The challenges of Industry 4.0 are diverse. Limited space and autonomously acting machinery (robots, cobots, etc.) paired in hostile environments require radar technology that’s smaller in size, more accurate, and capable of measuring nearby targets. Imaging and classification of surrounding areas is essential to efficiency, productivity and safety.
Driven by the latest advances in RF transceiver IC technology, radar is quickly becoming one of the important sensor technologies for perception applications. One example is 77 GHz fully integrated all-digital transceiver MMICs. High speed and linearity FMCW chirps combined with high output power, low noise transmit and receive channels, and MIMO antenna arrays now enable high performance, high resolution radar systems at reasonable cost. Radar-based digital beamforming enables detection of radial velocity, angle, and distance to multiple targets under the harshest environmental conditions—It’s key for the safe and efficient interaction of robots, cobots, and AGVs in dynamic environments.
The mission of an autonomous system in an industrial setting is often to locate and pick up an object rather than safely avoiding it. Lidar’s strong object detection and classification accuracy provides the precision necessary to complete these common tasks.
Operating in the terahertz frequency range, lidar systems achieve fine angular resolution that translates into high resolution depth maps. With these high-res depth maps, a lidar system can classify objects to fuse with vision, IMU, and radar information to make reliable, mission critical decisions. Lidar systems are designed to work in dynamic environments, such as outdoors in bright sunlight. By using narrow pulses of 9xx nm and 15xx nm wavelengths, and driving them with high power, lidar is able to see farther in these challenging conditions. In addition, the narrow pulses allow for finer depth resolution to detect multiple targets within a pixel, while the infrared light at 9xx and 15xx has less solar radiation.
Numerous challenges must be overcome to encourage the mass adoption of lidar systems. These include complex and costly signal chains, optical design issues, and system test and calibration. Developments are currently underway to integrate these signal chains and reduce their complexity, size, power requirements, and overall cost of ownership.