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Echolocation for 3D collision avoidance

18 November 2021

WITH AUTOMATED guided vehicles (AGVs) expected to grow to 50% CAGR, AGV-related accidents now amount to over $100,000 in damages per factory per year, so the need for advanced sensor-based safety features to prevent costly collisions becomes more apparent.

Munich, Germany-based technology company Toposens has announced an ultrasonic echolocation sensor for 3D collision cvoidance. The industrial grade sensor development kit, called Echo One DK, is the latest iteration of the company’s 3D ultrasonic technology, which mimics a bat’s echolocation techniques.

Unlike existing sensor technologies that can be negatively impacted by lighting conditions or moisture (such as fog), Toposens’ Echo One DK uses echolocation to generate robust, real-time 3D echo location data to guide autonomous systems across a variety of applications. The performance of this 3D ultrasonic sensor is robust in harsh environments (featuring the IP67 protection rating) and not affected by dust, smoke or mist.

The company, which also has an office in Silicon Valley, looked to overcome the shortcomings of existing, optical range-finding technologies for 3D object detection (such as detecting forklifts forks in 3D space).

Because of the Echo One DK’s enhanced 3D ultrasonic sensing capabilities, customers can increase efficiency and safety in automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and other robotic systems. It features 3D multi-object detection of complex and transparent objects in an ultra-short operating range from 20cm up to 3m. It offers an ultra-wide field-of-view of up to 180° in ultra-short range and up to 110° at 3m. Its low power consumption of 2.2 W supports a longer robot uptime and it is fully certified according to CE, FCC and IP67 regulation. For easier integration, this DK comes with a CAN and USB interface and a software suite: Toposens Sensor Library (C++-Library), ROS Implementation Package, Cross-Platform Toposens 3D Visualizer.

To ensure a high standard of all hardware and software components integrated into the sensor ecosystem, Toposens has partnered with respected, high-tech companies such as Infineon, Murata and Nvidia, who supply various parts including microphones, passive components and post-processing computation platforms.

“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”, said Tobias Bahnemann, CEO and co-founder of Toposens, and concludes: “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.”

“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. 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 in-built, Toposens-own, best-in-class 3D collision avoidance features for added machine safety make it a cost-effective, reliable and efficient solution, which will help your AGV, robot, or other application avoid collisions with all kinds of obstacles, even in the roughest environments, as the IP67 rating proves”, said Alexander Rudoy, co-founder and CTO of Toposens.