Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Vicor and WiBotic partner on autonomous wireless charging

Steve Rogerson
June 10, 2020



Massachusetts-based power component company Vicor is collaborating with Seattle dynamic charging firm WiBotic to increase uptime and battery life of robot fleets and drones using autonomous wireless charging.
 
Vicor’s power module neutralises thermal management constraints, enabling an adaptive-matching transmitter for batteries, robots and stations.
 
As robotic fleets reshape logistic, delivery and inspection industries, the demand for more efficient and flexible charging is increasing while the feasibility for these fleets to be managed manually and recharged ad hoc by a round-the-clock rotation of personnel is decreasing. The next step is towards enhanced autonomy, whereby normal operations can be sustained without human intervention, which is where WiBotic comes in.
 
WiBotic provides wireless charging and power optimisation that are integral to charging the rapidly growing ecosystem of aerial, mobile, marine and industrial robots. Its products enable robots and unmanned vehicles (UVs) to be recharged through wireless charging stations, eliminating the need for human operators to connect the robots physically to chargers.
 
In addition, wireless charging technology reduces wear and tear on physical connection points, trip hazards from power cords and floor-mounted charging stations, and the space requirement for dedicated charging rooms.
 
WiBotic wireless charging is designed to facilitate many-to-many operation, whereby multiple robots, including from different manufacturers, can charge from the same transmitter at different times. Alternatively, an entire fleet of robots can move between a network of transmitters in different locations within a warehouse. In short, any robot can charge from any station, even if the robots have different battery chemistries, voltages and charging current. 
 
The Vicor 48V VI Chip PRM regulator is a 400W high-efficiency converter that operates from a 36 to 75V input to generate a regulated output. The device powers the adaptive matching transmitter on board the WiBotic TR-110 wireless charging station, which feeds power wirelessly to the robot’s or UV’s on-board receiver. The PRM accepts 48V from an AC-DC power supply and the output voltage is adaptively controlled and trimmed from approximately 20 to 55V.
 
The PRM enables consistent, high-efficiency conversion across the full range of impedances, flexibly supporting full and trickle charge modes with no significant drop-off in efficiency at lower power levels. This conversion capability yields a tightly consistent, maximum device temperature of 40 to 45˚C, helping to neutralise thermal management constraints across the full power range.