Sonar, Optical Flow and Photoelectric Sensors for Car Washes Considered
There are more and more high-tech sensors entering the realms of robotic car wash tunnel systems. There are many reasons for this, but most has to do with supply and demand issues and the shortage of labor in the United States. Currently with unemployment hovering at between 4.7 and 4.8% and illegal immigration under fire most car wash companies know they must adapt or die to these forward trends.
Thus more car wash robotics are coming into play and with robotic systems come robotic sensors. Currently sonar sensors are used in car washes for many things including soap, waste water, fresh water tank volume reading. Ultra-sonic sensors are also used in a similar way to radar.
Ultra-sonic sensors use sound instead of light and this is good in a misty and soapy environment as light gets refracted easily. Unfortunately, air blowers move the air and disrupt the sound waves in the process. But if the car is already done being washed then it need not matter.
Photoelectric sensors are much preferred but cost is a consideration and if one goes out then the tunnel wash is often rendered useless. Operators know to send a Ghost Car through in the early morning just in case of catastrophe. Usually a very cheap employee’s car in case the system goes haywire?
One problem with photoelectric optical sensors is that they send a beam of infrared light, but that beam can be blocked by parts of the car and render it unusable. Photoelectric sensors can also be troublesome in harsh work environments with hydrofluoric acid, soaps, hot waxes, high pressure and steam. All of, which you find inside a tunnel modern day car wash.
Optical flow sensors are perhaps a future option for carwashes in that they can work backwards of normal optical flow sensors by mounting them on the tunnel wash frame from above and sending the information to the electronic arms of the robotic car wash equipment below.
If you are considering using high-tech sensors to help your carwash “See” and “Sense” the cars for a perfect wash then you need to take a look at all the industry has to offer currently and where all this technology is taking us into the future. Think on this in 2006.