Different automated systems help improve efficiency, safety, and productivity within a warehouse. One such system is the setup of automatic guided vehicles (AGVs) to carry loads throughout a facility without drivers or operators. How do these driverless vehicles navigate a warehouse safely? Innovative technology powers automatic navigation and obstacle detection, allowing AGVs to carry loads from Point A to Point B or Point C and so on with precision and consistency. How exactly do vehicles work in an AGV system? Learn more about the technology behind AGVs with this overview.
An Introduction to Automatic Guided Vehicles
AGVs are essentially unmanned forklifts. Like any other automated system, these vehicles help streamline operations by creating a faster workflow and freeing up manual labor. When machines can carry loads through the facility without employees, workers can focus their time and effort on tasks that require more skilled labor. Furthermore, precise navigation systems allow AGVs to move through the facility safely, in turn eliminating collisions or other safety issues caused by human error.
These benefits of AGVs make them an invaluable solution for transporting materials and goods throughout the production line. AGVs are also excellent for storage, retrieval, and picking tasks in distribution centers.
The Technology Behind AGV Navigation
To understand how exactly vehicles work in an AGV system, you must learn about the navigation systems that power each vehicle. Automated guided vehicles move along a predictable, routine path, which means they need a navigation system to help them travel along that path without running into barriers or obstacles. To do this, AGVs use a variety of software and sensor-based systems to move precisely along their paths.
Laser navigation systems are the most popular and reliable form of AGV navigation technology. This system involves the simple placement of reflective targets on fixed, known locations throughout the facility. A laser scanner on top of the AGV constantly searches for these reflective targets as the vehicle moves throughout the warehouse floor. The laser strobe bounces off the targets and back to the vehicle’s receiver. The AGV then uses control algorithms to calculate exactly where the vehicle is on the warehouse floor. The precision of laser measurement technology allows for extremely accurate and repeatable operations (+/- 1/4 inch) and independence from changes in the work environment, creating a flexible and expandable solution that grows and adapts to future customer needs.
The Benefits of Laser Navigation
The goal of any AGV system is to perform the same tasks as a human-operated forklift. To make these machines worthwhile, the technology behind them must be precise and reliable. Laser-guided vehicles (LGVs) offer the best accuracy, flexibility, safety, and speed for your facility.
The use of reflective targets allows the LGV to determine its position with incredible precision; the margin of error is only a few inches. Moreover, using reflective technology means your LGVs are not bound to secured structures. This allows LGVs to move faster throughout the facility, increasing the speed and efficiency of your workflow.
LGVs also offer reliable performance. Because they aren’t tied to structures in the floor, LGVs are less sensitive to floor quality. If there are irregularities or variations on the floor or along the route, LGVs are able to adapt and navigate safely. Reflective technology also makes creating new navigational routes for your LGV system fast, easy, and affordable.
Finally, these features all combine to create better product stability as your LGVs move throughout the facility. With efficiency, precision, and smooth travel, LGVs can move products and materials around the facility with minimal issues or accidents.
Automatic Obstacle Detection
Navigation systems are a crucial part of AGV technology, but these vehicles also require dependable obstacle detection. Automatic collision detection systems are a necessary safety measure to ensure AGVs can continue to operate as intended even when they face unexpected obstacles or other changes in their path. The most modern form of collision avoidance is laser obstacle detection.
Laser Obstacle Detection
AGVs with laser obstacle detection contain a safety laser sensor that detects pedestrians and obstacles in the vehicle’s path. These sensors emit a signal that covers a specific field around the vehicle. Larger warning fields tell the vehicle to slow down whenever the sensor encounters an obstacle. Smaller stop fields will stop the vehicle when they sense the obstacle.
Fields of different sizes and shapes work together for maximum awareness and protection. For example, fast-moving vehicles have a larger field to give the AGV a better warning when it’s coming up on an obstacle, while slow-moving vehicles will have smaller fields. Vehicles might also use asymmetrical fields while turning to cover as much of their path as possible. These field types change as the vehicle travels along its path, creating the greatest awareness and protection possible.
Ocme LGV solutions provide a full CAT3/PLd safety system with an additional redundant encoder to meet and exceed all current safety standards. Ocme has also been awarded the coveted Design 4 Safety Award from the British Industrial Truck Association for its LGV safety solution.
Other LGV Components and Safety Features
Laser-guided vehicles feature expertly crafted designs that enhance performance and deliver safety, precision, and efficiency to end users. Every mechanical and electrical component is an essential part of the overall design.
LGVs feature a drive wheel that is responsible for steering and traction. A durable and reliable drive wheel is the key to smooth transit and efficient product movement throughout the facility. A high-quality drive wheel guarantees greater precision and performance with minimal maintenance. This makes the entire vehicle more dependable, allowing you to focus your time and energy on more important parts of your workflow.
You can also purchase LGVs with a load stabilizer. This feature helps secure loads as the vehicle travels along its route to different points in the facility. The load stabilizer—along with laser obstacle detection, precision navigation, and other features—reduces product damage, preserves materials, and creates better reliability and cost-effectiveness for your AGV system.
Understanding AGV technology is the key to making the most of your automated guided vehicle system. With the right systems and implementation, you can use AGVs to your advantage for a faster, safer, and more productive workflow.