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A short history of cleaning robots

: Prassler, E.; Ritter, A.; Schaeffer, C.; Fiorini, P.


Autonomous robots (2000), Nr.9, S.211-226
ISSN: 0929-5593
Fraunhofer IPA ()
automatic cleaning; Cleaning Robot; autonomous cleaning device; robotic road sweeper; autonomous vacuum cleaner; robotic floor scrubber; autonomous pool cleaner; Roboter; Reinigung

The definition of the desired functions and the design of an ultimate versatile personal robot is an ongoing debate. Meanwhile, however, precursors of this yet to envolve species are well on their way to become commercial products. Cleaning robots for public environments as well as for private households seem to be able to provide the breakthrough which the designers of non-industrial robot systems have long awaited.
This survey describes a selection of 30 different cleaning robots, with the first developments reaching back more than 15 years. With a few exceptions we have focused on floor cleaning, in particular indoor floor cleaning. We describe a variety of scrubbing and vacuuming robots which were developed for this task. The described systems range from heavy, large, and expensive industrial cleaning vehicles to small-size, light-weight, low-cost household devices. The survey does not include, however, systems for cleaning facades of buildings, or windows, or production tools.
Although not all of the 30 cleaning robots above mentioned have yet reached the state of commercial products, their number alone certainly reflects the expectations regarding the economic value associated with the automation of cleaning tasks. In Europe only the estimates for the market for cleaning services range up to the order of US$ 100 billion per year. It is therefore not surprising that the cleaning industry and the manufacturers of cleaning devices are rather enthusiastic with respect to the automation of cleaning tasks using (semi-)autonomous mobile robot systems.