Automated guided vehicles (AGV) are also known as autonomous guided vehicles or self-guided vehicles. They are the material handling systems that can travel autonomously throughout the manufacturing facility, warehouse, or distribution center without an operator. An AGV is powered by a battery that requires occasional charging or swapping spent battery for a new one. They are also equipped with various auxiliary mechanisms such as mounting, load removal, etc to support their tasks. Most of the AGV is used in industrial environments for transporting raw materials, pallets, or other industrial objects. Nowadays, AGVs are also increasingly being applied by companies to transport products within different workstations. AGVs move according to the planned route with the use of different technologies such as lasers, tracks, magnetic strips, marked lines, or GPS for navigation. Laser technology is currently the most popular option for navigating an AGV due to its ease of use and high accuracy. GPS navigation uses satellites to navigate the AGV and is usually used for outdoor applications as it has lower accuracy when being used across interior areas.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGV)
AGVs have gradually taken an important role in different industries since the 20th century. They can greatly improve the efficiency of equipment handling, reduce labor costs, and boost overall productivity. Here are some advantages of an AGV system:
- AGVs can operate more hours than humans. As long as you provide the required time for AGVs to recharge between operations, they can work for days and nights.
- AGVs are equipped with safety devices and sensors to avoid them from running into operators or other objects. They will stop in front of an obstacle to avoid accidents.
- AGVs provide high accuracy that can position the load precisely and prevent any damages that could be occurred during manual handling.
- The movement and path of the AGVs are to be set initially and so they will move accordingly from the beginning to the end of the journey. This has allowed us to trace and monitor r the shipment status in real-time easily.
- AGVs are able to operate in a tough environment such as extreme temperature or work with hazardous materials.
- The system of AGV is easy to set up. If you only want to automate a small part of your production, a single AGV can be deployed without setting up the entire automation system.
However, there are some disadvantages of AGVs that you should take into account when considering the implementation of the AGV system in your production. AGVs are limited to performing their own task, they are less flexible than humans and not suitable for non-repetitive tasks. In addition, an AGV system is not a preferred choice for operating outdoor as the uneven or wet ground can affect the movement and performance of an AGV.
Types of Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV)
There are a few common types of AGVs used across different industries for a wide range of applications.
1. Automated Guided Carts
This is the simplest form of AGVs that provide the most cost-effective automation solution. It is a controlled programmed vehicle that is used to transport materials from a selected pickup point and follow the painted stripe on the floor to move along a pre-determined path. Automated guided carts are commonly used in storage, sorting applications to reduce labor costs.
2. Unit load AGVs
Unit load AGVs are mainly used for transporting large vessels, pallets, totes, drums with custom tooling and are best for operating in huge areas where there are sufficient spaces for them to manage the task. Unit load AGVTs are equipped with decks and suitable for transferring a single unit or several unit loads at one time from/to conveyors, stands, or automated storage systems. They can greatly decrease the risk of damaging products during the transition.
3. Automated Forklift AGVs
Automated forklift AGVs are equipped with forks in order to move pallets easily. Most of the models have sensors on the forks to detect and monitor the movement of forklift AGVs.
4. Towing/Tugger AGVs
Towing or tugger AGVs are equipped with trays, motorized rollers, belts, etc that are used to pull one or more than one non-motorized vehicles with a load behind them. They are like a train and able to carry up to 160,000 pounds of loads.
Things to consider when choosing the right AGV
Before choosing the types of AGV, you have to understand your facility’s requirements. For example, a manufacturing plant with high demanding cycles and heavy products will require an AGV that can hold extreme handling, has the longest battery life and is able to operate according to the stringent processes or environment commands. Here are the few things that you should determine before choosing the right AGV for your operation:
- The load capacity that is required to be moved by AGV. Whether Is it for light or heavy application?
- The type of navigation. The choice of navigation depends on the operating environment of an AGV. Whether is it wet or has any interaction with humans?
- The level of accuracy required for the AGV’s performance. An appropriate level of accuracy can ensure that the AGV places the load without damaging it.
- The setting of safety devices. Whether to equip your AGV with safety sensors to detect the surrounding objects? Extra sound and visual features also can be added to increase the level of safety.
The invention of automation technology has changed the way we run production, warehouse, and other industrial facilities. It is important for you to understand your requirements and select the right automated guided system. The implementation of an AGV system can surely help you to improve operational efficiency and production.
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