensors. It provides all signal conditioning and processing for the transducer echo signals and for calculating the distance between the transducer and objects. MCU and program memory allow for full configurability for the specific end application.
Application examples are ultrasonic park assist, self parking, blind spot detection and valet parking.
Articles / Training
CapTIvate™ Over View
Capacitive touch as a human-machine interface (HMI) technology is finding its way into more and more applications each year. It is rapidly becoming a popular technology for mechanical button replacement in end equipment such as small and large home appliances, industrial control panels and automotive center stacks.
CapTIvate™ brings together a new capacitive touch measurement technology, a powerful CapTIvate™ Design Center GUI, a versatile hardware development platform and a full feature capacitive touch software library, creating the next step in evolution for capacitive touch sensor design.
The CapTIvate™ Design Center is a development tool that accelerates capacitive touch designs for CapTIvate™ Technology enabled MSP430 devices. By helping guide the product developer through the capacitive touch development process, the CapTIvate™ Design Center can simplify and accelerate any touch design through the use of innovative user graphical interfaces, wizards and controls.
- Intuitive GUI tools for creating, configuring and defining the connections between sensors and MSP430
- Support for slider, wheel, button group, and proximity sensors
- Support mutual and self capacitive sensor types in the same design
- Automated generation of complete source code projects for CCS and IAR IDE’s (no code to write)
- Real time target communication via a HID communication bridge. Enabling target communication allows users to:
– View detailed sensor data
– Configure and tune sensor performance
– View detailed sensor data
– Configure and tune sensor performance