Italian Automotive Supplier implements autonomous Pallet Transport
InSystems Automation has implemented a driverless transport system (DTS) 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 from the ground and deliver them to their target destination. The driverless transport vehicle fits 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, Realization and Customer Benefits
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 (“Ant”). The implementation of the autonomous transport robot allows workers, who had to spend their time on transports, to focus on more important, value-creating tasks.
Unlike the classic pallet truck, the proANT 576 works without 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 was implemented in order to determine a right of way.
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 gasoline engines.
The pallet transport between storage and production had so far been taken care of using a hand pallet truck (“Ant”). The operators had to cover a distance of 70 m. The route crosses different doors and shutters as well as a road frequented by cars and trucks. This caused 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 to its destination along virtual marks using an environmental contour map, which its maps out once. For orientation purposes, the vehicle uses existing 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 the existing shelves to allow secure orientation for the vehicle. To ensure this, only two reflectors were necessary.
The proANT AGV 576 will be used at the site in Pisa for two kinds of loads: One is the transport of Euro pallets (1.200 x 800 mm), the other is the transport of ISO pallets (1.200 x 1.000 mm), each weighing up to 1.200 kg. The aisle 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 a minimum 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. Incoming orders can be generated by employees using a graphic user interface (GUI), which is installed on a computer in the production area. If there are no transport orders, the vehicle parks at its charging station and waits for the next order.
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 on the traffic lane close to the warehouse and about to cross it, a stoplight was installed. The traffic light consists of a red and a green LED. When the forklift vehicle drives into the lane, the stoplight turns red and only returns to green once it has passed by, so that the trucks can drive on. 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 equipped 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 dropped off if the storage location is empty. The proANT adjusts its speed to its surroundings and comes to a halt safely. Its warning and safety fields make sure that the vehicle slows down or stops. Another safety feature is the connection between the vehicle and fire detection system. If an alarm is triggered (i.e. during a fire), the vehicle executes a special emergency program.
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 without any change or any need for the installation of reflectors or similar in a dynamic, challenging environment
- Product quality and process reliability improves
- Shortages in the process supply are minimized
- Transport orders are fulfilled safely, precisely and efficiently
- Customized implementation in the production environment (communication with doors and shutters, communication with a stoplight system if there are incoming trucks and cars)
- The fleet is scalable if more transport robots are needed for higher future production
- All material movement are tracked, making the material flow transparent