Autonomous pallet transport for an Italian automotive supplier
InSystems Automation has implemented an autonomously guided transport system (AGV) for the transport of pallets for an Italian automotive supplier, with one plant located in Pisa. The pallet transporting vehicle named „proANT AGV 576“ is able to automatically pick up single or stacked pallets (euro pallets 1.200 x 800 mm and ISO-pallets 1.200 x 1.000 mm) weighing up to 1.200 kg and deliver them to their target destination. The AGV incorporates itself into the complex production environment as a perfectly customized material flow solution.
- Industry: Automotive supply
- 1 vehicle
- Order management control via panels
- Opening doors and roller shutters
- Euro and ISO-pallets weighing up to 1.200 kg
Task and customer benefit
The project’s goal was to automate pallet transports between storage and production which so far had to be taken care of using a manually driven hand pallet truck. The implementation of the autonomous transport robot allows workers who had to spend their time on transports before to focus on more important, value-creating tasks.
Unlike the classic pallet truck, the proANT 576 functions without the need for fuel or lead-acid batteries. The vehicle is powered by modern lithium-ion battery technology which, when fully charged, allows it to operate for seven to eight hours straight. If no transport orders are pending, the AGV automatically heads for its charging station. Within one hour, it can fulfill up to eight transport orders while communicating with the automatic door- and roller shutter system in the production environment. In order to prevent collisions with incoming cars or trucks, a stoplight-system to determine a right of way was implemented.
The automotive supplier employs more than 200.000 workers at over 400 locations in 61 countries and is an accomplished German organisation with its headquarters in Hanover. After Bosch, this company is the largest automotive supplier in the world and has evolved from a tire producer to an automotive supplier. In Pisa Fauglia (automotive branch), the organization develops injectors for petrol.
The pallet transport between storage and production had so far been taken care of using a hand pallet truck. This entailed the workers taking a 70 m-path that leads through different doors and shutters as well as a road frequented by cars and trucks. This meant regular delays and waiting times.
For this customer, InSystems has developed a material flow solution that fits right into the challenging environment of this organisation. The driverless forklift vehicle picks pallets up automatically and navigates using an environmental contour map which the robot maps out once and then and then navigates in autonomously on virtual lines. For orientation purposes, the vehicle uses set contours in the environment (e.g. machines or walls). In the storage area however, the environment is highly prone to change, which means that there are not enough stable contours for the vehicle to perform its localization. In order to solve this issue, reflectors were installed on shelves to allow secure orientation for the vehicle. To ensure this, only two reflectors were necessary.
The proANT AGV 576 will be used in the branch in Pisa for two kinds of loads: One is the transport of euro pallets (1.200 x 800 mm), the other the transport of ISO-pallets (1.200 x 1.000 mm), each weighing 1.200 kg. The path width within the production site is around 1,9 m. To be able to perform an emergency stop in time whenever necessary, the vehicle’s speed is lowered to 0,7 m/s. If the path width narrows to under 1,8 m, the speed has to be lowered to 0,3 m/s. Usually, the vehicle is capable of driving with a maximum speed of 1,3 m/s as long as it can keep a distance of 0,75 m to the surrounding walls. Orders can be generated by employees using a graphic user interface (GUI), which is installed on a computer in the production area. If no transport orders are available, the vehicle parks on its charging station and waits for an order to arise.
Automatic doors and truck traffic
When transporting, the robot needs to pass through three automatic doors. To make the doors open when the robot arrives and close after it has passed through, a connection between the fleet management and door controls was created. This connection is upheld by two I/O-modules each which are connected to the server-PC via Ethernet.
Another challenge of this application is the truck and car traffic that takes place on a road which crosses the proANT 576’s transport route. In order to inform truck drivers about the transport robot being about to cross in time, a stoplight was installed. When the forklift vehicle moves onto this driving area, the stoplight flashes red and only returns to green once the proANT has passed by. The stoplight system is also connected to the fleet manager via an Ethernet I/O-module.
The autonomous forklift vehicle is safe to use around workers as it is outfitted with safety laser scanners on all sides. Light sensors on the fork ends ensure safe pick-up of pallets, switches check the correct position during handover and while transporting. The pallet is only set down if the destination area is empty. The proANT adjusts its speed to its surroundings and comes to a halt safely. This is ensured by its warning and safety fields, in accordance with which the vehicle slows down or stops. Another safety feature is the connection between the vehicle and fire detection system, thanks to which the vehicle is able to follow a special emergency program in case of fire.
The autonomously navigating transport robot takes care of the pallet transport fully autonomically, meaning that workers no longer need to be removed from their working stations for transport tasks and can focus on the actual production process.
- The AGV can be installed in the pre-existing infrastructure, usually without much change or any need for the installation of reflectors or similar in a dynamic, challenging environment
- Improving the product quality and process reliability
- Shortages in the process supply are minimized
- Transport orders are fulfilled in a safe, precise and efficient manner
- Individualised implementation in the production context (communication with doors and shutters, communication with a stoplight system near traffic)
- The fleet is scalable if more transport robots are needed for higher future production
- All material movement is protocolled, making the material flow transparent