Robot waits for no man when recharging

Yikes, that power connector certainly wasn’t designed by Apple. Ugly as it may be, it’s the charging cable for a robot and acts as a sensor that allows the robot to properly align and plug into a power receptacle.

We’re going to go off on a tangent for just a second. We often think of the Rat Things from Snowcrash when considering robot power. They were nuclear powered (or something) and instead of recharging required constant cooling. Those day’s aren’t exactly around the corner but we think they’ve been realized in the lawn mowing robots that have a little nests to recharge in. Base stations work but they require the machine to return to the same place, or to have multiple charging stations.

The point is, this specialized cable makes base stations for robots obsolete. Now a robot can plug into any outlet it can get near, a great thing for robots roving large facilities. After the break you can see a video of this process. The robot arm zeros in by scanning horizontally and vertically and measuring the magnetic field put out by the AC in the wires of the outlet. Take a look, it’s a pretty neat piece of engineering.

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Makita battery pack repair

[Rob] grew tired of his Makita power tool battery packs dying so he figured out how to repair them himself. The video after the break walks us through the process which starts by cracking open the case. Inside there is a controller board and a battery of ten cells. [Rob] has pinpointed these battery failures to just the first cell, which is confirmed by measuring the cell voltages with a multimeter. The first cell in the demonstration battery reads zero volts and needs to be replaced. For some reason he’s got heck of a lot of these cells on hand, at the end of the video he shows off a massive block of them that provides one half of a kilowatt-hour of power.

To complete the resurrection he removed the control circuitry from the integrated PCB. It seems that the microcontroller on the battery’s PCB monitors it and bricks them when it thinks the life of the unit has ended. By hacking a charger he can now balance-charge the altered battery packs and get more use out of them before they hit the landfill.

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