Last Updated on June 24, 2022 by Kevin Chen
Robots are machines that are programmed to complete tasks autonomously or with limited human intervention. Given their importance in the manufacturing, healthcare, and service industries, it is no surprise that there has also been an increase in the demand for robot sensors.
Simply defined, robot sensors are special sensors used by robots to monitor their surroundings, which are then used to accomplish a task. They can be used to detect motion, temperature, vibration, and other conditions.
While you may think of a sensor as just a device that detects something (such as light, heat, or CO2), they’re so much more than that. In this blog, we will cover everything you need to know about robot sensors.
What do robot sensors look like? Physical attributes
Robot sensors are usually made of some type of metal or plastic material that is designed to withstand the elements, like snow, rain, and dust. They are usually made with a small element that has a magnet attached to it that can detect the presence of metal objects such as cars, doors, and poles.
These sensors also have an enclosure that protects them from weather conditions like rain or snow. This enclosure is also needed in order for them to function properly.
The enclosure has openings on it which allow the robot sensors to be placed inside the robot’s body in order for them to be functional.
In addition to these openings on their enclosure, they also have an opening or two on their surface which allow air or water into the sensor in order for it to detect motion or temperature changes around it.
They can also have an additional element attached to them so that they can perform multiple functions like detecting changes in temperature, light intensity, and more all at once. These additional elements are usually mounted on top of the sensor so that they can be easily accessed by robots’ hands when they need them most.
In terms of size, these sensors can be quite small, depending on the function that they perform. A typical sensor can be as small as 1.5 mm which is about the size of a human hair.
Types of robot sensors
There are different types of robots in the market. So, this automatically means that each type has a special sensor that enables it to perform a specific task. The different types of robot sensors include; light sensors, proximity sensor, temperature sensor, sound sensor, and accelerometer sensors.
Let’s have a brief look at each of these types:
A light sensor is basically a transducer that converts light into an electrical signal. This signal is then interpreted by a microcontroller, which in turn converts it into a digital output.
A proximity sensor is used to detect if something is near the robot. The closer the object, the higher the output will be. A proximity sensor can also be used to detect objects that are close to the robot’s foot as it moves around. They are usually mounted on both of its feet so that they can detect objects from all directions.
A temperature sensor is used to measure changes in the temperature of an object or surface and convert these changes into a digital signal that is then interpreted by a microcontroller. A typical use of this type of sensor would be to measure temperature changes in ice cream or chocolate bars before they get melted and spoilt.
They are also very useful for maintaining stable temperatures in various environments like refrigerators, fr,eezers and even ovens.
A sound sensor can be used for detecting sounds like footsteps, knocking on doors etc. When you knock on a door with your hand, you hear it as a specific sound because you have heard it before and your brain has stored this sound information under different conditions (i.e., louder than normal).
Similarly, when you hear someone walking towards your room from another room, you immediately know because you have heard that person’s footsteps before (just like how your brain remembers loud sounds).
Since robots need to know what is happening around them, they need to be able to detect sounds in different situations. A typical application of a sound sensor is in a burglar alarm system. The sensor in this case acts as a microphone that listens for sounds that may indicate someone breaking into your house.
A light sensor can be used to sense the amount of light and convert these changes into a digital signal that is then interpreted by a microcontroller. A typical use of this type of sensor would be to measure the amount of ambient light and adjust the brightness on your TV accordingly. They are also very useful for maintaining stable lighting conditions in various environments like home theaters, gaming consoles, and even automobiles.
A temperature sensor can be used for measuring changes in temperature of an object or surface and convert these changes into a digital signal that is then interpreted by a microcontroller. A typical use of this type of sensor would be to measure temperature changes in ice cream or chocolate bars before they get melted and spoilt. They are also very useful for maintaining stable temperatures in various environments like refrigerators, freezers and even ovens.
Pressure sensors are used to measure force, pressure or weight and convert these changes into a digital signal that is then interpreted by a microcontroller. A typical use of this type of sensor would be to detect the presence of water in pipes and warn you if there is no water pressure in the house. They are also very useful for maintaining stable pressure conditions in various environments like plumbing systems, swimming pools, and even toilets.
Classification of robot sensors
Other than the above types that we have mentioned, robot sensors are grouped into different classes mainly based on their characteristics, where they are positioned, and operation principles. These classes include:
Active vs passive robot sensors
Active sensors are the ones that have to be triggered by a physical stimulus, for example, a switch that is pressed or a mechanical pulley. Passive sensors are triggered by an electrical signal as they are placed in proximity to the physical stimulus.
Binary vs analog robot sensors
Binary sensors are connected to an electrical circuit and convert the signal into a digital output, while analog sensors convert the signal into an analog voltage.
Single vs multiple robot sensors
Robot sensor pairs or groups of sensors are commonly used in robotics applications to measure various parameters simultaneously. For example, they can monitor two different properties at the same time such as temperature and pressure in a refrigerator or a pair of eyes that can see in front and behind them at the same time.
Proprioceptive robot sensors
These are robot sensors that give the robot a sense of the self. In other words, they are able to work on the internal attributes of the robot such as joint angle, wheel positioning, and body orientation.
These are robot sensors that have full knowledge of the external state, those are things that are outside the robot’s scope such as the wind speed or distance to the wall. These sensors are usually used as feedback controllers to regulate robot motion.
Distributed vs centralized robot sensors
Different types of robot sensor networks can be deployed depending on the type of application. In a distributed system, each sensor is independent and has its own power source and processing unit. In a centralized system, all sensors are connected to a central processor that collects the information from each sensor.
The two systems have their advantages and disadvantages: distributed systems are more flexible but require more energy to operate; centralized systems are easier to manage but are prone to failure if one component fails.
Characteristics of the Robot Sensors
Now let’s highlight some key attributes of sensors in robotics.
Accuracy and precision
In robots, we can define the accuracy of a sensor as the difference between the value of a sensor reading and the actual value. We usually measure accuracy in terms of percentage, such as 2% or 5%.
Precision is defined as the ratio of the smallest detectable change in a physical quantity to its actual change. For example, if we have a sensor that can measure temperature with an accuracy of 2% and a precision of 0.1ºC (100ºC), then we can say that it has a precision of 20ºC.
Robustness is defined as the ability to continue working properly in spite of external disturbances or variations in input signals. A highly robust robot sensor is one that works under different conditions without requiring much effort or adjusting parameters.
Sensors are considered robust when they are able to be used in different environments, taking into consideration factors such as temperature, humidity, dust and interference from other electronic devices. Robust sensors are very important for mobile robots since they need to work satisfactorily under variable conditions.
We have mentioned the accuracy and the preciseness of the robot sensors. The good news is these two attributes can be improved through calibration. Calibration is a process in which the robot sensor is adjusted to improve its accuracy and preciseness. Usually, this process is done by using a set of standards that are more accurate than the sensor itself.
This is the ability of the robot sensor to provide the same output for the same input. This is important because it allows the robot to perform tasks and actions in an efficient manner.
Robot sensors can be used for a long time and can withstand many uses and abuses. However, just like any other electronic device, they have their lifespan that needs to be taken into consideration. The lifespan of a robot sensor depends on the type of sensor used and the conditions in which it is used. It also depends on the quality of the sensor build- how was it manufactured?
This is another key attribute of most robot sensors. Linearity refers to the relationship between the input and output of a sensor. Linearity is very important in robotics because most robots are programmed to work on the basis of linearity. However, some sensors are non-linear and they can produce an output that is not related to the input at all.
Why sensors are important to robots?
Do robots need sensors? Yes. Sensors are important to robots for various reasons.
First, sensors enable the robots to respond to their surroundings. Without sensors, robots would not be able to adjust their movements according to the environment. It is also important for robots to be able to detect objects in their surroundings. With sensors, they are able to detect objects and take appropriate actions.
Second, sensors do self-diagnosis of the robot. They are able to detect problems that may occur with the robot and inform the operator of this problem.
Third, sensors can be used to measure various parameters of the robot. These parameters include, but are not limited to, speed and direction of movement, position of the robot in space, among others.
Fourth, sensors can be used to keep track of the health status of the robot. If a sensor is damaged, it will signal this error to the operator or other modules that may monitor the health status of a robot.
Lastly, robots can use sensors for control purposes. For example, if a sensor detects that its environment is too hot for it to function properly then it can signal this problem to other modules in order for them to take appropriate action.
Where to buy robot sensors?
Are you into robotics or planning to buy robot sensors? You should buy from a reputable source. By this, we mean reliable robot sensor manufacturers and suppliers in China. Find out their history and even take some time to read their robot sensor reviews.
Do you want to make things simpler? Consider using a robot sensor sourcing agent. These are people who can help you find the best suppliers of robot sensors in China. They will help you sort through the overwhelming number of suppliers and choose the ones that have the best products and services.
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