5G-enabled AGVs: from manual to fully-automated manufacturing

Written by Kriz Lee and Marie-Christine Modler (ICe Aachen GmbH)

During the last few years, robotics has evolved from a simple tool to a sophisticated system controlled by artificial intelligence.

In the digital age, they enable us to live better lives and enjoy second-to-none experiences, especially in manufacturing environments, because they can do anything we ask them to.

Manufacturing involves the (purposeful) relocation of goods. By automating this production step (which occurs a couple of times per good produced), we can optimize production significantly. For any type of material or object, automated guided vehicles (AGVs) are used for intralogistics on the shop floor.

AGVs can be used to move anything from point A to point B within a modern factory complex.

As the name implies, AGVs were first implemented on wire tracks, which the AGVs followed like a train on rails. Currently, AGVs are guided by different kinds of technologies (magnet guidance, laser guidance, radio communication, or camera vision).

AGVs are capable of relatively autonomous and independent navigation due to their built-in sensors. However, the sensors of an AGV can only detect obstacles within their immediate vicinity, making obstacles outside their range invisible to them. AGVs have the advantage of being able to deliver materials on time as long as the path is clear, so any blocked route requires live rerouting.

Cloud-based site plans provide real-time details about AGVs on the production floor. As a result, all connected AGVs’ sensor data is processed simultaneously, resulting in an updated map of the shopfloor. Transparency at any given time is created for production floor managers. This, in turn, makes it feasible to identify upcoming problems, like collisions, as soon as possible and readjust accordingly.

The real-time information is also shared with the AGVs, which makes obstacle avoidance and related re-routing more efficient.

Central node of Zero-SWARM project conductsa two trials related to AGVs:

Trial 1 – Safe and autonomous transport of goods in the factory shop floors using 5G

Trial 2 – 5G enabled process-aware AGVs.

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