How A Robot Vacuum Cleaner Works

How A Robot Vacuum Cleaner Works

Your home should be a place where you can relax at the end of your tiresome day.

So keeping your place clean becomes an essential chore of your daily life.

However, this can be a very tedious and daunting task if not done properly. And this is where a Robot Vacuum Cleaner comes into play.

In this era of technology, Robot vacuum cleaners are gaining popularity, and for good reasons also.

But many of us wonder how a robot vacuum cleaner works. The thing that intrigues most of the users is not the vacuum, but the basic function of the robotic component. 

Most of the technologies we encounter in our life has evolved at an exponential rate, and robot vacuum cleaners are no different.

The first robot vacuum cleaner was commercially available back in the 1990s.

The invention was later improved in the last decade and now has become a companion for a lot of households.

Surprising as it may sound, the basic functionality of the new and improved robot vacuum cleaner is relatively simple.

It uses two simple technology to manoeuvre around your house and finds its path to provide you with clean living experience. 

And they are,

1. Sensor elements.
2. Mapping technology.

Sensor elements

The sensor is the fundamental input element by which a robot vacuum cleaner can measure and physical property like distance, obstacles, and moves around the space to cover all the areas.

The sensors on the device always record the travelling distance and manipulate the data to respond according to the integrated program. 

Even though the model of the sensors and the programming of the robot varies from one another in the case of different manufacturers and models, some common sensor elements must be used in all the models for an effective response.

And they are, 

Impact sensors

Impact sensors are the fundamental block of the robot vacuum cleaner.

No matter how good the programming and the responsiveness achieved by the device is, they are prone to get bumped into obstacles.

The impact sensors used in the robots allows it to recognize when it is bumped into something like the furniture or wall and quickly change its direction to prevent further damage.

They work mechanically to do the detection.

Wall sensors

Even though the objectives of both the impact sensors and the wall sensors are quite similar, they are not the same.

Unlike the impact sensors, Wall sensors are not mechanical and use the beam of IR ( infrared ) lights to detect incoming walls. 

But the robot does not use this data to avoid collisions. Instead, the data collected by the wall sensors are used to follow along the wall lines to clean the edges of the room.

If the robot comes with the latest mapping technologies, it can also use the data from the wall sensor to map around the wall and conceptualize new areas of discovery.

Cliff sensors

The thing that sets the modern-day robot vacuum cleaner from the older generations is the proper utilization of cliff sensors.

The implementation of the cliff sensor allows the robot to detect the distance between the bottom of the device and the ground.

Using this sensor, robots detect when they are at the edge of a drop or stairs and prevent falling over.

Upon detection, the robot immediately stops and changes its direction.

Optical encoders

Optical encoders are also popularly known as wheel sensors due to their applications. They are one of the most revolutionary sensors that are used in the higher-end robot vacuum cleaners.

This sensor uses optical signal tracks the number of rotation of the wheel used in the cleaner. And with this data, it can easily calculate how much distance the device has traveled. 

These are the common sensors used to collect information. But it takes a lot of instructions and programming to use this data with preciseness and fulfill the objective of the device.

By utilizing the above-mentioned sensors and the robots maneuvers the vacuum cleaner to avoid obstacles and travel the path it was meant to follow until the whole space is cleaned.

Mapping technology to the rescue

Even though utilizing the sensor elements was fruitful, they are not that efficient.

For the models run by sensors, they have to respond to every input, which can eventually lead to numerous errors and put a beating on your batteries.

Even if the battery drain was insignificant, it usually a lot of rotation to fulfill the total cleaning process.

So if the robot is dealing with a bigger space, uneven cleaning and long application time become a big issue.

To prevent these problem new mapping technology was invented.

This technology uses a self-navigation system for effective cleaning in the shortest amount of time and battery drain.

In this mapping system, the integrated camera on the device I used to take pictures of all obstacles, walls and makes a map inside its default memory.

Using this mapping data the robot comes up with the most effective path to cover all the areas and provide equal attention to even the smallest of space.

Things that are great about mapping navigation

This technology comes with the advantage of localizing the device on the map and prevent unnecessary battery uses.

And once it runs low on battery, it can come back to its charging station and go back to the task in hand again. And as a result, you get an efficient long term cleaning companion.

Things that are not so great

But like any other great invention mapping also comes with some drawbacks.

If the area is too low on light, the device can not do a thorough mapping with the camera and eventually fail. And having a dark wall and furniture can mess up the initial mapping navigation process.

At the end of the day, no matter how a robot vacuum cleaner works, it will run into some issues.

But they are insignificant to the benefits they deliver daily. So the next time you look at a robot vacuum cleaner remember that now you have the knowledge behind its working mechanism.

Before you buy your new Robot Vacuum Cleaner, check out these helpful articles:

10 Useful Tips When Owning A Robot Vacuum Cleaner

Best Robot Vacuum That Doesn’t Make Super Annoying Noise



Morten Pradsgaard

Morten has been working with technology, IoT and electronics for over a decade. His passion for technology is reflected into this blog to give you relevant and correct information.