Why is it important to include industrial hardware in robots instead of commercial components? Many commercial hardware options offer the required processing capabilities, I/O options, footprint, etc. The catch? Mobile robotic and automation applications must tackle unique requirements.
If you love the wilderness and taking off-road paths to amazing views from mountain tops or virgin beaches, this information is for you. Aside from using all protective gear and specialized clothing for your body, you need the appropriate car to get to those beautiful untamed places. In other words, you will never take a compact car to an off-road path. You will take a 4x4 truck capable of handling rough environments.
On one hand, compact cars are designed for crowded cities with limited parking spaces and huge traffic jams. Due to their size and efficiency, they provide outstanding performance and cover the needs of people moving around in a city.
4x4 trucks, on the other hand, are designed to carry loads, withstand poorly maintained roads, and move around in rivers, snow, and sand. They are perfect for adventures in unchartered territory.
Mobile robots go to dangerous locations like Mars, the ocean, inside volcanos…and still need to be able to make decisions and act. Besides the internal battle for resources within the robot (you can read more in this blog post), you must consider the following factors that uniquely affect hardware in mobile applications, especially for Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) or Automatic Guided Vehicle (AGVs) in industrial environments.
Industrial AMRs or AGVs might be driving around in mines or in warehouses. Either way, these will operate in dusty, hot, possible humid environments. As a result, hardware components or computers included in the robots or vehicles require protection and certifications that will guarantee that they can work flawlessly in those conditions. Sadly, most commercial hardware does not require these certifications. This means that although commercial hardware can work in harsh environments, its life can be greatly reduced. Consequently, you will need to spend money in maintenance services and spare parts to continuously change the damaged components. Industrial components can be more expensive upfront, but they will save you money on maintenance on the long run. Just like buying high-quality tires for your 4x4 can avoid you a nasty accident in a remote location and be more durable than regular tires. The key to manage costs and durability of industrial components is truly understanding your application requirements and match them. You can leverage a knowledgeable hardware OEM who can design components to your specific needs and help you determine your exact priorities.
Life cycle management
As we said before, industrial hardware requires certifications. These certifications are not cheap to acquire and maintain. But this also means that industrial hardware life cycle will be longer implying that the necessary components will be manufactured for longer than commercial hardware which will allow you to save on certification costs. Nevertheless, this not only a matter of saving money, but it is also a reliability issue. Robots can endanger human lives as much as they can save them or make them easier. Therefore, controlling the life cycle of the hardware included in your AMR or AGV is of the upmost importance to do no harm. Consequently, you cannot install commercial hardware in a robot the same way you will not purchase an untested 4x4 truck. Building the future of logistics, medicine, or travelling by going to the unchartered territory of robotics means that you will not take any shortcuts to success and use 4x4 industrial hardware for your application.
Compatibility with specialized operating systems
As artificial intelligence is included in mobile robots to help them perform more complex tasks, data processing must happen in several hardware devices, sometimes outside the robot itself and closer to a server. Connecting a robot to the Internet or an internal network surfaces security issues (Read more about hardware security here) but also the need for a specialized operating system. There are operating systems specialized in robotic applications which facilitate similar hardware changes, working with multiple programming languages, implementing Inter-process communication (IPC) and Remote Procedure Call (RPC) systems, connecting to feeds on demand from remote hardware without additional code, and parallel problem solving. So, although your 4x4 truck might include all the durable parts for outstanding adventures, you need to pair that equipment with the right software. Experienced hardware OEMs will be able to guarantee if their hardware can handle specialized robotics operating systems that will make your application reliable, safe, and efficient. You can read more about this in this blog.As you can see, creating the future of mobile robotics starts with a great foundation: reliable, safe industrial hardware that uniquely meets robotics applications in terms of harsh environments, life cycle management, and compatibility with specialized operating systems. If you want to continue reading about robotics and hardware, read our Robotics Blog Series.