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ctrlX developR Challenge:
Seeing the bigger picture

Two hands each with thumb and index finger form a symbolized square.

Christian Zentgraf gives exclusive insights into why a table tennis ball collecting robot is opening up new horizons, how hurdles are overcome and how new discussions in the automation community are coming about. Together with the mentors, the Application & Technical Support departmental manager within Bosch Rexroth’s Automation Business Unit is supporting participants during the ctrlX developR Challenge.

Christian, the ctrlX developR Challenge is a challenge on many levels. Have the participants got off to a good start during the solution phase?

The participants had a number of questions for their mentors, particularly at the start of the challenge. A key issue was the fact that some of them needed extra hardware for their projects in addition to the ctrlX CORE starter package. Anything which we could get at short notice from our own stocks, e.g. I/O components, was sent out to the participants immediately. For parts which we don’t stock as part of our portfolio, we worked with ctrlX World partners or other friendly companies to find a solution. For example, one of our customers was willing to provide a battery module for a table tennis ball collecting robot.

In addition to questions regarding the hardware components, a wide range of software-related problems also came to light. For example, one participant needed help with a database connection. We found an ideal solution and put them in touch with InfluxData, a ctrlX World partner company. Another participant is developing an app to assess the reliability of sensor data. In order to do this, he needs suitable data sets to test their algorithms. The production department at Bosch Rexroth can provide such data sets – they are generated during IoT projects.

A table tennis ball collecting robot? What is that all about?

One of the participants would like to develop a table tennis ball collecting robot. During table tennis training, the robot will use image processing to approach played balls and then collect them. As a result, the table tennis player will no longer need to collect the balls and can concentrate on the actual training.

That’s an unconventional application. Is the ctrlX developR Challenge opening up new horizons?

The openness of our ctrlX AUTOMATION platform allows unlimited application scenarios. Seeing the bigger picture and exploiting this potential are important goals for us. Through the competition, we’re also expanding our own horizons with regard to applications for our ctrlX CORE control system. Thanks to the open control architecture, the system can be used in a range of situations which go beyond classic applications in factory automation. We have not even thought about some of these ourselves. With their ideas, the participants give us valuable food for thought regarding future business fields and challenge us when it comes to implementing modern technologies such as machine learning, SLAM, edge computing etc.

What specialist support do you provide for these great ideas during the competition?

Each participant is assigned two mentors. The mentors are from Bosch Rexroth and the ctrlX World partner companies. As a result, we’re able to provide help and advice if the participants have any questions regarding ctrlX AUTOMATION products. The mentors from partner companies were selected according to the particular task and are also able to provide specialist input. For example, a mentor from Cedalo was found for a participant who wanted to develop a wireless sensor solution using MQTT. Cedalo is developing an MQTT broker for ctrlX CORE and is thus the perfect match for the participant. The participants not only have direct contact with the mentors – they can also use the ctrlX AUTOMATION Community to ask their question in the forum. In addition to this, everyone involved has the opportunity to talk about the current project status during a monthly chat.

Do you think that some sort of community will form after the ctrlX developR Challenge?

As I mentioned, all participants and mentors are already members of our community and already use the forum to communicate with each other. During the chat, we realized that participants are networking with other mentors too. When the individual projects were presented, a number of common issues came to light and these were then discussed in more detail later on. This sharing of ideas is exactly what we want to encourage through the ctrlX developR Challenge.

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Portrait view of Christian Zentgraf, Game Changer Applications

Christian Zentgraf

Game Changer



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