tractor-trailer coupling with power transfer
September 30, 2008
This is an idea for two (or more) cooperative robots. One passive bot (with wheels, but without motors) and one active bot (with motors). The motor-bot (the tractor) would pull the lame bot (the trailer). The trailer has a power source on board. The tractor wants to recharge its battery from that source.
The big idea is so big, I won't even mention it here. Yet.
One of the necessary and mission-critical components would be the coupling of the two machines. In my design I want this coupling to be strong enough for the pulling AND I also want the two bots to share electrical power through the coupling. The mechanism must be robust and reliable. I want the tractor to be able to perform the entire coupling maneuver without my help. And also the de-coupling. So the coupling must also be fool proof.
Look at these designs made in a rapid prototyping material called pizza box.
That was the initial flat version. The red/black markings indicate where I would place conductive materials (e.g. copper plating). All the rest is electrically insulating (wood, plastic, chewing gum).
I recreated the "mushroom" in a taller version, so I could actually test the coupling/decoupling.
Here is how they "work".
And here you see how well the coupling works (even I were surprised) when the approach is not perfectly aligned.
Feel free to use these designs, even when I do not. Also feel free to post your results on LMR!