Automated guided vehicles – Driving production and logistics forward
In the era of automation in factories and warehouses worldwide, automated guided vehicles (AGVs) have become a firmly established part of day-to-day operations. An AGV offers the operator many advantages over a traditional, driver-operated factory floor vehicle or a conveyor belt with its fixed sequence of operation. These range from greater flexibility and better use of space to improved safety. What is more, AGVs can flexibly transport goods and materials between different production areas in a fab. Many manufacturers increasingly opt for AGVs because of the vehicles’ potential to reduce overall operating costs and to interface more easily with a factory’s overall automation concept. Looking into the future, AGVs are likely to rise in importance at production sites, logistic centers, warehouses and other factory settings.
While AGVs are key to robotics and the automation inherent to Industry 4.0, the wide variety of AGV systems currently on the market makes it challenging for companies to find the best-fit solution for their production or logistics needs. In terms of design and capabilities, AGVs have a long list of requirements to fulfill. They need advanced safety and environment scanning capabilities, allowing them to proactively avoid collisions. They also depend on localization and navigation functions, so they can plan and follow a route and create flexible maps of their environment. Energy efficiency is also becoming increasingly significant, especially in battery-powered systems.
Structural system overview: grid-powered AGV
Structural system overview: battery-powered AGV
A quick guide: types of automated guided vehicles
From an electronics point of view, there are two different kinds of AGVs: grid-powered systems (usually 110V or 230V) and battery-powered systems (usually 48V, but also available as 24V). Grid-powered systems are most often rail-based or follow marked, predefined paths. Conducting rails, fixed wiring or an induction system provide the power. Limiting an AGV to a set route impacts the number of sensors required as well as the power supply infrastructure and functions of the navigation controller.
Battery-powered systems, in contrast, offer the highest degree of flexibility within a production site or logistics center because they can travel directly to their destination, without having to follow the path predetermined by a grid. These flexible systems can be broken down into two charging methods, wired and inductive. Besides the differences in power supply and charging technology, AGVs usually share a common architecture. Any architectural differences are due to the navigation concept. As a general rule, the more flexible an AGV is, the more powerful the localization, environment scanning and safety infrastructure must be.
Key demands of AGV systems
The market today places high demands on AGVs, not least because of their critical role in highly flexible production processes with lot sizes as small as one. Components and solutions in AGVs that work together seamlessly and without fault can expedite the manufacturing process, and make it safer and more cost effective. It’s possible to achieve maximum uptime of battery-powered systems and shortest charging times by sourcing electrical components with the highest power efficiency. Charging either takes place wired in dedicated charging docks or wirelessly using inductive energy transmission.
Advanced scanning capability with fewest possible sensors can help keep the cost, size and weight at a minimum while equipping an AGV with the features required for navigation and functional safety measures. Similar to industrial robots and collaborative robots (cobots), an AGV’s hardware is typically built with an easy-to-use, pre-integrated electronic system of building blocks. This allows each manufacturer to customize a vehicle to the demands and specifications of their production line and facility.
How an AGV benefits from Infineon
Whatever your AGV design specifications, at Infineon we have the answer in our comprehensive portfolio of robotics products and solutions, which you can easily tailor to your needs. Our offering ranges from power supplies and chargers to motor drives and sensors, so an AGV fleet can navigate a factory setting. With our innovative sensor concepts, including radar and ToF, you can develop an AGV fleet with smart 3D environment scanning capabilities. This allows it to avoid collisions and detect obstacles in its path.
Discover what is possible when using our fast, compact and efficient charger as a system solution. It provides up to five times higher power density compared to conventional chargers, and charging time for battery-powered AGVs is up to two times shorter. The solution recovers braking energy to help extend the battery life of an AGV. It also enables UPS-like power buffering within a factory grid.
We also support you and your project with our deep knowledge of and extensive experience in the AGV field – both as an enabler through our innovative solutions and a user of our automated guided vehicle fleets at our own production sites. Because a system must be secure to be safe, we also offer complete functional safety solutions that enable your AGV system to detect non-genuine parts and fake control or status information. In addition to protecting calibration data, these solutions enable activity logging, which lets the operator verify at any time what task an AGV just completed and why. This technology is rising in importance among insurers, in circumstances with potentially life-threatening hazards.
Complete AGV system solutions
You, too, can leverage the potential of an AGV system solution from Infineon and add value to your robotics project. The benefits of sourcing our system solutions include:
- Experience and dependability. We are uniquely both a leading component supplier and foremost user of robotics in manufacturing processes.
- Trustworthy hardware-based security. The only secure systems are those with hardware-based security. We are a security market leader with a proven track record and outstanding partner network for embedded security.
- Availability and scalability. We can fulfill nearly any industrial robotics requirement. Our large power manufacturing facility follows the highest-possible quality standards to help you grow as needed.
- Reliability and professionalism. By collaborating openly with one another, we can take your project to the next level.
Explore our portfolio of AGV solutions to find the right one for your project. Reach out to our team anytime for answers to your robotics-related questions. We look forward to hearing about your project’s specifications.