Automatic Guided Vehicle Systems are one of the most dynamic areas in material handling today, but in fact, the basic concept is at least 50-years old. In recent years advances in electronics and software have resulted in significant improvements in the functionality of guided vehicles. With today’s microprocessor technology giving users vastly superior flexibility and capability, and cost effectiveness to previous generations of AGV systems.
Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) can be the best horizontal transportation method for material handling in many applications. How do you know when an AGV System offers the best solution?
AGVS Systems are often used in conjunction with AS/RS machines, Automated Workcells, and Palletizers. In general, characteristics present in many successful AGS applications include medium, steady throughput, the desire to minimize fork truck traffic (and associated safety concerns as well), environments where flow is managed electronically, and flexibility. It goes without saying that long travel distances lend themselves well to AGV implementation.
One popular way of controlling AGV Systems is laser guidance. Systems utilizing laser guidance provide unparalleled system flexibility. Vehicle guide paths can be altered, and pickup/drop-off points can added or eliminated quickly and easily. This is made simpler by the fact that laser-guided systems do not require the cost or hassle caused by drilling and/or cutting the floor while installing guidewire, magnets, or other passive targets…nor do they use less reliable methods such as adhesive guidance paths. The vehicle features laser scanner which provides navigation capability anywhere in the facility. The laser scanner strobes the plant, sensing reflective targets mounted progressively on the walls of the plant. As soon as two or more targets are located, the vehicle determines the vehicles’ current location using a triangulation algorithm in the control software. The software also runs additional calculations that determine the vehicle’s path to the next pick or drop location.
Another popular methodology involves utilizing some floor-based markers…imbedded wire, tags, magnets, etc. These vehicles utilize more sophisticated on-board controllers, but don’t require and RF backbone or Overhead Antenna System. On-board controls allow each vehicle to perform their own traffic control, routing, remote dispatching and station functions. These systems are also user-configurable, within the limits of the predefined landmarks located in the floor.
Other methods include GPS navigation, a less common but upcoming technology.