Update – Halftime has been reached!

1. March 2023

The first semester of our project has successfully come to an end! We were able to finish (almost) all concepts and that means our rover is complete – at least in theory…

We ended the semester with a presentation where we covered all the achievements we were able to celebrate during the first semester.
Following will be an overview of said achievements last semester:

  • We were able to acquire a lot of sponsors without whom our project would not have been possible, we again would like to thank all sponsors who decided to support us!
    For more information covering this topic, check out our dedicated sponsor’s site
  • We participated in several events organized by the FHNW, especially the information events were a great opportunity to pitch our project to the next generation and hopefully, we were also able to inspire some of them to study at the FHNW.

Now the technical part, concerning the actual rover:

  • The chassis got vastly updated and received a second compartment, dedicated to the battery and power distribution board. It also grew in height and the electronic box will be replaced. Through this, we are able to increase the internal volume of the chassis, leaving more space for all the electronic components that are needed to operate the rover. The chassis will be framed with plastic plates that must be easily removable in order to access its internals.
    We also performed multiple FEM simulations of both the old and new chassis to make sure we achieved the same stiffness.
    In addition, a modular panel system on the inside of the chassis should make mounting all the electronic components much easier.
  • Mentioned on top is the power distribution board. It creates the linkage between the battery and the components. Its purpose is to control and monitor the power distribution to the different subsystems.
  • The robotic arm received a complete overhaul! It not only must have gotten stronger, but a 6th axis had to be added, in order to enable the use of reverse kinematics. We also changed the control device from a PS4-controller to a 3D space mouse. Together, this will ease the manoeuvrability of the arm drastically.
    There will be another blog post in the future, giving more insights into how the new robotic arm was designed and built, be sure to check it out once published!
  • We designed completely new wheels for our rover! The whole mounting system had to become much simpler and it must withstand a certain degree of soiling. To top it off we replaced the motors with newer, stronger ones containing an inbuilt encoder. That eliminates one of the main sources of failure, concerning the drivetrain.
    Most of the big mechanical pieces can be reused for the new drivetrain!
  • A completely new concept for the mechanical gripper was developed. It shall be able to precisely press switches and buttons while still being able to grip and move around big objects.
  • We are also working on deep sampling! First concepts and ideas are emerging.
  • A whole new set of cameras and sensors will lead our way to success! We are replacing all the cameras in order to achieve better image quality and faster response. A TOF (Time-of-Flight) sensor will create a live 3D map of the terrain in front of the rover. The whole communication network will be upgraded from USB to Ethernet to ensure a much more stable connection between the components.
CAD-model of our new rover “Thommen”

Furthermore, the date for the 2023 on-site ERC has been announced!
This year, the challenge will take place from 15-17 September in Kielce, Poland.
If we start to calculate we quickly realise what that means for our project – exactly, halftime has been reached!

The new semester has begun and we were already able to assemble the base structure of the rover and almost the entire new robotic arm.

We have also been receiving additional help! Our team was able to gain six part-time computer science students who will take on the challenge of uniting and implementing all the software that is “flying around”.

With that we would like to give you an overview of what is to come in the next weeks and months:

  • The new robotic arm will be mechanically complete and the first tests will be made
  • The chassis and drivetrain will be mounted
  • First electronic components will be installed
  • The wiring will be started (with love and passion, no more cable spaghetti!)
  • The operator interface will be programmed by the computer scientists
  • All current software will be embedded into the operator interface

And hopefully, in some months, the first functioning version of our rover “Thommen” will be complete – not only theoretically!

If you want to have some insight into our daily life at the FHNW Rover Team, go check out our Instagram and LinkedIn accounts, where we (try to) post weekly updates.

Tags: challenge, ERC23, fhnw, project, rover

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