OptiGap, how the economical sensor that revolutionizes robotics works

OptiGap, how the economical sensor that revolutionizes robotics works

A researcher at the University of Louisville, Paul Bupe Jr., has developed an innovative sensor called OptiGap capable of detecting at what exact point a fiber optic cable is bent.

The OptiGap project takes on significant importance and opens up very interesting scenarios for several reasons: first of all, it offers an innovative method for detecting creases in soft robotic systems. These systems, so named because they mimic the fluid, flexible movements of biological organisms, are gaining increasing attention in medical applications, elder care, space exploration and more.

The idea behind OptiGap provides a precise and reliable way to monitor and control the deformation and therefore the movements of robotallowing them to better adapt to their surroundings and perform complex tasks more safely and efficiently.

How OptiGap works and what horizons the innovative sensor opens up

OptiGap uses a fiber optic based approach air gap or air spaces intentionally inserted between sections of flexible optical fibers to create a controlled change in light transmission when the material is bent. These air gap they behave like points of light attenuation along the optical fiber path.

The variation in light transmission through the air gap It is related to the angle and location of the bend in the optical fiber. When the cable undergoes flexion, the air gap they cause light scattering that can be measured and interpreted to determine the location and extent of the crease.

The air gap they are therefore essential as they allow information to be encoded on the position of the fold along the optical fiber, without the need to resort to complex and expensive components.

Thus, the intuition behind OptiGap becomes in the future an ideal solution for integration into wearable devices, drones, collaborative robots and other technologies that require compact and versatile sensors.

OptiGap sensor structure

Built-in machine learning

The integration of a Bayes type classifier on microcontroller, allows rapid data processing and real-time response. OptiGap not only detects fiber cable flexes, but can dynamically interpret and respond to changes in the surrounding environment. This is critical for applications such as autonomous robotics and environmental surveillance.

The modularity and flexibility that characterize OptiGap open the doors to the use of the sensor in a wide range of contexts and sectors. For example, it could be used to monitor the bending and deformation of engineering structures such as bridges and buildings, to detect body positions with devices virtual reality or to track patients’ movements during physical rehabilitation.

OptiGap system architecture

Some technical details

To carry out his study, which was then successfully completed, Bupe used a single-board computer Raspberry Pi in order to power a sensore VL53L0X ToF. The latter is a device developed by STMicroelectronics which integrates a distance sensor based on ToF technology (Time of Flight). It uses the time it takes for a light pulse to travel to an object and back to the sensor. In this way, it is possible calculate the distance of the object.

The VL53L0X ToF is known for its measurement accuracy and speed, as well as its ability to work in a variety of environmental conditions. It is widely used in a number of applications, including robotics, home automation, automotive, drones, mobile devices and much more.

Bupe then made agraphic interface con Python to view, in real time, the light transmission data acquired by the VL53L0X. “Playing” with them air gapthe scholar was able to effectively measure the attenuation in the transmission of light as a consequence of the different folding modes of the fiber cable.

To reduce the complexity of the system, Bupe finally replaced the VL53L0X sensor using a simple photodiode and infrared emitting diode configuration, then combining a microcontroller to read the data. The result is a much more compact device than the original prototype.

In conclusion, OptiGap represents an important innovation in the field of flexible sensors and wrinkle detection, offering an efficient, cost-effective and versatile solution that could have a significant impact across a variety of industries and applications.

The images in the article are taken from the article “R&D Case Study: Developing the OptiGap Sensor System“.

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