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Introduction Automated guided vehicles AGVs increase efficiency and reduce costs by helping to automate a manufacturing facility or warehouse AGVs can carry loads or tow objects behind them in trailers to which they can autonomously attach The trailers can be used to move raw materials or finished product The AGV can also store objects on a bed The objects can be placed on a set of motorized rollers conveyor and then pushed off by reversing them Some AGVs use fork lifts to lift objects for storage AGVs are employed in nearly every industry including pulp paper metals newspaper and general manufacturing Transporting materials such as food linen or medicine in hospitals is also done An AGV can also be called a laser guided vehicle LGV or self guided vehicle SGV In Germany the technology is also called Fahrerlose Transportsysteme FTS and in Sweden frarlsa truckar Lower cost versions of AGVs are often called Automated Guided Carts AGCs and are usually guided by magnetic tape AGCs are available in a variety of models and can be used to move products on an assembly line transport goods throughout a plant or warehouse and deliver loads to and from stretch wrappers and roller conveyors The first AGV was brought to market in the 1950s by Barrett Electronics of Northbrook Illinois and at the time it was simply a tow truck that followed a wire in the floor instead of a rail Over the years the technology has become more sophisticated and today automated vehicles are mainly Laser navigated e g LGV Laser Guided Vehicle In an automated process LGVs are programmed to communicate via an offboard server with other robots to ensure product is moved smoothly through the warehouse whether it is being stored for future use or sent directly to shipping areas Today the AGV plays an important role in the design of new factories and warehouses safely moving goods to their rightful destinations In the late 20th century AGVs took on new roles as ports began turning to this technology to move ISO shipping containers The Port of Rotterdam employs well over 100 AGVs AGV applications are seemingly endless as capacities can range from just a few pounds to hundreds of tons Flexible manufacturing system To begin to understand AGV it is necessary to understand the fundamentals of flexible manufacturing systems FMS FMS is a means by which to manufacture a product FMS is more of a philosophy rather than a tangible item FMS is the idea that faster is better and uses machines to produce their products Rather than using humans to perform repetitive tasks a machine is used to perform that task 24 hours a day FMS uses computer numerical controlled machines CNC to form a work cell Each cell performs a specific task to assist in the manufacturing of a product Although FMS is fast and efficient it is not cheap as it requires a lot of expensive machines in order to work Typically it costs millions of dollars to introduce an FMS into a factory Rather than using a complete FMS most companies use part of an FMS called a flexible manufacturing cell This is used to produce part of a product by machine and maybe part by other methods Often one or more AGV are used in FMS to connect work cells together Laser guided AGV to transport unit loads or skids Courtesy Transbotics Corp Navigation AGVs in FMS are used to transport an object from point A to point B AGVs navigate manufacturing areas with sensors There are two main sensors AGVs use for navigation a wired and a wireless sensor Wired The wired sensor is placed on the bottom of the robot and is placed facing the ground A slot is cut in the ground and a wire is placed approximately 1 inch below the ground The sensor detects the radio frequency being transmitted from the wire and follows it Guide Tape Many light duty AGVs some known as automated guided carts or AGCs use tape for the guide path The tapes can be one of two styles magnetic or colored The AGC is fitted with the appropriate guide sensor to follow the path of the tape One major advantage of tape over wired guidance is that it can be easily removed and relocated if the course needs to change It also does not involve the expense of cutting the factory or warehouse floor for the entire travel route Additionally it is considered a passive system since it does not require the guide medium to be energized as wire does Colored tape is initially less expensive but lacks the advantage of being embedded in high traffic areas where the tape may become damaged or dirty A flexible magnetic bar can also be embedded in the floor like wire but works under the same provision as magnetic tape and so remains unpowered or passive Laser Target Navigation The wireless navigation is done by mounting retroreflective tape on walls poles or machines The AGV carrys a laser transmitter and receiver on a rotating turret The laser is sent off then received again the angle and sometimes distance are automatically calculated and stored into the AGV memory The AGV has reflector map stored in memory and can correct its position based on errors between the expected and received measurements It can then navigate to a destination target using the constantly updating position Modulated Lasers The use of modulated laser light gives greater range and accuracy over pulsed laser systems By emitting a continuous fan of modulated laser light a system can obtain an uninterrupted reflection as soon as the scanner achieves line of sight with a reflector The reflection ceases at the trailing edge of the reflector which ensures an accurate and consistent measurement from every reflector on every scan The LS9 Scanner is manufactured by Guidance Navigation Ltd and by using a modulated laser this system achieves an angular resolution of 0 1 mrad 0 006 at 8 scanner revolutions per second Pulsed Lasers A typical pulsed laser scanner emits pulsed laser light at a rate of 14 400 Hz which gives a maximum possible resolution of 3 5 mrad 0 2 at 8 scanner revolutions per second To achieve a workable navigation the readings must be interpolated based on the intensity of the reflected laser light to identify the centre of the reflector Outdoor laser guided AGV to carry pallets or skids Courtesy Transbotics Corp Gyroscopic Navigation Another form of an AGV guidance is inertial navigation With inertial guidance a computer control system directs and assigns tasks to the vehicles Transponders are embedded in the floor of the work place The AGV uses these transponders to verify that the vehicle is on course A gyroscope is able to detect the slightest change in the direction of the vehicle and corrects it in order to keep the AGV on its path The margin of error for the inertial method is 1 inch Inertial can operate in nearly any environment including tight aisles or extreme temperatures Unit load AGV using natural features navigation to carry steel to quality assurance lab courtesy MobileRobots Inc Natural Features Navigation Navigation without retrofitting of the workspace is called Natural Features Navigation One method uses one or more range finding sensors such as a laser range finder as well as gyroscopes and or inertial measurement units with Monte Carlo Markov localization techniques to understand where it is as it dynamically plans the shortest permitted path to its goal The advantage of such systems is that they are highly flexible for on demand delivery to any location They can handle failure without bringing down the entire manufacturing operation since AGVs can plan paths around the failed device They also are quick to install with less down time for the factory Steering control To help an AGV navigate it can use two different steer control systems The differential speed control is the most common In this method there are two sets of wheels being driven Each set is connected to a common drive train These drive trains are driven at different speeds in order to turn or the same speed to allow the AGV to go forwards and or backwards The AGV turns in a similar fashion to a tank This method of steering is good in the sense that it is easy to maneuver in small spaces More often than not this is seen on an AGV that is used to transport and turn in tight spaces or when the AGV is working near machines This setup for the wheels is not used in towing applications because the AGV would cause the trailer to jackknife when it turned The other type of steering used is steered wheel control AGV This type of steering is similar to a cars steering It is more precise in following the wire program than the differential speed controlled method This type of AGV has smoother turning but cannot make sharp turns in tight spots Steered wheel control AGV can be used in all applications unlike the differential controlled Steered wheel control is used for towing and can also at times have an operator control it Path Decision AGVs have to make decisions on path selection This is done through different methods frequency select mode wired navigation only and path select mode wireless navigation only or via a magnetic tape on the floor not only to guide the AGV but also to issue steering commands and speed commands Frequency select mode Frequency select mode bases its decision on the frequencies being emitted from the floor When an AGV approaches a point on the wire which splits the AGV detects the two frequencies and through a table stored in its memory decides on the best path The different frequencies are required only at the decision point for the AGV The frequencies can change back to one set signal after this point This method is not easily expandable and requires extra guide cutting meaning more money Path select mode An AGV using the path select mode chooses a path based on preprogrammed paths It uses the measurements taken from the sensors and compares them to values given to them by programmers When an AGV approaches a decision point it only has to decide whether to follow path 1 2 3 etc This decision is rather simple since it already knows its path from its programming This method can increase the cost of an AGV because it is required to have a team of programmers to program the AGV with the correct paths and change the paths when necessary This method is easy to change and set up Magnetic Tape mode The magnetic tape is laid on the surface of the floor or buried in a 10 mm channel not only does it provide the path for the AGV to follow but also sort strips of the tape in different combos of the strip tell the AGV to change lane and also speed up slow down and stop with north and south magnetic combos this is used by TOYOTA USA and TOYOTA JAPAN Traffic Control Flexible manufacturing systems containing more than one AGV may require it to have traffic control so the AGV will not run into one another Methods include zone control forward sensing control and combination control each method has its advantages and disadvantages Zone control Zone control is the favorite of most environments because it is simple to install and easy to expand Zone control uses a wireless transmitter to transmit a signal in a fixed area Each AGV contains a sensing device to receive this signal and transmit back to the transmitter If the area is clear the signal is set at lear allowing any AGV to enter and pass through the area When an AGV is in the area the top signal is sent and all AGV attempting to enter the area stop and wait for their turn Once the AGV in the zone has moved out beyond the zone the lear signal is sent to one of the waiting AGVs Another way to set up zone control traffic management is to equip each individual robot with its own small transmitter receiver The individual AGV then sends its own o not enter message to all the AGVs getting to close to its zone in the area A problem with this method is if one zone goes down all the AGV are at risk to collide with any other AGV Zone control is a cost efficient way to control the AGV in an area Forward sensing control Forward sensing control uses collision avoidance sensors to avoid collisions with other AGV in the area These sensors include sonic which work like radar optical which uses an infrared sensor and bumper physical contact sensor Most AGVs are equipped with a bumper sensor of some sort as a fail safe Sonic sensors send a hirp or high frequency signal out and then wait for a reply from the outline of the reply the AGV can determine if an object is ahead of it and take the necessary actions to avoid collision The optical uses an infrared transmitter receiver and sends an infrared signal which then gets reflected back working on a similar concept as the sonic sensor The problems with these are they can only protect the AGV from so many sides They are relatively hard to install and work with as well Combination control Combination control sensing is using collision avoidance sensors as well as the zone control sensors The combination of the two helps to prevent collisions in any situation For normal operation the zone control is used with the collision avoidance as a fail safe For example if the zone control system is down the collision avoidance system would prevent the AGV from colliding System Management Industries with AGVs need to have some sort of control over the AGVs There are three main ways to control the AGV locator panel CRT color graphics display and central logging and report A locator panel is a simple panel used to see which area the AGV is in If the AGV is in one area for too long it could mean it is stuck or broken down CRT color graphics display shows real time where each vehicle is It also gives

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