Tapping Malaysian rubber tree and new methods
Rubber tree taping
In one of the rubber tree plantations in Hainan Islands, natural rubber collecting robots have been used experimentally. This robot can move easily in the forest with the help of a positioning system; While extraction machines are also installed on the trees. These machines and robots are to be officially put into operation by the end of this year. This automated method is expected to increase efficiency and reduce labor costs in the industry. Hainan is one of the key raw material production areas in China. A new rubber tapping industrial robot with an STM32WL is transforming plantations in China and South-East Asia.
The project, led by CIHEVEA, a Chinese company, uses LoRa® to optimize tapping operations. For instance, the robot takes the weather into account to cut trees at optimal times and improve working conditions. Indeed, as the workforce still struggles with the global pandemic, the smart rubber tapping system can compensate for a reduction in staffing and improve conditions for those on the ground. The first deployments led some estates to triple their yields, thus proving the success of initial projects. As a result, CIHEVEA is now looking to increase the number of pilot rubber estates from three to ten. The company is also planning to export the robot to Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia.
Rubber Tapping Robot: How to Solve the Packet Losses and Power Consumption Conundrum?
The rubber tapping robot has primarily two parts: a movable arm that cuts into the tree and the communication module. When CIHEVEA first worked on this project, they chose to adopt a proprietary FSK modulation. Problems arose when significant interferences from nearby power lines led to numerous packet losses. Additionally, the FSK modulation didn’t work well with a mesh network of thousands of devices. Finally, the company faced the challenge of creating a system with low power consumption that could last a year on a single battery while also coming up with something that could weather high humidity and tropical storms.
CIHEVEA approached ST’s competence center to see if we could find a solution. After various proofs-of-concept, we all settled on the STM32WL. Indeed, by using LoRa modulation, the company is now experiencing nearly flawless communication with almost no packet drops. Moreover, CIHEVEA can now create a more robust mesh network to interconnect all systems. Our engineers also chose to use the STM32WL because the microcontroller integrates a multi modulation radio, thus reducing the number of components on the board and lowering the overall power consumption. Finally, ST also helped conceive an environmentally robust system and assisted CIHEVEA as they updated their design.