Despite being monotonous and repetitive, cleaning tasks still tend to be conducted manually. Any machines used are generally operated by humans. However, manually-operated cleaning devices are associated with staffing costs, including the necessary training and operating time. Due to high staff fluctuation rates in the cleaning industry, workers repeatedly need to be shown how to operate these devices. In addition to this, the demographic change is causing fewer and fewer trained cleaning staff to be available on the employment market. Also, in areas where security is important, workers need to be especially trustworthy. Because of the increasing complexity of state-of-the-art architectures, more and more buildings have areas that are extremely difficult or even impossible for workers to clean. In addition to these areas, autonomous cleaning solutions could be used in industrial or hazardous environments or in conjunction with cleaning devices that pose a threat to humans. In such cases, an autonomous cleaning machine would significantly reduce safety risks.
Expertise and sample projects
For many years, Fraunhofer IPA has been concerned with the development of relevant key technologies for cleaning robots. The focus is not only on the acquisition of cleaning parameters via sensors but also on the development of robotic hardware specifically adapted to the application concerned. For example, various concepts have been developed for climbing robots to clean windows or facades, or for the automated cleaning of solar cells.
For a mobile cleaning device designed to decontaminate vehicles, a new sensor and control system has been developed. The contours of the vehicle to be cleaned can now be accurately detected and the cleaning bar, which is moved over the vehicle by a hydraulic crane, can be optimally positioned on the basis of the vehicle’s geometry.
In the project AutoPnP, Fraunhofer IPA has developped novel solutions for service robots to clean office buildings. Software functions have been developed for detecting dirt, systematically cleaning floors and automatically emptying waste paper bins.
In the project »BakeR« service robot technologies for cleaning robots will be further developed to drive them towards market readiness. The aim is to build a modular cleaning robot with a mobile platform that detects the cleaning modules automatically and adapts its functionality to them.