Engineers at Canadian company LMI Technologies have, using time-of-flight technology, developed what they claim is the first 3D smart sensor designed for automated cow milking.
The Tracker 4000 sensor collects live 3D range images and generates accurate locations and orientations of the cow teats and milking cups to successfully guide cup attachments to cow teats using a milking robot.
Automated milking in dairy farms is a rapidly expanding market. The robotic milking process not only frees up valuable time for the farmer, but also reduces the stress on the cows, resulting in a higher yield of milk.
The time-of-flight principle provides a complete 3D topographical map with no moving parts and with no laser. Laser scanners require the use of a mechanical scanning device to capture a full 3D image, which increases the time that is required to capture an image and adds complexity while reducing reliability.
The compact Tracker 4000 can be mounted in tight spaces, such as a robot arm. When the sensor is attached to the robot arm, the robot sensor system works together to obtain an unobstructed view of all the teats.
Incorporating time-of-flight technology enables the sensor to continuously track cow-teat locations, allowing this 3D smart sensor to make quick decisions to ensure that each milking cup is accurately guided to the cow teats for milking despite cow movement.