(19)
(11)EP 3 157 803 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
06.05.2020 Bulletin 2020/19

(21)Application number: 14734054.1

(22)Date of filing:  19.06.2014
(51)Int. Cl.: 
A01D 34/00  (2006.01)
B62D 53/02  (2006.01)
(86)International application number:
PCT/EP2014/062915
(87)International publication number:
WO 2015/192900 (23.12.2015 Gazette  2015/51)

(54)

IMPROVED ROBOTIC WORKING TOOL

VERBESSERTES ROBOTISCHES ARBEITSWERKZEUG

OUTIL DE TRAVAIL ROBOTIQUE AMÉLIORÉ


(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR

(43)Date of publication of application:
26.04.2017 Bulletin 2017/17

(73)Proprietor: Husqvarna AB
561 82 Huskvarna (SE)

(72)Inventors:
  • BJÖRN, Jonathan
    S-553 24 Jönköping (SE)
  • ELONSSON, Martin
    S-561 92 Huskvarna (SE)
  • SJÖGREN, Anders
    S-571 78 Forserum (SE)


(56)References cited: : 
EP-A2- 2 687 077
JP-A- S62 283 072
US-A1- 2006 095 169
WO-A1-2012/084947
US-A- 4 079 955
US-A1- 2012 195 724
  
      
    Note: Within nine months from the publication of the mention of the grant of the European patent, any person may give notice to the European Patent Office of opposition to the European patent granted. Notice of opposition shall be filed in a written reasoned statement. It shall not be deemed to have been filed until the opposition fee has been paid. (Art. 99(1) European Patent Convention).


    Description

    TECHNICAL FIELD



    [0001] This application relates to a robotic work tool system for improved traction, and in particular to a robotic work tool system for improved operation among obstacles.

    BACKGROUND



    [0002] As robotic work tool are becoming more and more advanced the requirements on their sealing is also increased which makes their bodies or chassis more (torsionally) rigid. This leads to that as the robotic work tool(s) runs over obstacles or holes causing one wheel to be lifted up by the obstacle, another wheel will also be lifted which may cause the robotic work tool to lose traction. Furthermore, any odometri may be affected by such slip and a proper navigation, such as by deduced (dead) reckoning, may be impeded.

    [0003] Many prior art solutions are available that allow one wheel to move independently of the other, such as independent suspension, however, they suffer from being expensive and difficult to manufacture and to assemble - especially if they are to be able to detect collisions and/or lift events.

    [0004] US 2012/195724 A1 (TOE BES STEPHEN C [US] ET AL) 2 August 2012, describes a storage retrieval system with an autonomous transport device that operates on uneven surfaces.

    [0005] US 4 079 955 A (THORPE LEONARD W ET AL) 21 March 1978, presents a roll-lockout feature to adapt a vehicle to improve high speed performance on smooth level roads.

    [0006] JP S62 283072 A (YOSHIMURA SHINICHIRO; HAYASHI KUNIHARU), 8 December 1987, relates to a cutting robot and agricultural machine having a pivot mechanism around a central roll axis.

    [0007] WO 2012/084947 A1 (THALES SA [FR] ; DEVEZE THIERRY [FR]; MORILLON JOEL [FR]; VASSEUR LAURE) 28 June 2012 (2012-06-28), describes a collaborative robotized system with a longitudinal mechanical linkage assembly.

    [0008] US 2006/095169 A1 (MINOR MARK A [US] ET AL) 4 May 2006, discloses a method of controlling motion of a robot system, wherein the robot system includes a plurality of individual wheeled robot modules interconnected by at least one compliant member.

    [0009] EP 2 687 077 A2 (AL KO KOBER SE [DE]) 22 January 2014 (2014-01-22) discloses a lift detection mechanism for a robotic lawnmower.

    [0010] There is thus a need for a robotic lawn mower that is able to maintain traction even when operating in rugged terrain with many obstacles, but is still simple and cheap to manufacture and providing a reliable operation in rugged terrain.

    SUMMARY



    [0011] It is an object of the teachings of this application to overcome the problems listed above by providing robotic lawn mower system comprising robotic lawn mower, said robotic lawn mower comprising two front wheels and a chassis, wherein said robotic lawn mower is characterized in that the two front wheels are arranged on a beam axle which is pivotably arranged to the chassis, wherein the beam axle is pivotably attached to the chassis through a pivot point which is an axle protruding from the chassis and extending through an opening in the beam axle. The hole or opening is elongated to allow vertical movement of the pivot axle. Sensors are arranged to determine whether the robotic lawn mower is being lifted or not by determining in which portion of the hole or opening the pivot axle is.

    [0012] The inventors of the present invention have realized, after inventive and insightful reasoning, that a robotic lawn mower having a single common beam axle will have its two front wheels balancing each other thereby providing a smooth and stable operation of the robotic lawn mower, even in rugged terrain. Furthermore, by only having one beam axle, the problems of the prior art may be solved using a minimum of different parts which leads to cheap manufacture and easy assembly. The one part solution is also very robust and easy to maintain.

    [0013] The use of a beam axle provides for a geniously simple solution that solves the problem of the prior art without requiring any other suspension for the front wheels, thereby making the robotic lawn mower even more robust than it would have been with other suspension means - as suspension means often require difficult assembly and maintenance.

    [0014] As the beam axle enables the front wheels to balance each other, the front wheels will also stabilize each other and the chassis of the robotic lawn mower enabling a smooth and stable operation.

    [0015] Compared with an obvious solution of suspending each front wheel, the solution provided herein is suitable for lift detection and is also more robust, and cheaper to manufacture and assemble.

    [0016] Other features and advantages of the disclosed embodiments will appear from the following detailed disclosure, from the attached dependent claims as well as from the drawings.

    [0017] Generally, all terms used in the claims are to be interpreted according to their ordinary meaning in the technical field, unless explicitly defined otherwise herein. All references to "a/an/the [element, device, component, means, step, etc]" are to be interpreted openly as referring to at least one instance of the element, device, component, means, step, etc., unless explicitly stated otherwise. The steps of any method disclosed herein do not have to be performed in the exact order disclosed, unless explicitly stated.

    BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS



    [0018] The invention will be described in further detail under reference to the accompanying drawings in which:

    Figure 1 shows a schematic overview of a robotic lawnmower according to one embodiment of the teachings of this application;

    Figure 2 shows a schematic view of a robotic lawn mower system according to one embodiment of the teachings of this application;

    Figure 3 shows a schematic illustration of a problem of prior art robotic lawnmowers;

    Figure 4 shows a schematic overview of a robotic lawnmower overcoming the prior art problem of figure 3 according to one embodiment of the teachings of this application;

    Figure 5 shows a schematic front view of a robotic lawnmower according to one embodiment of the teachings of this application;

    Figures 6A and 6B each shows a schematic overview of a robotic lawnmower according to one embodiment of the teachings of this application; and

    Figures 7A and 7B each shows a schematic overview of a robotic lawnmower according to one embodiment of the teachings of this application.


    DETAILED DESCRIPTION



    [0019] The disclosed embodiments will now be described more fully hereinafter with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which certain embodiments of the invention are shown. This invention may, however, be embodied in many different forms and should not be construed as limited to the embodiments set forth herein; rather, these embodiments are provided by way of example so that this disclosure will be thorough and complete, and will fully convey the scope of the invention to those skilled in the art. Like numbers refer to like elements throughout.

    [0020] Figure 1 shows a schematic overview of a robotic lawnmower 100 having a chassis 140 (that is to be arranged with a body or cover- not shown individually) and a plurality of wheels 130, 135. In the exemplary embodiment of figure 1 the robotic lawnmower 100 has two front wheels 130A and 130B and two rear wheels 135A and 135B. At least some of the wheels 130, 135 are drivably connected to at least one electric motor 150 - in this embodiment the two rear wheels 135 are drivably connected to the motor 150. It should be noted that even if the description herein is focussed on electric motors, combustion engines may alternatively be used possibly in combination with an electric motor.

    [0021] In the example of figure 1, the rear wheels 135 are connected to each an electric motor 150. This allows for driving the rear wheels 135 independently of one another which, for example, enables steep turning.

    [0022] The robotic lawnmower 100 also comprises a controller 110 and other circuitry such as a memory for controlling the operation of the robotic lawnmower 100. The robotic lawnmower 100 further has at least one sensor 170, in the example of figure 1 there are two sensors 170, arranged to detect a magnetic field (not shown) caused by a control signal being transmitted through a boundary wire (for more details on charging stations, control signals and boundary wires, see the description below with reference to figure 2). This enables the controller 110 to determine whether the robotic lawnmower 100 is inside or outside an area enclosed by a boundary wire.

    [0023] The controller 110 is connected to the motors 150 for controlling the propulsion of the robotic lawnmower 100 which enables the robotic lawnmower 100 to service an enclosed area without leaving the area.

    [0024] The robotic lawnmower 100 also comprises a work tool 160, which may be a grass cutting device, such as a rotating blade 160 driven by a cutter motor 165. The cutter motor 165 is connected to the controller 110 which enables the controller 110 to control the operation of the cutter motor 165. The controller is also configured to determine the load exerted on the rotating blade, by for example measure the power delivered to the cutter motor 165 or by measuring the axle torque exerted by the rotating blade.

    [0025] The robotic lawnmower 100 may also have (at least) one battery 180 for providing power to the motors 150 and the cutter motor 165. Connected to the battery 180 are two charging connectors, for receiving a charging current from a charger (referenced 220 in figure 2) of the charging station (referenced 210 in figure 2). Alternatively, the batteries may be solar charged.

    [0026] Alternatively, the robotic lawnmower and/or the cutter may be driven by an engine.

    [0027] Figure 2 shows a schematic view of a robotic lawnmower system 200 comprising a charging station 210 and a boundary wire 250 arranged to enclose a working area 205, the working area 205 not necessarily being a part of the robot system 200.

    [0028] A charging station 210 has a charger 220 coupled to, in this embodiment, two charging connectors 230. The charging connectors 230 are arranged to co-operate with corresponding charging connectors 185 of the robotic lawnmower 100 for charging the battery 180 of the robotic lawnmower 100.

    [0029] The charging station 210 also has, or may be coupled to, a signal generator 240 for providing a control signal 255 (for more details see figure 3) to be transmitted through the boundary wire 250. As is known in the art, the current pulses 255 will generate a magnetic field around the boundary wire 250 which the sensors 170 of the robotic lawnmower 100 will detect. As the robotic lawnmower 100 (or more accurately, the sensor 170) crosses the boundary wire 250 the direction of the magnetic field will change. The robotic lawnmower 100 will thus be able to determine that the boundary wire has been crossed.

    [0030] Figure 3 shows a schematic illustration of a problem of prior art robotic lawnmowers. In this example the robotic lawnmower 100 is operating in an area having at least one obstacle 300, in this example a small bump. Other obstacles can be debris, twigs, branches, piles, bumps, pipes, hoses and other protruding objects, as well as holes, trenches, etc.

    [0031] As robotic lawnmowers commonly operate in outdoor environments where they are subjected to moisture, wetness and dirt, it is important for the robotic lawnmower to be properly sealed to allow for proper operation. However, it is difficult to properly seal a robotic lawnmower without also making the chassis 140 rigid. As the chassis 140 is rigid, the robotic lawnmower 100 will behave in one of two ways depending on its design when it encounters an obstacle such as the bump 300. As one front wheel 130B climbs over the obstacle, either the other front wheel 130A or the corresponding rear wheel 135B will be lifted into the air making the robotic lawnmower 100 unstable. Also, the robotic lawnmower 100 may lose traction for one or more wheels should such situation occur which may cause the robotic lawnmower to become stuck or start to slide. As would be understood by a skilled person this is a problematic and unwanted situation. In the example of figure 3, the rear wheel 135B has been lifted.

    [0032] Figure 4 shows a schematic overview of a robotic lawnmower overcoming the prior art problem of figure 3 according to one embodiment of the teachings of this application.

    [0033] The inventors have realized that by arranging the two front wheels 130A and 130B on a common beam axle 145 that is pivotably arranged to the chassis 140 of the robotic lawnmower 100, the robotic lawnmower 100 will be able to handle obstacles, such as the bump 300, without loosing grip or traction. As one front wheel 130B goes over the bump 300, it is lifted and the beam axle 145 is pivoted around a pivot point 147 preventing the chassis 140 of the robotic lawnmower 100 to tilt thereby keeping the other front wheel 135A as well as the rear wheel(s) 135 on the ground.

    [0034] The use of a single common beam axle is advantageous as it allows for a very simple construction that is easy to install, and to maintain. It is also cheap to manufacture and is also less prone to break as it requires few parts.

    [0035] A solution relying on, for example, individually suspended front wheels would be require an advanced attachment system or linkage means to still be able to allow for lift and collision detection and would as such be expensive and not as robust as the clever and simple solution provided by the present invention.

    [0036] In figure 4 a comparison is shown between the positions of a robotic lawnmower 100 without a beam axle 145 (dashed lines) and one with (full lines) thereby illustrating how the beam axle 145 enables the robotic lawnmower to overcome obstacles 300 while keeping the chassis 140 of the robotic lawnmower 100 stable.

    [0037] Figure 5 shows a schematic front view of a robotic lawnmower according to one embodiment of the teachings of this application. The beam axle is shown as both being horizontal (dashed lines) and being pivoted (full lines) to illustrate the function of the beam axle 145. As is shown in figures 4 and 5, the beam axle 145 is pivotably attached to the chassis 140 through a pivot point 147, which in one embodiment is an axle protruding from the chassis and extending through a hole or opening 146 in the beam axle 145. This provides for a cheap and simple design that is robust and thus suited for outdoor use. The protruding (pivot) axle 147 may also be attached to the beam axle in other manners such as being clamped to the beam axle.

    [0038] In one embodiment the protruding (pivot) axle is attached to the beam axle through a cap. To allow for simple lift detection, the cap is designed to allow for vertical movement of the pivot axle 147, by having an elongated receiving opening. As the robotic lawnmower 100 is in operation the pivot axle 147 will rest against the beam axle 145 in the lower portion of the cap (or rather the chassis 140 will rest on the pivot axle 147) and as the robotic lawnmower 100 is lifted, the pivot axle will rest on the upper portion of the cap (or rather, the cap will carry the beam axle 145). Alternatively the hole or opening 147 in the beam axle 145 may be made elongated to provide the same functionality as an elongated cap.

    [0039] By arranging sensors such as magnetic sensors or touch sensors it is thus easy to determine whether the robotic lawnmower 100 is being lifted or not by simply determining in which portion of the cap the pivot axle is.

    [0040] Figures 6A and 6B each shows a schematic overview of a robotic lawnmower 100 according to one embodiment of the teachings of this application, wherein the beam axle 145 is covered by the chassis 140 (for example by a cover of the chassis 140).

    [0041] The chassis (or the cover of the chassis, which is to be considered as being a part of the chassis for the purpose of this application) has two openings 149 through which the beam axle 145 protrudes. This allows for the beam axle to be covered by the chassis to protect the beam axle 145 and the pivot point from environmental factors such as dirt and water. To offer more protection the opening(s) 149 may be covered for example by a rubber or cloth gaiter.

    [0042] As can be seen the openings 149 allows the beam axle to be displaced a certain amount. The displacement needed depends on the overall design of the robotic lawnmower but in one embodiment the maximum displacement is 15 mm. The displacement is usually in the range of 10 to 25 mm. The limited displacement of the beam axle prevents the cutting tool 160 (or other work tool) to hit the ground as the chassis 140 of the robotic lawnmower 100 tilts when a front wheel encounters a hole. The limited displacement will then allow the beam axle to carry the front wheel 135 through the hole without the robotic lawnmower 100 tilting too much, the beam axle stabilizing the chassis 140 of the robotic lawnmower 100. The robotic lawnmower 100 will thus be able to operate and move in a stable manner even in surroundings where there are holes.

    [0043] The displacement of the beam axle 145 can also be limited by for example stoppers arranged on the chassis 140. The stoppers may alternatively be arranged on the beam axle 145 or stoppers may be arranged on both the beam axle and the chassis 140 (or other part of the robotic lawnmower 100). In the embodiment of figures 6A and 6B, the openings 149 act as stoppers. It should be noted that embodiments having openings 149 may also have other stoppers.

    [0044] Figures 7A and 7B each shows a schematic overview of a robotic lawnmower according to one embodiment of the teachings of this application, wherein a front portion of the chassis 140 is arranged to be able to pivot relative the rest or remainder of the chassis 140. In such an embodiment the front portion 145 of the chassis 140 effectively forms a beam axle 145. This allows for an alternative manner of sealing any components or circuitry such as sensors or detectors arranged close to the beam axle 145.

    [0045] The invention has mainly been described above with reference to a few embodiments. However, as is readily appreciated by a person skilled in the art, other embodiments than the ones disclosed above are equally possible within the scope of the invention, as defined by the appended patent claims.


    Claims

    1. A robotic lawnmower system (200) comprising a robotic lawnmower (100), said robotic lawnmower (100) comprising two front wheels (130) and a chassis (140), wherein said robotic lawnmower is characterized in that the two front wheels (130) are arranged on a beam axle (145) which is pivotably arranged to the chassis (140),
    wherein the beam axle (145) is pivotably attached to the chassis (140) through a pivot point (147) which is an axle (147) protruding from the chassis (140) and extending through an opening (146) in the beam axle (145),
    wherein the hole or opening (146) is elongated to allow vertical movement of the pivot axle (147),
    and wherein sensors are arranged to determine whether the robotic lawnmower (100) is being lifted or not by determining in which portion of the hole or opening (146) the pivot axle (147) is.
     
    2. The robotic lawnmower system (200) according to claim 1, wherein said beam axle (145) is arranged to balance one front wheel (130A) to the other front wheel (130B).
     
    3. The robotic lawnmower system (200) according to claim 2, wherein said beam axle (145) is a single beam axle (145) common to both front wheels (130).
     
    4. The robotic lawnmower system (200) according to any preceding claim, wherein the robotic work tool (100) further comprises a stopper (149) for restricting a maximum displacement of said beam axle (145).
     
    5. The robotic lawnmower system (200) according to claim 2, wherein said stopper is an opening (149) in the chassis (140) so that the chassis (140) is arranged to cover the pivot point (147).
     
    6. The robotic lawnmower system (200) according to any preceding claim, wherein the beam axle (145) is arranged as a front portion of the chassis (140), wherein the front portion of the chassis 140 is pivotably arranged to the remainder of the chassis (140).
     


    Ansprüche

    1. Rasenmährobotersystem (200) umfassend einen Rasenmähroboter (100), wobei der Rasenmähroboter (100) zwei Vorderräder (130) und ein Fahrwerk (140) umfasst, wobei der Rasenmähroboter dadurch gekennzeichnet ist, dass die zwei Vorderräder (130) an einer Starrachse (145) angeordnet sind, die schwenkbar an dem Fahrwerk (140) angeordnet ist,
    wobei die Starrachse (145) schwenkbar an dem Fahrwerk (140) durch einen Schwenkpunkt (147) angebracht ist, der eine Achse (147) ist, die aus dem Fahrwerk (140) herausragt und sich durch eine Öffnung (146) in der Starrachse (145) erstreckt,
    wobei das Loch oder die Öffnung (146) länglich ist, um eine vertikale Bewegung der Schwenkachse (147) zu erlauben,
    und wobei Sensoren angeordnet sind, um zu bestimmen, ob der Rasenmähroboter (100) angehoben wird oder nicht, indem bestimmt wird, in welchem Abschnitt des Lochs oder der Öffnung (146) sich die Schwenkachse (147) befindet.
     
    2. Rasenmährobotersystem (200) nach Anspruch 1, wobei die Starrachse (145) angeordnet ist, um ein Vorderrad (130A) mit dem anderen Vorderrad (130B) auszugleichen.
     
    3. Rasenmährobotersystem (200) nach Anspruch 2, wobei die Starrachse (145) eine einzelne Starrachse (145) ist, die beiden Vorderrädern (130) gemeinsam ist.
     
    4. Rasenmährobotersystem (200) nach einem der vorhergehenden Ansprüche, wobei der Werkzeugroboter (100) ferner einen Anschlag (149) umfasst, um die maximale Verschiebung der Starrachse (145) zu beschränken.
     
    5. Rasenmährobotersystem (200) nach Anspruch 2, wobei der Anschlag eine Öffnung (149) in dem Fahrwerk (140) ist, so dass das Fahrwerk (140) so angeordnet ist, um den Schwenkpunkt (147) zu bedecken.
     
    6. Rasenmährobotersystem (200) nach einem der vorhergehenden Ansprüche, wobei die Starrachse (145) als ein vorderer Abschnitt des Fahrwerks (140) angeordnet ist, wobei der vordere Abschnitt des Fahrwerks 140 schwenkbar an dem verbleibenden Teil des Fahrwerks (140) angeordnet ist.
     


    Revendications

    1. Système (200) de tondeuse à gazon robotisée comprenant une tondeuse à gazon robotisée (100), ladite tondeuse à gazon robotisée (100) comprenant deux roues avant (130) et un châssis (140), où ladite tondeuse à gazon robotisée est caractérisée en ce que les deux roues avant (130) sont agencées sur un essieu rigide (145) qui est agencé en pivotement sur le châssis (140),
    dans lequel l'essieu rigide (145) est fixé de manière pivotante au châssis (140) à travers un point de pivotement (147) qui est un axe (147) faisant saillie à partir du châssis (140) et s'étendant à travers une ouverture (146) dans l'essieu rigide (145),
    dans lequel le trou ou l'ouverture (146) est allongé(e) pour permettre un mouvement vertical de l'axe de pivotement (147),et
    dans lequel des capteurs sont agencés pour déterminer si la tondeuse à gazon robotisée (100) est soulevée ou non en déterminant dans quelle partie du trou ou de l'ouverture (146) se trouve l'axe de pivotement (147).
     
    2. Système (200) de tondeuse à gazon robotisée selon la revendication 1, dans lequel ledit essieu rigide (145) est agencé pour équilibrer une roue avant (130A) par rapport à l'autre roue avant (130B).
     
    3. Système (200) de tondeuse à gazon robotisée selon la revendication 2, dans lequel ledit essieu rigide (145) est un seul essieu rigide (145) commun aux deux roues avant (130) .
     
    4. Système (200) de tondeuse à gazon robotisée selon l'une des revendications précédentes, dans lequel l'outil de travail robotisé (100) comprend en outre une butée (149) pour restreindre un déplacement maximal dudit essieu rigide (145) .
     
    5. Système (200) de tondeuse à gazon robotisée selon la revendication 2, dans lequel ladite butée est une ouverture (149) dans le châssis (140) de sorte que le châssis (140) soit agencé pour couvrir le point de pivotement (147).
     
    6. Système (200) de tondeuse à gazon robotisée selon l'une des revendications précédentes, dans lequel l'essieu rigide (145) est agencé en tant que partie avant du châssis (140), dans lequel
    la partie avant du châssis (140) est agencée en pivotement sur le reste du châssis (140).
     




    Drawing


















    REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



    This list of references cited by the applicant is for the reader's convenience only. It does not form part of the European patent document. Even though great care has been taken in compiling the references, errors or omissions cannot be excluded and the EPO disclaims all liability in this regard.

    Patent documents cited in the description