Automatic Guided Vehicles
Automatic guided vehicles are programmable robot vehicles that go by a variety of names, including AGVs, autonomous guided vehicles, guided vehicles, automated guided vehicles, self guided vehicles, and self propelled vehicles. All of these computer-operated vehicles perform some variation of the same basic tasks, which are to handle and transport heavy material. Automatic guided vehicles are able to independently perform those movement tasks that would normally require heavy manual labor and/or continuous human supervision.
Quick links to Automatic Guided Vehicles Information
Applications of Automatic Guided Vehicles
Many companies have come to rely on automatic guided vehicles to maintain smooth operations within the walls of their warehouses and facilities. In fact, because they facilitate superior processes, AGVs have come to largely replace more traditional material handling equipment like manual push carts, conveyor systems, and forklift trucks.
Industries that benefit from the services of automated guided vehicles include:
- Food and Beverage Processing
- Material and Goods Packaging
- Plastics and Metals
- General Manufacturing
- Mail and Newspaper Assembly
Automatic Guided Vehicle Design and Customization
The family of automatic guided vehicles is large. In addition to the names mentioned above, other types of AGVs include: automated guided carts, forked AGVs, tuggers, transfer cars, towing vehicles, and material handling robots. Different AGVs have different capabilities and strengths and weaknesses. Automated guided carts, for example, can move the most difficult loads with ease. They work well with large loads like aircraft parts. Towing vehicles, which are simpler in design, can also perform heavy pallet load transportation. However, they cannot assist in small product assembly. That type of work is reserved for material handling robots, which can be programmed to perform complex tasks. Guided vehicles, completely without need of human intervention, provide highly repetitive and reliable actions to the benefit of processes like tooling change, trailer loading, and finished product handling.
Manufacturers have the choice of choosing from the two main basic guidance systems for AGVs: fixed path guidance systems and free range systems. Fixed path guidance systems are the older of the two. They involve creating a fixed path, mapped onto the ground for a vehicle to follow using embedded wire, colored paint, or magnetic tape. While this system is generally reliable, it can prove to be somewhat inflexible and ill-suited to certain spaces. Instead of settling for a limited path, many manufacturers opt for free range guidance systems. Free range systems use computer software and inbuilt navigation to direct a vehicle around a building. Inbuilt navigation allows the vehicle to receive and process data concerning potential obstacles and/or traffic and redirect itself accordingly. This cuts down significantly on factory floor collisions, leading to improved safety and work flow and even higher levels of efficiency.
Benefits of Using Automatic Guided Vehicles
AGV systems cut down on the time consumption that comes along with human error, distraction and fatigue, mandatory work breaks, and possible injury, replacing it with fast, around-the-clock work and high volumes of repetitive, error-free movements. They increase the productivity level of a facility tenfold. Also, on top of the aforementioned efficient movement and processes, automatic guided vehicles’ potential to increase efficiency grows again when one adds in their ability to be changed as needed and customized for specific needs. The follow of the flexibility that they provide to a facility cannot be understated. For savings on labor costs, process time, and worker fatigue, as well as leaps in productivity, efficiency, work flow, and profits, invest in automatic guided vehicles. If you’re not sure which vehicle system and/or guidance system is best for your application, call an AGV specialist. They will be more than willing to steer you in the right direction.
Factors to Consider When Purchasing Automatic Guided Vehicles
Though computerized systems operate well on their own, they still require a traffic operator to oversee their movements, maintain control over them, and make sure that neither a malfunction nor a breakdown occurs. Supervision is especially important in facilities and warehouses where several automatic guided vehicles are in use. To increase the fit of AGVs within a facility, engineers may add components to them that make them more closely fit certain specifications or requirements. They, for example, range widely in terms of size and load capacity. Some AGVs are built as light load vehicles for applications like parts assembly, electronic fabrication, and light load transportation. On the other end of the spectrum, some AGVs are quite large and capable of moving heavy, several-ton pallet loads. Also, if the application calls for it, an AGV may be equipped with a bumper that will shield its body in the case of a collision. Or, it may have an infrared detection sensor to help it be more aware of its surroundings. Depending on the application, automatic guided vehicles are generally either powered by an electric motor or industrial strength batteries.