Kärcher recently invited Tomorrow’s Cleaning Editor Martin Wharmby to their German HQ to meet the newest member of their cleaning team...

Situated around 12 miles northeast of Stuttgart in southwest Germany is the small town of Winnenden. While the town and local area is predominantly known for its wine-growing, it has also been home to Kärcher since 1939 – 11 years before the company first moved into the field of cleaning equipment.

In early May 2018, the company invited several members of the UK press over to Winnenden and its neighbouring technology and research centre to meet the latest member of their product line- up, the KIRA B50.

Kärcher’s campus is bustling and busy, a hub of activity and an appealing mix of modern flourishes and anachronisms. Two sides of the campus are separated by a train line, so a sleek footbridge connects the complex of new buildings with the original facilities on the other side, where factories are separated by houses that have, over time, been converted into office buildings.

While robotic floor cleaners are nothing new for the cleaning industry, the KIRA (Kärcher Intelligent Robotic Applications) range is the company’s first foray into the field of autonomous scrubber dryers, and one that is still going through the final phases of its development process. There was a palpable air of excitement surrounding the project, and a desire to highlight KIRA in the context of Kärcher as a business.

A quick tour through Kärcher’s on-site museum whips you through the company’s 80+ year history, from its pre-war origins as a heating company through to its massive success in the field of high-pressure cleaning and beyond. We also got a chance to experience the company’s impressive echoless sound-proofing laboratory, took a gander at projects in the 3D printing facilities, and observed a production line in full swing.

Kärcher are proud of their accomplishments and recognition, as a huge wall in one of the Winnenden buildings is dedicated to displaying the many accolades and awards the company has received – one wall was covered in prize certificates, while a massive display cabinet proudly held all of their physical awards. Only a couple of weeks later, this array of awards would be joined by the overall winner trophy from the Amsterdam Innovation Awards, which KIRA B50 would win at Interclean 2018.


The approach to KIRA’s development is part of Kärcher’s holistic approach to the needs- oriented cleaning process of the future, making it both economical for smaller surfaces and increasingly more efficient as it learns and optimises its route. Initially, the machine’s sensors will capture the floor plan and map it, before different cleaning parameters can be stored for individual areas. KIRA can then independently change cleaning mode to suit the situation.

Where most robots and automated solutions require larger areas and unobstructed surfaces, the KIRA B50 can operate effectively in smaller, tighter spaces from supermarkets to DIY stores. The exacting sensor technology creates a kind of ‘virtual bumper’, offering a high degree of safety for people, objects and the machine itself, allowing the KIRA to be versatile and clean as close to edges as possible.

Marco Cardinale, Head of Floor Care Product Management at Kärcher, said: “The sensors must ensure efficient working in a complex environment and collision-free operation even in the event of unexpected situations. Our vision is to have a cleaning robot that achieves maximum autonomy and that can be used on virtually all surfaces 100% safely and economically.”

The autonomy extends to its own common sense: when necessary, KIRA will return to its docking station to recharge its lithium-ion batteries and replace any dirty water with fresh. The device can even calculate the remaining cleaning time, and only charges the storage battery for as long as is needed to ensure that there will be enough energy to complete the cleaning task. The lithium-ion rechargeable batteries have eliminated the ‘memory effect’, meaning partial charging has no negative impact on the rechargeable batteries’ capacities or service life. You can even use the machine manually, if you so desire.

Although there are still a few minor kinks to work out before the KIRA B50 and the larger capacity B80 model are released, it’s evident that Kärcher’s ambitions for the project have been forward-thinking and innovative. Autonomous cleaning is the future for the industry, and KIRA’s potential as an efficient, economic and versatile machine is evident.

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