In the age of Industry 4.0 automated guided vehicles (AGV) are enjoying increased demand, because they are suitable for transport and secure handling of goods of all types in virtually all branches. This is particularly true in branches, requiring transport or storage and retrieval of unit loads. The vehicles travel along established routes in storage facilities and are controlled by an independent master system or, in large plants, coordinated by a master WMS. In consideration of the boom in E-commerce, it is essential to adapt AGV to the changing requirements in production and logistics, by changing the route, for example, without expensive modifications to the floor or to increase the number of vehicles. Automation of intralogistic processes can increase value added for companies, because personnel costs, which add up particularly in multiple shift operation, can be reduced significantly through the use of AGV's.
A vision becomes reality
Picking up on this fact, Stöcklin Logistik AG wanted to offer its customers an automated guided vehicle (AGV) which would ensure maximum economy when purchased as well as in daily operation. Here the idea entertained by the Swiss Intralogistics Company was to continue developing a motorized lift truck as an automated guided vehicle AGV. The vehicle is intended to score on the AGV market with its low purchase price as well as its flexibility, high power density and attractive design. The Stöcklin development engineers obtained support from Stöcklin’s partner, Blue-Botics SA, which contributed its know-how in the field of innovative navigation technology.
The concept was realized using a prototype based on the proven Stöcklin EDP Mini low lift truck, which has distinguished itself with it compact dimensions as well as its exceptional user friendliness and ability to be used flexibly for a wide range of tasks. This popular vehicle with lifting capacity of up to 1,600 kilograms and lithium ion battery, was tested thoroughly by many well known customers, before its initial introduction under the name EAGLE-ANT 0 at the LogiMAT Exposition in 2015. Stöcklin Logistics presented the second design stage to exhibition visitors at the LogiMAT 2016. The automated guided vehicle EAGLE-ANT 1 is equipped with a guidance system as well as an elevating mast. This version was developed with a capacity of 1,200 kilograms and lifting height of up to 1.20 meters, to provide the ideal supplement to the Stöcklin equipment for handling payloads in horizontal conveying systems.
Versatile and clever
The powerful and compact EAGLE-ANT driverless transport vehicle can work autonomously as well as in conjunction with other vehicles. The basic version of the vehicle is capable of handling simple transport tasks from A to B, C to D, etc. The orders can also be entered manually, if required. The complexity can be increased right up to networking with a warehouse management system (WMS) using the traffic management feature and integrated scheduler for controlling the vehicle even in traffic with a number of other vehicles. The scheduler then receives the orders from the WMS/ERP and manages them according to priority. This means, when a number of vehicles are present, it sends the orders directly to the specific driverless transport vehicle depending on position and availability. When there are several vehicles, the master system also coordinates the traffic flow between the AGVs and gives destination, stop, go and release orders. Position checking and transmission of orders is accomplished via WiFi (WLAN).
Safe and highly scalable
High efficiency when using AGV requires precise and reliable navigation technology as well as a detailed route and intersection concept. These prerequisites are satisfied by the innovative ANT-Lite navigation technique from BlueBotics in combination with state-of-the-art traffic management (TMS). This guarantees performance-enhancing operation with optimized costs. This autonomous navigation technology does not require any induction leads or other routing guides. The vehicle orients itself in its operational surroundings using a combined navigation and safety scanner.
The scanner provides for a safety zone of up to three meters and a warning zone of up to ten meters, with a detection angle of up to 270 degrees. Field selection depends on the speed of the vehicle and the steering angle. The EAGLE-ANT can be put into service in the so-called home mode following a building scan and teach-in drive. The laser scanner detects everything within its range, such as walls, objects, and reflectors. The navigation control compares its own measurements with the navigation features on the map. If the measured information corresponds to the navigation features, the vehicle is "set up” and is then ready for operation. The TMS traffic management system is equipped with a memory for storing the routing, decision criteria, speed specifications and direction of motion.
The clever TMS allows simple integration of further vehicles and harmonizes the interaction of a number of automated guided vehicles in the operating environment to prevent collisions. The route planning can be called and run in a 2D or 3D view via a workstation with web browser and network access - or also externally via remote access - as well as adapted as required. Moreover the operator can observe the motion of every vehicle. The fork tines are equipped with fork sensors to ensure that pallets are picked up securely. These sensors automatically ensure that the tines engage properly in the pallets. When moving into the pallet and when reversing, the vehicle stops if anything is in the way and is detected by the fork sensors. The EAGLE-ANT can also be operated in the manual mode with a joystick. In the automatic mode this driverless transport vehicle immediately resumes its order processing.
Energy efficient operation
Another innovative features within the sense of sustainable “Green Logistics” is the integrated "Stöcklin Power" energy package. It is based on a 24 Volt lithium ion batteries with a capacity of 90 Ah - 180 Ah. The battery can be recharged manually or with the aid of charging bays with lateral charging contacts. The battery is completely recharged with only two hours. The combination of active battery management system and CAN bus communication between the vehicle control and charger ensures that the battery always operates in its optimum range. This guarantees safe and reliable operation for a service life of approx. 5,000 complete charging cycles.
The lithium ion batteries are absolutely maintenance free and allow intermediate charging at any time. This makes the EAGLE-ANT ideal for use in multiple shift operation. In such cases, the breaks can be used for charging the battery. Lithium ion batteries do not exhibit any memory effect. Use of safe lithium/iron phosphate technology also excludes battery overheating. Moreover the availability of the vehicles is increased. This has a positive effect on the operating costs for the company. Use of the robust and intelligent EAGLE-ANT AGV's ensures a quick return on your investment. Stöcklin Logistics has consciously designed the basic version using essential features, which can be upgraded as required. Well-proven Stöcklin Swiss Quality guarantees the highest level of planning and investment security.