24 Jul 2024


3D collision-avoiding sensor works like bat echolocation

Topsens says that its 3D presence detection sensor overcomes the limitations of existing range-finding technologies

A German start-up has developed a 3D collision-avoidance sensor that mimics a bat’s echolocation techniques. Munich-based Toposens, founded in 2015, says that existing sensor technologies based on radar, ultrasound or cameras, can be negatively impacted by lighting conditions or moisture. By comparison, its Echo One DK generates robust, real-time 3D echo location data to guide autonomous systems in a variety of applications. The IP67-protected sensor is said to be particularly robust, tolerating dirt and not being affected by dust, smoke or mist.

The company says its goal is to deliver “next-level robotic safety” that overcomes the limitations of existing range-finding technologies and offers best-in-class 3D object detection. It is aiming the technology, in particular, at AGVs (automatic guided vehicles) and other robotic systems.

Toposens argues that no other range-finding technology currently tackles the challenges of reliable environment perception, especially protecting robots from collisions in 3D and operating over ranges as short as 20cm. Logistics AGVs – although safer and more reliable than traditional transportation methods – are still prone to navigation issues such as deadlocks and collisions caused, for example, by not detecting forklift forks accurately. These issues can lead to damaged AGVs, broken cargo, production stoppages, high repair costs and, in the worst case, personal injuries.

According to Toposens, AGV-related accidents can cost more than $100,000 in damages per factory every year.

“Our 3D ultrasonic sensor is the answer to this problem by precisely perceiving its environment and reliably detecting accident-causing objects such as forklift forks – and even the smallest items lying in the path of an AGV – whilst yielding robust, light-tolerant data,” argues Toposens’ co-founder and CTO, Alexander Rudoy. “To reduce accidents to zero, the demand for safety sensors of all kinds is growing. Especially for 3D perception, an area not covered by the typically used 2D safety LiDars.

The sensor combines the time-of-flight principle of conventional ultrasonic sensors with triangulation and advanced signal-processing algorithms. A transducer sends out an ultrasonic pulse, which is reflected by surrounding objects and received by an array of microphones. The positions of the echoes are calculated as 3D coordinates, based on the different times that they arrive at the microphones, and from this, the 3D coordinates are calculated.

The sensor can detect multiple complex and transparent objects over a range from 20cm to 3m. It provides a field-of-view of up to 180 degrees in the ultra-short range, and up to 110 degrees at 3m.

“Our biggest asset is our innovative combination of unique hardware configuration and software packages, based on patented 3D and time-of-flight algorithms and noise filtering, processing ultrasonic echo data into reliable 3D data”, says Toposens’ CEO and co-founder, Tobias Bahnemann. “With our sensor solution, the high costs of operating accidents can be reduced improving safety in manufacturing environments and increasing the ROI of AGV applications.”

Toposens is offering development kits for its sensor. It has produced document that compares various range-finding sensors.

Toposens:  Twitter  LinkedIn  Facebook