Boeing will wirelessly power robots in its fully automated manufacturing plants

Boeing has been aggressively automating its manufacturing plants. They have filed many patents that disclose key technologies that will make these plants work.

All the work will be done using robots as shown in the video above.

In a manufacturing environment, sending power to all the robots is more cumbersome than desired. Cables connecting electric motors to a power source cause more issues than desired. For example, cables may become disconnected during movement of robots if the robots move farther than anticipated with respect to the length of the cables. Further, the movement or repositioning of robots may be more limited than desired when using cables.

Therefore, Boeing plans to wirelessly power these robots. They will install power transmitters across the manufacturing plant. The transmitters will directly or indirectly power the robots.

For example, the power transmitted in wireless signals may be directly received as magnetic fields in coils in the motors of the robots. These motors include rotors that are rotatable and comprise of a magnetic material. Coils in corresponding stators in these motors will generate a magnetic field in response to wireless signals from the power transmitter. In this manner, the coils will cause the rotor to rotate and perform the required tasks.

Alternatively, the motors will receive power indirectly through wireless signals from a receiver (in the robot) that generates power from wireless signals from the power transmitter. For example, wireless signals may be radio frequency (RF) signals. The radio frequency signals will be converted into power usable by the motors.

The robots can send messages to the power transmitters when they need power. Accordingly, the transmitters can provide the power to individual robots. The transmitter will be able to determine the reduced amount of power being received by a robot as compared to the amount of power being transmitted because of distance (between robot and transmitter), objects (between robot and transmitter), or other factors.

This patent technology will help Boeing develop futuristic manufacturing plants.

Patent Information
Publication number: US 20160197571
Patent Title: Wireless Power System for Electric Motors
Publication date: Jul 7, 2016
Filing date: Jan 5, 2015
Inventors: Kerri L. Olson; Brian Jay Tillotson; Peng Zeng;
Original Assignee: The Boeing Compan