Wireless Charging for Robots: Technical Specifications, Compatibility, Safety, and ROI Analysis

Following the news of WiBotic’s one-kilowatt wireless charging system (to be demonstrated at Automate 2024), we reached out to the founder, Ben Waters, to get some more information.

Technical Specifications:

What is the charging capacity of the wireless charging system? The new system will charge batteries or act as a continuous wireless power supply with up to 1000W delivered to the load.

What is the charging efficiency of the system? Overall end to end efficiency (AC input to transmitter all the way to the battery) is approximately 85%.

What is the charging range for the robots? If you’re referring to range between the coils, our system offers approximately 4cm of longitudinal (face to face) range and 4cm of lateral (side to side) range in any direction – so a total of 8cm range.

How long does it typically take to fully charge a robot using the wireless charging system? This is variable depending upon the size/capacity of the battery used in the robot. Small robots that use 750-800W/h batteries could charge in under an hour.  A larger robot with a 2000W/h battery would take approximately 2 hours to charge from 0-80% and then perhaps another 30-45min to reach 100%.  The important thing to understand, however, is that power is power. A 1000W wireless charging system will charge just as fast as a 1000W plug-in charger – and most plugin chargers for robots are sized at 1kW or less so they can be used on a standard AC wall outlet.

Compatibility and Integration:

Are your wireless charging products compatible with a variety of robot models, or are they designed for specific models?  Our system is completely universal and can be installed on any robot with a 12V, 24V, 36V or 48V battery.  Battery voltage and charge rate (amps) are user-adjustable in software.

How easy is it to integrate your wireless charging system into existing robot fleets? This depends on the level of aesthetic integration the customer wants.  Functionally we support almost any robot and it is very easy to mount the charging components to the outside of the robot. The only requirement in that case is a connection to the battery.  If the robot maker wishes to fully integrate the components into the inside of the robot, however, then our engineering team typically helps them with the integration process.  We offer both enclosed off-the-shelf versions of the product and OEM-level (circuit board only) versions depending upon how fully integrated the customer would like our products to be.

Do you offer customization options for integrating the wireless charging system with different types of robots?  Yes, our engineering team can work hand-in-hand with the robot maker’s engineering team to ensure a proper integration – which includes the development of custom mounting components when necessary.

Safety and Reliability:

What safety features are implemented in your wireless charging products to prevent overheating or overcharging? The onboard charger is a highly intelligent programmable charger that allows the customer to set charging parameters such as battery voltage and current. However, if the setting does match the actual battery voltage, an error message will be issued and the system will not attempt to charge. We also follow industry standard charging protocols for different battery chemistries and monitor voltage throughout to ensure overcharging does not occur.

Unlike inductive wireless power system, WiBotic’s magnetically resonant coils also do not heat up foreign objects that come close to the coils (or fall in between them) during charging. Inductive coils, on the other hand, can overheat nearby metal, creating a significant fire risk. This is another benefit of WiBotic’s technology which is based on magnetic resonance instead of inductive power transfer.

Finally, all WiBotic circuits have multiple thermistors and we use other operational parameters to determine when the system is producing excess heat. If this happens, the system will self-protect by first reducing the power level delivered to the battery and then completely turning off if the situation does not improve.

How reliable is the wireless charging system in real-world environments, including factors like dust, moisture, and temperature variations?  This is one area where wireless power far exceeds the performance of contact based systems. WiBotic’s power transfer coils can be fully sealed against water, dirt, and corrosion and are rated for -20 to 45C temperature ranges. We also offer IP67 onboard chargers for those customers using their robots in wash-down environments.

Have your wireless charging products undergone any certifications or testing to ensure safety and reliability?  Yes, our existing products are fully certified for use in the United States, Canada, the EU and Japan and the new 1000W product will be tested and approved using the same standards for both safety and electromagnetic emissions. Other country certifications are pending.

Practicality and Convenience:

Can the charging stations be easily installed in various environments, such as warehouses, factories, or outdoor spaces?  Yes. WiBotic offers both an indoor (IP20) charging station and an outdoor (IP54) station.  Both types can be mounted on an optional floor stand or easily wall mounted with supplied brackets.

Is there any specialized maintenance required for the wireless charging stations?  Generally speaking, no.  Our outdoor transmitters are built with air inlets/outlets that have replaceable filters. So in very dusty environments periodic replacement of those filters may be necessary.

How does the wireless charging system impact the overall workflow and efficiency of robotic operations?  Wireless charging is more reliable since there is no contact point to bend, break or otherwise fail. This also allows charging stations to be deployed in more locations around the facility so operators can switch to an opportunity charging scenario. In that case, the robot picks up small amounts of charge in multiple locations so it can last longer before needing a full charge. This sort of frequent charging is not viable with contact-based docking stations since they would wear out too quickly.

Scalability and Future-proofing:

How scalable is your wireless charging solution to accommodate future expansions or changes in the robot fleet?  This is another benefit of wireless power. Since the voltage conversion occurs inside the onboard charger component on the robot, after the wireless power has been delivered, the wireless power station can charge any robot regardless of battery chemistries or voltages.  This means one common charging infrastructure works for all types and brands of robots, as fleets of diverse robots are deployed. WiBotic also offers a software product called Commander that allows operators to monitor the real-time status and log charging information for thousands of robots in a large fleet.

Are there any plans for future upgrades or enhancements to the wireless charging technology?  We’re always listening to our customers and implementing new features. Many of those features will be in the Commander software product as we get feedback from new users. We also have plans to offer a wider range of indoor and outdoor charging equipment with different sizes, weights and power levels to provide the customer with exactly the features and power level they need.

How does your company plan to stay ahead of advancements in wireless charging technology to ensure compatibility and competitiveness in the market?  WiBotic is one of the earliest/oldest commercial wireless power companies and we invest heavily in R&D to continually improve our products. We welcome competition since it’s good for everyone when wireless power becomes a viable alternative to current wired options. The more people learn about wireless power the more they’ll consider adopting it for their applications.

Cost and ROI:

What is the initial investment required for implementing your wireless charging system?  The initial investment is typically very small. WiBotic sells a development kit that consists of a complete system (Transmitter, Onboard Charger and coils) for customer testing and integration purposes. Our Applications Engineers are also available to assist with integration of standard components at no charge. We don’t have a need for customized or specialty electronic components, so if a customer requests something unique (such as a custom shaped antenna coil), we are well positioned to make changes to the product with little or no cost to the robot company. We also offer volume discounts and have an OEM version of our product that consists of just the circuit boards for customers who plan to embed those components, or decide to make their own branded enclosures.

How does the cost of your wireless charging solution compare to traditional charging methods or competing products?  Wireless power is slightly more expensive than a typical “dumb” contact-based charger since we build much more intelligence into the system. However, WiBotic’s wireless power systems tend to be less expensive (and also smaller and lighter) than competing wireless power systems because of our use of magnetic resonance, and operation at a higher frequency than inductive systems.

Can you provide any insights or case studies on the return on investment (ROI) for companies that have adopted your wireless charging technology?


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