TinyMobileRobot has introduced a robot marking machine for clubs with a limited budget. While the Pro version has been well-received by contractors and municipalities that are responsible for quickly marking many fields in different places, the new edition should offer a solution to clubs that only need to mark a few fields at one complex.
In our pursuit of playing sports under the best possible conditions, the bar has continuously been raised in recent years. Due to our desire for “quality” and the market constantly responding by introducing new innovations to achieve this, the preparation of sports fields has become precision work. This also applies to the marking of fields. The high usage many fields experience leaves little time to mark them adequately. Many clubs are also dependent on volunteers who want to be involved for many reasons, provided that it remains “fun” to be involved. Delivering precision work under great time pressure is then sometimes difficult to integrate.
Pro vs Sports
Two years ago, the Danish company TinyMobileRobot launched its Pro version to simplify the marking of fields and further improve marking quality. The brand is represented in the Benelux and France by Expo-line. The TinyLineMarker Pro focuses mainly on municipalities and contractors who regularly have to draw lines on many fields and for different sports. From this autumn, they will add the TinyLineMarker Sport to their portfolio. “This new robot is for clubs that only need to draw lines on a few pitches. From now on they can also perform that work automatically, “says Raf Bogaerts of Expo-line. The new model is completely tailored to the club’s ambitions. “The big difference with the TinyLineMarker Pro is that the TinyLineMarker Sport only has the software that the club needs.” Where the Pro contains the software to draw lines for sports such as football, rugby or hockey, the buyer must indicate in advance for which sport they want to use the TinyLineMarker Sport. “Software is one of the most expensive components because it needs to be constantly updated, while many users of the robot only use a limited part of that software. By only loading the software the specific application needs, it is possible to market an autonomous line robot whose price remains affordable for clubs as well.” Bogaerts emphasizes that the software for one sport contains the templates for all derivatives of that sport. “If, for example, you choose football, the software will, in addition to the lines for an 11-v-11 field, also contain the lines for 5-v-5, 7-v-7 or 9-v-9. In addition, the robot can also draw the lines for the technical zones around the dugout.” Clubs that still want to use the TinyLineMarker Sport for printing markings for two or more sports, can purchase the software for those other sports separately.
From greenkeeper to field manager
The TinyLineMarker Sport uses GPS technology to maintain the correct position on the field. Once it has arrived at the correct starting point, the lines for a football field are set within 27 minutes. “The robot does that completely autonomously maintaining contact with the satellite.” Once the lines are set, the robot comes to a stop and it is up to the field manager to manoeuvre it to the next field. “The situation is different for every complex. At the one complex, fields are separated from each other by a fence, at another, you will have to go via a walkway with obstacles to get to the field. Once again, to keep everything simple and affordable we chose not to program this. The vision for the TinyLineMarker is to draw the lines as efficiently as possible.” To facilitate moving to another field, the field manager is provided with a tablet. “It works very simply and intuitively. The training for using that tablet is included in the purchase. Our experience is that people often master the use of the tablet before the end of the morning.”
Field manager remains relevant
The presence of the field manager is also required, as the robot takes only the amount of paint it needs to set lines on one field. “Before the robot starts on the next field, the paint jug has to be changed.” Expo-line supplies its paint in jugs, but customers can also choose to have a paint tank placed at their facility. “In that case, all you have to do is drain the paint into the jug. The jugs we use have a deposit. As soon as it is no longer needed, we take the jug back and refund the club the deposit.” In this way, Expo-line helps limit the use of virgin plastics.
Because the paint is in interchangeable jugs, the robot can also be used to draw lines in different colors. “All you need to do before you can start working with another colour is remove and rinse the suction rod. Cleaning this only takes three minutes.”
One thing that one does not have to worry about is the capacity of the battery. “With one charged battery you can work for five hours. In theory, you can draw the lines for eight to ten football fields during that period.” Once finished, it only takes five hours to recharge the battery. “Extra batteries are available separately. If it turns out that five hours is not enough to draw the lines on all the fields, having a second battery can help keep working for the rest of the day.”
The small robot uses sonar to determine if the upcoming trajectory is clear of obstacles. “That sonar continuously explores the trajectory 2 meters ahead. If it turns out that there is an obstacle, the robot comes to a stop well before it meets the obstacle and sends both a text message and an audio signal to the tablet. Only once the field manager has removed that obstacle and released the robot, will it roll back a little before continuing its work.” Obstacles such as fixed targets are pre-programmed in the software. The robot moves around these independently.
The robot weighs only 25 kg when empty. This makes it easy to control and manoeuvre. According to Bogaerts, the weight is also sufficient for a stable position. “The robot has thin wheels that are all driven separately. Progress is recalculated nearly 200 times every second. Unevenness in the surface, or other influences that can make the robot move unexpectedly, will not affect the quality of the marking. The 200 calculations per second means that the robot will compensate for this.”
The introduction of the TinyLineMarker Sport will not mean that volunteers are no longer needed. The opposite is true: supervision is required for the robot to function. The difference is that from now on, the supervisor is only expected to manoeuvre the robot to the different fields as well as placing a new can of paint for each field. All that is left is to wait for approximately 27 minutes until the work is done or until the robot indicates that you should come and check. The promotion from greenkeeper to manager made possible by the TinyMobileRobot Sport will certainly be a welcome recognition for every volunteer.
This article was commissioned by Fieldmanager Magazine from the Netherlands