Automated guided vehicles (AGVs) are not new to the warehousing sector. They have been around since the 1950s and were predominantly used in large scale manufacturing or distribution facilities. Known as ‘guided by wire’ solutions they were very effective for specific product movement and put away. But breaks in the guided wires did create problems, the warehousing floors also had to be perfectly flat and the high cost of implementation gave them a long ROI.
What has changed? Technological advances in 3D cameras, increasing microprocessor speeds, improved battery life, Real Time Location Systems (WIFI, UWB, IR, RFID, Optical) and a specially designed Robot operating software system are key to the new breed of AGVs which are adopting the principles and strengths of artificial intelligence (AI).
The most significant advance to make this warehouse robot revolution has been LiDAR technology which is being used to develop autonomous trucks, vans, buses and cars. The principle behind LiDAR is quite simple. Shine a small light at a surface and measure the time it takes to return to its source. When you shine a torch on a surface, what you actually see is the light being reflected and returning to your retina. Light travels very fast - about 300,000 kilometres per second, 186,000 miles per second or 0.3 metres per nanosecond so turning a light on appears to be instantaneous. Of course, it's not! The equipment required to measure this needs to operate extremely fast. Only with the advancements in modern computing technology has this become possible.
The LiDAR instrument fires rapid pulses of laser light at a surface, some at up to 150,000 pulses per second. A sensor on the instrument measures the amount of time it takes for each pulse to bounce back. Light moves at a constant and known speed so the LiDAR instrument can calculate the distance between itself and the target with high accuracy. By repeating this in quick succession the instrument builds up a complex 'map' of the surface it is measuring. With airborne LiDAR other data must be collected to ensure complete accuracy. As the sensor is moving height, location and orientation of the instrument must be included to determine the position of the laser pulse at the time of sending and the time of return. This extra information is crucial to the data's integrity. With ground-based LiDAR a single GPS location can be added for each location where the instrument is set up.
Generally, there are two types of LiDAR detection methods. Direct energy detection, also known as incoherent, and coherent detection. Coherent systems are best for Doppler or phase sensitive measurements and generally use Optical heterodyne detection. This allows them to operate at much lower power but has the expense of more complex transceiver requirements. In both types of LiDAR there are two main pulse models: micropulse and high-energy systems. Micropulse systems have developed as a result of more powerful computers with greater computational capabilities. These lasers are lower powered and are classed as 'eye-safe' allowing them to be used with little safety precautions. It is this method being used in warehouse LiDAR applications.
Böwe Systec, leaders in automated warehouse solutions, have entered into a partnership with RoboSavvy leaders in artificial intelligence (AI) to create a one-stop-shop, cost effective, flexible warehouse automation solution. The new partnership is supported by state-of-the-art IT systems and has applications across all sectors of industry.
The new partnership combines the strengths of the Böwe Systec’s Optisorter and the RoboSavvy Tugbot. This can help reduce the need and cost of manual labour to carry out dangerous, tedious and repetitive low value tasks. This enables warehouse management staff to redeploy them to higher value activities. Which in turn drives up productivity and smooths out bottlenecks in the warehouse.
“Order lead times are getting tighter with increasing online sales, and we have seen a trend for our customers to look for cost effective, flexible solutions that can work within the existing warehouse footprint with the minimum of disruption,” commented Phillippe Dugougeat, Managing Director of Böwe Systec UK & ROI. “People also represent 60% of warehouse costs and our flexible solutions can not only reduce costs but also raise productivity by giving higher value and more rewarding tasks to the staff.”
The Tugbot is designed to tow up to 350kgs and can be used in many warehouse and factory applications such as: picking areas, cross-docks, end of line assembly areas and stock replenishment centres. To provide complete safety in use, the Tugbot uses a combination of cameras, lasers, sensors, environment matching mark, beacons and gps to work on pre-defined routes that suit the specific application. The Tugbot also automatically re-locates to a battery charge point when it is required and another Tugbot will then be deployed therefore there is no downtime. This reduces the need for massive overseeing of material handling equipment and enables staff to focus on high productivity tasks.
The Tugbot automatically detects obstacles and has an automatic stop facility to prevent accidents. It can be quickly re-configured to re-route round obstacles if required. This flexibility in operation enables the Tugbot to follow a predetermined path, remember it and repeat it; follow a person or another Tugbot. A fleet of Tugbots can even collaborate to perform complex operations and can interact with external IT systems and legacy machines. Unlike automated guided vehicles in the past, the Tugbot is at home on any quality of warehousing floor surfaces. Installation does not require any changes to the existing warehouse racking infrastructure.
At the heart of the Tugbot’s innovation is the MOV.AI automation software framework. This intuitive user interface gives warehouse management the ability to create their own maps, sketch out work areas and define paths within the existing infrastructure. The software allows the Tugbot to be reconfigured in minutes to meet real time changes in warehouse operational activity at peak times.
MOV.AI is now applying the same technology to a powered Robotic Pallet Mover fitted with front and rear LiDar, 3D cameras with the ability to carry all types of pallets up to a maximum weight of 2 tonnes and a battery life of up to 8 hours.
These two very simple robotic applications introduced by Böwe Systec and applicable to all types of warehouses come at a low price that is completely affordable. The return on investment is very short and staff are not having to be trained to use new types of equipment.
If you would like to find out more visit Böwe Systec on stand 19J45 at this year’s IMHX 2019 – NEC - 24th-27th September!