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Materials Handling

Automated Guided Vehicles

10/28/2009 Britton Nilsen
What are AGVs
Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) are vehicles
that are equipped with automatic guidance
systems and are capable of following prescribed
paths. Unlike traditional robots, AGVs are not
manipulators, they are driverless vehicles that are
programmed to follow a guidepath. In automated
factories and facilities AGV's move pallets and
containers. In offices they may be used to deliver
and pick up the mail. They are even used to
transport patrons around in airports.
Current State
AGVS Towing Vehicles were the first type introduced and are still a very popular
type today. Towing vehicles can pull a multitude of trailer types and have capacities
ranging from 8,000 pounds to 60,000 pounds.

AGVS Unit Load Vehicles are equipped with decks, which permit unit load
transportation and often automatic load transfer. The decks can either be lift and
lower type, powered or non-powered roller, chain or belt decks or custom decks
with multiple compartments.
AGVS Pallet Trucks are designed to transport palletized loads to and from floor
level; eliminating the need for fixed load stands.
AGVS Fork Truck has the ability to service loads both at floor level and on stands. In
some cases these vehicles can also stack loads in rack.
Light Load AGVS are vehicles which have capacities in the neighborhood of 500
pounds or less and are used to transport small parts, baskets, or other light loads
though a light manufacturing environment. They are designed to operate in areas
with limited space.
AGVS Assembly Line Vehicles are an adaptation of the light load AGVS for
applications involving serial assembly processes.

Rent for $6000/month (whereas for 3 forklift operators it would cost $12,000/month)
Supporting Technology
Vehicle Guidance
Guide Tape
Laser Target
Traffic Control
Zone Control
Forward Sensing Control
Combination Control
System Management
Programming software and user interface
Diverless trains
Pallet trucks
Unit load carriers
Driverless train operations
Storage/distribution systems
Assembly line operations
Flexible manufacturing systems
Miscellaneous applications (sensitive waste, mail, etc.)

Repetitive movement of materials over a distance
Regular delivery of stable loads
Medium throughput/volume
When on-time delivery is critical and late deliveries are causing inefficiency
Operations with at least two shifts
Processes where tracking material is important

ANSI B56.5 Safety Standard for Guided Industrial Vehicles and Automated Functions of Manned Industrial Vehicles
ANSI B56.5 defines safety requirements for powered, unmanned automatic guided industrial vehicles. The standard requires that the
users are responsible for all factors affecting the operation and maintenance. This responsibility includes load stability and marking the
travel path on the floor, including turning and maneuvering clearances. There are also requirements for manufacturers. Deviation from
the travel path of more than 3 inches for an external reference (e.g. guide wire), or, more than 6 inches for inertial guidance system
shall, require an emergency stop. A loss of speed control also requires an emergency stop. Vehicle warning indicators, audible and/or
visual, shall operate when the vehicle is in motion. Emergency controls are required which would stop the vehicle if there is a loss of
speed control, loss of guidepath reference, or an object is detected in the direction of travel. Accessible emergency stop switches are
required on the vehicle itself.
Proximity Laser Scanner and Laser Scanner Interface (PLS/LSI) Technology
A Proximity Laser Scanner (PLS) creates a sensing field with a pulsed light that is reflected off of a rotating mirror so that it is transmitted
in a 180 degree pattern. When an object enters the sensing field, the light is reflected back to the PLS. The distance to the object is
computed using the time interval between the transmitted pulse and the reflected pulse, and, the angle of the rotating mirror. The
sensing field is divided into three areas; safety zone, warning zone, and surveyed zone. The surveyed area is the maximum radius
surveyed by the PLS. When the PLS determines that an object is on the safety zone, hazardous motion is stopped. When an object is
detected in the warning zone, it initiates a warning or an avoidance maneuver.
Laser BumpersTM
SICK's Laser BumperTM technology uses PLS/LSI technology to provide a non-contact means for object detection. This advanced system
permits increased speed and productivity because the size and shape of the stopping/slow-down/warning zones can be adjusted in real
time depending on speed and the load. The protective area can be automatically extended on the sides of the vehicle when turning
corners. Vehicle speeds can be increased in straight, unobstructed paths for improved productivity. Response times are as low as 60 ms
depending on the system.
AGVs equipped with the Laser BumperTM do not have to hit an object or person to stop. Worker apprehension about whether the AGV
is actually going to stop, after contact is made is eliminated. Injuries due to workers trying the beat the AGV are eliminated because the
AGV will adjust speed, and stop if necessary, as a person moves in and out of the sensing zones.
Safety Guidelines for Employees and Contractors
AGV travels paths should be clearly marked and should be kept clear of material. Employees should be trained not to ride the AGVs.
Training should also include instructing personnel to stay clear of an approaching AGV. Weighed cones or other portable obstacles can
be placed where workers may be working on or near an AGV travel path. The training program should also include contractors that may
come into a plant or warehouse to perform work.
Battery life is a limitation
8-12 hours to charge
5-10 minutes to manually change battery
Exist no passing zones due to size of robots
Programming limitations
AGVs are not as versatile as humans
AGVs are slow due to safety concerns

Primary Vendors of Technology
JBT corporation
Chicago, IL
NDC Technology Australia
Chatswood, Australia
Egemin Automation
Holland, MI

Existing or Evolving Standards
see Safety Standards under Rules
AGVs usually pay for themselves in the long run.
They replace repetitive manual labor
They increase production

Safety Standards
AGV travels paths should be clearly marked, including turning areas.
Workers should be trained to watch out for AGVs and to keep clear of an AGV path if a vehicle is
Companies should provide similar training for contractors that may be working in their plant.
Weighted safety cones should be placed around a work area when working on or near an AGV
travel path.
"Virtual" bumper systems can increase productivity and system flexibility.
Improve plant safety with regard to object detection/avoidance.