I own a “Neato XV Signature” Vacuuming Robot.
This little thing has been vacuuming my floor 3 times per week. But this does not mean, that it never has any problems or malfunctions. I just discovered a possible malfunction, which caused it to stay stranded in my living room, close to the end of its assigned chore, but waiting for my intervention, before it would have been able to continue. And because I needed to focus and take my time to figure out what went wrong with it this Friday, my response was also to tell it, that its job was done for now, not to continue for one day.
This little machine frequently rides at relatively brazen speeds, over bumps in my floor, caused by such things as wooden strips in my floor, that separate regions of differing floor-type. So the little bot is wearing itself out as it is doing its job, and may not be with us forever, just for that reason. And yet, there is something more specific which can go wrong.
This vacuuming robot has a dust container made of plastic, which is transparent in some places, and which needs to be lifted out of its cavity in the robot, in order to be emptied, preferably after every use. The robot has a small mechanical switch inside this cavity, in order to detect, whether the dust container is fully inserted or not, and if the dust container is not fully inserted, will stop working and ask the user to remedy the specific problem.
The problem is the fact that there is no gap – no tolerance – between the outside surface which the dust container has, and the inside surface of this cavity within the robot, into which the dust container expects to be inserted flush. There is some mechanical action of the plastic, that causes the container to snap into place, so that the user can recognize he has done so.
After numerous months of repeated use, it commonly happens that dust – or even larger debris – can fall into the cavity, but land outside the container, so that effectively, particles and pebbles can get wedged between the dust container and the space inside the robot, where this is to be inserted.
The result of this is, that the user needs to push down a bit harder on the container, before he gets the tactile feedback, which usually lets him know that the container is fully seated. But in reality, the plastic of this device is arched, with some elastic force against remaining inserted – internal force trapped in the elasticity of the plastic.
Hence this past Friday, the robot passed over several bumps in its terrain uneventfully. But then, when it just passed over another bump, this internal force, together with the elasticity of the plastic, actually caused the dust container to pop out slightly, and for the internal switch to report to the computer of the machine, that the container was no longer inserted properly. This was also good, because as soon as the dust container does not form a proper seal inside the robot, the fan or turbine of the robot is also inhaling debris.
And so this little robot waited and waited for me to come home, and to rescue it from this dilemma. By then its battery charge level had also decreased considerably.
The only way to solve this problem, is once in a while, to take out the dust container, and then with it removed, to wipe and clean the inside surfaces of this cavity – where I found lots of dust and pebbles – to wipe and clean the entire outside surface of the dust container, and then to reinsert it.
I guess that the little machine might be good to go a few more times from now on, until it waits to be rescued from some other problem, that its robotic mind cannot solve.