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How AGV’s make work-life safer

Technology and Business

John Hamlin

John Hamlin

21-07-2021

       

AGVs, Automated Guided Vehicles, are electric self-driven vehicles that are used in, out, and around the manufacturing process in a factory. For more than 50 years, automated guided vehicles have been the answer to automated transportation duties. Because of their impact on logistics, these vehicles have become essential in modern transportation automation and material handling. They can also be employed in other places, such as processing and assembling factories, to improve work efficiency. According to Research and Markets, the global market for AGVs is expected to increase by 10.8 percent to USD 3.64 billion by 2026.

AGVs are generally computerized vehicles that rely on:

  • Computer components
  • Electric power source
  • Motors
  • Sensors
  • Strings of programmed instructions

Computer instructions aid AGVs in decision-making when handling tasks around a factory. They also rely on positioning systems to determine where they’ve been and where they need to be. These systems have to be coupled with sensors to aid the AGVs in movement and prevent accidents and injuries, improving safety for the human workers.

Components of an AGV

It is obvious that when AGVs are being developed, several parts have to be incorporated into their systems.

These are:

  • Computer components – These are the control boards and operator panels. They help the AGVs get instructions to handle tasks. The AGVs are not entirely independent because they will need some form of pre-programmed instructions to handle tasks.
  • Sensors – These are the laser guidance systems that help the AGV detect obstructions in its path when tugging luggage around the factory. The common method employed is laser technology. Magnetic systems are gyro guidance that can also be employed during the AGV development stage.
  • Motion controllers – Motion controllers are the moving part of the AGVs. They are commonly electric, so they will be using electric motors to power the wheels of the AGV. Some may even use a railing system if the paths are distinct and have no obstacles.
  • Power source – AGVs need an electric source to improve the efficiency of work. The common source used is high pack industrial batteries that last a long period before charging is needed. If the AGVs are used within short distances, they are connected to the power grid. This means they will always keep running provided there is electricity.

 

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Image: Unsplash

Places where the AGVs are employed

Within a factory, there are places where AGVs are employed; this improves workflow and facilitates the efficiency of the factories. These uses are as follows but usually depend on the type of AGVs being used in the factory.

 

  1. Heavy Cargo/machinery movement

The type of AGV used for this purpose is a Towing AGV. Towing AGVs are built to tug around heavy objects within and around the factory. Some equipment in the factory may need to be used in different locations. If an AGV can be employed to tug the equipment to different locations, efficiency is improved. This reduces the safety risks associated with human involvement in such tasks.

In other industries such as construction and aviation, heavy cargo is usually moved from point to point. Heavy load AGVs employed for such tasks are built wider, having large bases running on solid wheels.

  1. Warehousing tasks

When the production process is complete, most of the products are not immediately shipped to customers. They need to be stored as they await demand by customers, then shipment and delivery to where they are required. Fork AGVs are utilized at this point to move boxes of products around the warehouse as they await delivery. These are commonly repetitive tasks that are tedious for human workers. With the AGVS, there is a reduction of product damage, injuries to workers, and no delays in luggage movement.

AGV robots can also be used in these tasks; they have limbs, making them more effective than fork AGVs. Since robots are stronger than humans, they can carry most of the luggage carefully without problem. They have entirely removed human error from the warehousing process, as they can conduct inventory, check what needs to be shipped, and place the products where they need to be.

Are there differences between the AGV and AMR?

AMR, Autonomous Mobile Robots, are more intelligent than AGVs as they are coupled with advanced technology. They are sophisticated and flexible and are usually used in tandem with human workers. AMR is more advanced and will require a few changes and upgrades when needed for other tasks.

With improved autonomy, an AMR is designed to quickly adjust to navigation changes on its own. However, because AMR is a relatively new technology, its capabilities are currently limited. There is still room for error and adjustment with AMR learning on its own, which can lead to an increase in work at the start of its use. Traffic control for big fleets of AMRs can be challenging, but an AGV can handle it relatively well. Autonomous Mobile Robots function best in complex environments that require autonomy, whereas Automated Guided Vehicles are good for activities that do not require frequent changes.

How AGVs are changing the manufacturing industry.

We can all agree that work efficiency has improved in most factories employing AGVs within their systems. Benefits of AGVs include:

  • Reduction in errors during ferrying and movement processes
  • Tasks around the factories are handled quicker and easier
  • Reduced costs of production for companies, allowing more revenue to be used for product improvement
  • Increased safety for human workers in the factory

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