20.03.2023, St-Sulpice, Switzerland: MasterMover, the world’s leading manufacturer of electric tug and tow solutions, has announced a new partnership with vehicle automation leader BlueBotics to provide best-in-class ANT navigation technologies for MasterMover’s range of Automated Guided Vehicles.
Known for its broad portfolio of pedestrian operated electric tugs and electric tows, used across Industrial Manufacturing, Logistics, and Retail, MasterMover also offers a range of advanced solutions, spanning remote control operation, line follow navigation, and fully autonomous solutions.
MasterMover AGV products now include BlueBotics’ ANT natural navigation technology as standard, ensuring customers benefit from the advanced features and functionality available from the vehicle navigation market leader.
“MasterMover has twenty-five -years’ experience in designing, manufacturing, and delivering load moving solutions that are synonymous with reliability, quality, and performance,” commented James Jones, Partner and Director at MasterMover. “We are combining this expertise with world-class technology partners to deliver advanced solutions. These are increasingly being demanded by our customers who are focused on maximising safety and efficiency within their operations.”
BlueBotics is the global reference in natural feature navigation. For over 20 years, the Swiss company has helped companies meet the challenge of vehicle automation, and today there are more than 4,000 ‘ANT driven’ AGVs, automated forklifts, and AMRs in operation around the world.
“At BlueBotics our goal is to work with market-leading vehicle producers who have the expertise and experience needed to fully meet their customers’ AGV needs,” said Dr. Nicola Tomatis, CEO of BlueBotics. “Partnering with MasterMover is a great example of this. We have been continually impressed with the professionalism of both the company’s solutions and its team, and we look forward to enjoying much success together.”
MasterMover AGV solutions offer Industrial Manufacturing organisations an effective way to automate a range of load moving processes, delivering return-on-investment, and driving operational efficiency.
Autonomous solutions are available from MasterMover with the capacity to move up to 30,000kg, meaning the company is equipped to take on a wide range of load movement challenges with advanced solutions.
MasterMover is combining a strong track record of success in building powerful and reliable load moving products, with best-in-class technologies from market leaders such as BlueBotics. The company also works with safety technology specialists SICK for its AGV solutions.
“Partnering with BlueBotics was a natural choice, with their ANT navigation technology leading the way. The advanced capabilities of BlueBotics’ solutions, as well as their focus on innovation, mean they are the ideal navigation partner for MasterMover,” added Jones. “We have worked closely with the BlueBotics team on a number of projects, and the relationship between the two organisations will only go from strength to strength”.
For more information on MasterMover AGV solutions, please visit:
MasterMover is a world-leading manufacturer of electric tug and tow solutions, designed to improve safety and operational efficiency when moving heavy, large or unconventional loads. MasterMover focuses on innovation, research, and development to provide the widest range of electric tug products on the market.
Specialist solutions include pedestrian-operated, remotely controlled, and fully Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) options. In addition, MultiLink technology allows a single remote operator to simultaneously control multiple electric tugs through synchronised movement.
MasterMover operates globally through direct relationships and a network of sales and service partners. The company works with an enviable range of world-leading names across industrial manufacturing, retail, and logistics. With an expert in-house engineering team, MasterMover has a proven track record of delivering bespoke projects for diverse applications around the world.
BlueBotics is the reference in natural feature navigation and has the mission to help companies meet the challenge of vehicle automation. With over 20 years of industry experience, the company provides the autonomous navigation technology (ANT) and expert support customers need to bring their AGV, automated forklift, or mobile robot successfully to market. Today, there are more than 4,000 ANT driven vehicles in operation worldwide. Visit www.bluebotics.com to learn more.
Waldkirch, Februar 2023 – SICK launcht den kompakten und präzisen 3D-LiDar-Sensor multiScan100. Damit unterstützt das Unternehmen die Entwicklung autonomer industrieller Fahrzeuge im Innen- und Außenbereich und verstärkt den Fokus auf digitale Softwarelösungen, um einen zusätzlichen Kundennutzen über die reinen Messdaten hinaus anzubieten.
Auf der letzten SPS in Nürnberg konnten die Besucher schon einen ersten Blick auf die neue multiScan100 Produktfamilie werfen, welche als eine Lösung für die Konturnavigation von industriellen Fahrzeugen ausgestellt wurde. Mit der ersten Variante, dem multiScan136, können mobile Plattformen wie AGVs oder Serviceroboter eigenständig eine neue Umgebung erkunden und davon eine Karte erstellen, die im Produktivbetrieb zur Navigation und Lokalisierung genutzt werden kann. Der LiDAR Sensor liefert 3D-Messdaten in Kombination einer hochauflösenden 0° Scanlage, die für eine präzise Selbstlokalisierung der autonomen Fahrzeuge bei gleichzeitiger Kartierung der Umgebung (SLAM, für Simultaneous Localization and Mapping) verwendet werden können. Darüber hinaus lassen sich durch die 3D-Punktewolke Absturzkanten oder Hindernisse erkennen.
Der 3D-LiDAR-Sensor multiScan136 mit 360° Rundumblick erreicht Dank der bis zu 690.000 Messpunkte eine State-of-the-Art Präzision, der nichts in seinem Umfeld entgeht. Mit seiner kompakten Bauform von circa 10 cm und industrieller Schnittstellen ist eine hohe Integrationsfreundlichkeit gewährleistet. Der Sensor lässt sich durch sein robustes Design und einer IP-Schutzklasse von bis zu 69k in rauen Umgebungen einsetzen. Durch die bewährte Multi-Echo-Technologie und seinem statistischen Messverfahren ist auch unter schlechten Bedingungen im Außenbereich eine präzise Umgebungserfassung sichergestellt. Somit ist der multiScan136 danke einer hohen Messgenauigkeit und einem geringen Messwertrauschen nicht nur für eine präzise Feinpositionierung im Innenbereich einsetzbar, sondern auch mühelos für die Umgebungserfassung im Außenbereich. Mit dem großen vertikalen Öffnungswinkel von 65° entgeht ihm dabei nichts, wodurch sich Kollisionen im Einsatz mobiler Outdoor Automation vermeiden lassen. Neben mobilen Anwendungen lässt sich der Sensor durch sein großes Sichtfeld auch für stationäre Anwendung im Objektschutz für Building Security (Objektsicherheit), Traffic (Verkehr) oder Smart City Applikationen wie Personenstromerfassung einsetzten.
Mit dem multiScan136 macht SICK einen weiteren Schritt in Richtung 3D-LiDAR Technologie und verstärkt den Fokus auf digitale Softwarelösungen, um einen zusätzlichen Kundennutzen über die reinen Messdaten hinaus anzubieten. Somit sind die präzisen Messdaten nur der erste Schritt für weitere Funktionen, die sich ohne weitere Recheneinheit direkt auf dem Sensor auswerten lassen.
Communication & Safety Challenges Facing Mobile Robots Manufacturers
Mobile robots are everywhere, from warehouses to hospitals and even on the street. Their popularity is easy to understand; they’re cheaper, safer, easier to find, and more productive than actual workers. They’re easy to scale or combine with other machines. As mobile robots collect a lot of real-time data, companies can use mobile robots to start their IIoT journey.
But to work efficiently, mobile robots need safe and reliable communication. This article outlines the main communication and safety challenges facing mobile robot manufacturers and provides an easy way to overcome these challenges to keep mobile robots moving.
What are Mobile Robots?
Before we begin, let’s define what we mean by mobile robots.
Mobile robots transport materials from one location to another and come in two types, automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs). AGVs use guiding infrastructure (wires reflectors, reflectors, or magnetic strips) to follow predetermined routes. If an object blocks an AGV’s path, the AGV stops and waits until the object is removed.
AMRs are more dynamic. They navigate via maps and use data from cameras, built-in sensors, or laser scanners to detect their surroundings and choose the most efficient route. If an object blocks an AMR’s planned route, it selects another route. As AMRs are not reliant on guiding infrastructure, they’re quicker to install and can adapt to logistical changes.
What are the Communication and Safety Challenges Facing Mobile Robot Manufacturers?
1. Establish a Wireless Connection The first challenge for mobile robot manufacturers is to select the most suitable wireless technology. The usual advice is to establish the requirements, evaluate the standards, and choose the best match. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible for mobile robot manufacturers as often they don’t know where the machine will be located or the exact details of the target application.
Sometimes a Bluetooth connection will be ideal as it offers a stable non-congested connection, while other applications will require a high-speed, secure cellular connection. What would be useful for mobile robot manufacturers is to have a networking technology that’s easy to change to meet specific requirements.
The second challenge is to ensure that the installation works as planned. Before installing a wireless solution, complete a predictive site survey based on facility drawings to ensure the mobile robots have sufficient signal coverage throughout the location. The site survey should identify the optimal location for the Access Points, the correct antenna type, the optimal antenna angle, and how to mitigate interference. After the installation, use wireless sniffer tools to check the design and adjust APs or antenna as required.
2. Connecting Mobile Robots to Industrial Networks
Mobile robots need to communicate with controllers at the relevant site even though the mobile robots and controllers are often using different industrial protocols. For example, an AGV might use CANopen while the controller might use PROFINET. Furthermore, mobile robot manufacturers may want to use the same AGV model on a different site where the controller uses another industrial network, such as EtherCAT.
Mobile robot manufacturers also need to ensure that their mobile robots have sufficient capacity to process the required amount of data. The required amount of data will vary depending on the size and type of installation. Large installations may use more data as the routing algorithms need to cover a larger area, more vehicles, and more potential routes. Navigation systems such as vision navigation process images and therefore require more processing power than installations using other navigation systems such as reflectors. As a result, mobile robot manufacturers must solve the following challenges:
They need a networking technology that supports all major fieldbus and industrial Ethernet networks.
It needs to be easy to change the networking technology to enable the mobile robot to communicate on the same industrial network as the controller without changing the hardware design.
They need to ensure that the networking technology has sufficient capacity and functionality to process the required data.
3. Creating a Safe System
Creating a system where mobile robots can safely transport material is a critical but challenging task. Mobile robot manufacturers need to create a system that considers all the diverse types of mobile robots, structures, and people in the environment. They need to ensure that the mobile robots react to outside actions, such as someone opening a safety door or pushing an emergency stop button, and that the networking solution can process different safety protocols and interfaces. They need to consider that AMRs move freely and manage the risk of collisions accordingly. The technology used in sensors is constantly evolving, and mobile robot manufacturers need to follow the developments to ensure their products remain as efficient as possible.
The safety standards provide guidelines on implementing safety-related components, preparing the environment, and maintaining machines or equipment.
While compliance with the different safety standards (ISO, DIN, IEC, ANSI, etc.) is mostly voluntary, machine builders in the European Union are legally required to follow the safety standards in the machinery directives. Machinery directive 2006/42/EC is always applicable for mobile robot manufacturers, and in some applications, directive 2014/30/EU might also be relevant as it regulates the electromagnetic compatibility of equipment. Machinery directive 2006/42/EC describes the requirements for the design and construction of safe machines introduced into the European market. Manufacturers can only affix a CE label and deliver the machine to their customers if they can prove in the declaration of conformity that they have fulfilled the directive’s requirements.
Although the other safety standards are not mandatory, manufacturers should still follow them as they help to fulfill the requirements in machinery directive 2006/42/EC. For example, manufacturers can follow the guidance in ISO 12100 to reduce identified risks to an acceptable residual risk. They can use ISO 13849 or IEC 62061 to find the required safety level for each risk and ensure that the corresponding safety-related function meets the defined requirements. Mobile robot manufacturers decide how they achieve a certain safety level. For example, they can decrease the speed of the mobile robot to lower the risk of collisions and severity of injuries to an acceptable level. Or they can ensure that mobile robots only operate in separated zones where human access is prohibited (defined as confined zones in ISO 3691-4). Identifying the correct standards and implementing the requirements is the best way mobile manufacturers can create a safe system. But as this summary suggests, it’s a complicated and time-consuming process.
4. Ensuring a Reliable CAN Communication A reliable and easy-to-implement standard since the 1980s, communication-based on CAN technology is still growing in popularity, mainly due to its use in various booming industries, such as E-Mobility and Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS). CAN is simple, energy and cost-efficient. All the devices on the network can access all the information, and it’s an open standard, meaning that users can adapt and extend the messages to meet their needs. For mobile robot manufacturers, establishing a CAN connection is becoming even more vital as it enables them to monitor the lithium-ion batteries increasingly used in mobile robot drive systems, either in retrofit systems or in new installations. Mobile robot manufacturers need to do the following:
1.Establish a reliable connection to the CAN or CANopen communication standards to enable them to check their devices, such as monitoring the battery’s status and performance.
2. Protect systems from electromagnetic interference (EMI), as EMI can destroy a system’s electronics. The risk of EMI is significant in retrofits as adding new components, such as batteries next to the communication cable, results in the introduction of high-frequency electromagnetic disturbances.
5. Accessing Mobile Robots Remotely The ability to remotely access a machine’s control system can enable mobile robot vendors or engineers to troubleshoot and resolve most problems without traveling to the site.
The challenge is to create a remote access solution that balances the needs of the IT department with the needs of the engineer or vendor.
The IT department wants to ensure that the network remains secure, reliable, and retains integrity. As a result, the remote access solution should include the following security measures:
Use outbound connections rather than inbound connections to keep the impact on the firewall to a minimum.
Separate the relevant traffic from the rest of the network.
Encrypt and protect all traffic to ensure its confidentiality and integrity.
Ensure that vendors work in line with or are certified to relevant security standards such as ISO 27001
Ensure that suppliers complete regular security audits.
The engineer or vendor wants an easy-to-use and dependable system. It should be easy for users to connect to the mobile robots and access the required information. If the installation might change, it should be easy to scale the number of robots as required. If the mobile robots are in a different country from the vendors or engineers, the networking infrastructure must have sufficient coverage and redundancy to guarantee availability worldwide.
Conclusion As we’ve seen, mobile robot manufacturers must solve many communication and safety challenges. They must establish a wireless connection, send data over different networks, ensure safety, connect to CAN systems, and securely access the robots remotely. And to make it more complicated, each installation must be re-assessed and adapted to meet the on-site requirements.
Best practice to implement mobile robot communication Mobile robot manufacturers are rarely communication or safety experts. Subsequently, they can find it time-consuming and expensive to try and develop the required communication technology in-house. Enlisting purpose-built third-party communication solutions not only solves the communication challenges at hand, it also provides other benefits.
Modern communication solutions have a modular design enabling mobile robot manufacturers to remove one networking product designed for one standard or protocol and replace it with a product designed for a different standard or protocol without impacting any other part of the machine. For example, Bluetooth may be the most suitable wireless standard in one installation, while Wi-Fi may provide better coverage in another installation. Similarly, one site may use the PROFINET and PROFIsafe protocols, while another may use different industrial and safety protocols. In both scenarios, mobile robot manufacturers can use communication products to change the networking technology to meet the local requirements without making any changes to the hardware design.
Mark Crossley, Daniel Heinzler, Fredrik Brynolf, Thomas Carlsson
HMS Networks is an industrial communication expert based in Sweden, providing several solutions for AGV communication. Read more on www.hms-networks.com/agv
Kivnon will be presenting its most advanced and safest AGV/AMR Forklift at the event
21 September 2022, Barcelona: Kivnon, an international group specializing in automation and mobile robotics, is attending Logistics & Automation in Spain and will be showcasing it’s safe and versatile K55 AGV/AMR Forklift Pallet Stacker. Putting the emphasis on forklift safety, Kivnon K55 is equipped with advanced safety features to guarantee safe operations as it collaborates, moves, and reacts in a facility.
The Kivnon K55 is designed to move and stack palletized loads at low heights and performs cyclic or conditioned routes while interacting with other AGVs/AMRs, machines, systems, and people, making it a highly effective and safe solution. The model incorporates safety scanners that allow the vehicle to ensure 360-degree safety and operate seamlessly in shared spaces. The fork sensors help assess the possibility of correct loading or unloading of the pallet, keeping the transported goods safe.
Thierry Delmas, Managing Director at Kivnon, says, “AGVs/AMRs are revolutionizing internal logistics. The rising forklift safety challenge is of deep concern, and with the K55 we have taken a step forward to address the global issue. The Kivnon range is designed to ensure safe and reliable operations and to optimize operational efficiency.“
During the event, which runs from 26 – 27 October at IFEMA, Madrid, Kivnon will demonstrate the capabilities of the K55 Pallet Stacker. The vehicle can autonomously transport palletized loads of up 1,000 kg and lift them to heights of up to 1 meter. The vehicle is capable of performing cyclical or conditional circuits and interacting with other AGVs/AMRs, machines, and systems. Highly adaptable, the K55 is perfect for any open-bottom or euro-pallet storage application, receipt and dispatch of goods, and internal material transport. Its use will optimize safety, storage space, and process efficiency.
A robust industrial product, the K55 provides the reliability required to ensure continuity of production process and flexibility to adapt to specific application needs, with an online battery charging system that can function 24/7 with opportunity charges.
Delmas continues, “The Logistics and Automation show is an important networking event where customers can learn about the latest technologies and innovations. We pride ourselves on innovation and are excited to have this opportunity to showcase the capabilities of our products. In addition to the K55, our robust portfolio also includes twister units, car and heavy load tractors, low-height vehicles, and cart pullers, meeting multiple application needs”
The efficiency and precision of Kivnon AGVs/AMRs will be on display and Kivnon robotics experts will be available throughout the show to answer questions and arrange consultations at booth #3F43.
Kivnon offers a wide range of autonomous vehicles (AGVs/AMRs) and accessories for transporting goods, using magnetic navigation or mapping technologies that adapt to any environment and industry. The company offers an integrated solution with a wide range of mobile robotics solutions automating different applications within the automotive, food and beverage, logistics and warehousing, manufacturing, and aeronautics industries.
Kivnon products are characterized by their robustness, safety, precision, and high quality. A user-friendly design philosophy creates a pleasant, simple to install, and intuitive work experience.
Learn more about Kivnon mobile robots (AGVs/AMRs) here.
Synapticon macht MOTORCORTEX als Online-Version verfügbar
Böblingen, den 04.08.2022 – Auch in der Welt des Maschinenbaus und der Robotik hat sich Software in den vergangenen Jahren zum entscheidenden Erfolgsfaktor entwickelt. Sowohl die Art und Weise wie Robotersteuerungen entwickelt werden als auch ihre Leistungsfähigkeit in der Praxis sind für die Hersteller von Industrierobotern von großer Bedeutung. Vor diesem Hintergrund hat Synapticon mit MOTORCORTEX.io nun eine bahnbrechende Lösung im SaaS (Software as a Service) Modell vorgestellt. Sie ermöglicht es sehr leistungsfähige, 100% individuelle Robotersteuerungen komfortabel in der Cloud zu entwickeln, auf Steuerungen im Feld bereitzustellen und über einen digitalen Zwilling zu testen. In der Serienproduktion des Roboters bzw. Automatisierungsprodukts kann die individuelle Steuerungs-Software dann in Masse bereitgestellt und auch offline betrieben werden. Dafür können neben Industrie-PCs auch Embedded-Module bis hin zu einem Raspberry Pi eingesetzt werden.
„Die Automatisierung hat in den vergangenen Jahren nochmals deutlich an Fahrt aufgenommen. Tragende Elemente sind dabei unter anderem fahrerlose Transportsysteme (AGV/AMR) sowie Cobots und Leichtbauroboter. Diese Systeme stellen nicht nur neue Herausforderungen an die Hardware, sondern auch an die Software, speziell wenn es um Themen wie Navigation, Sicherheit und das Erlernen von Abläufen geht“, erklärt Nikolai Ensslen, CEO und Gründer von Synapticon. „Die große Herausforderung ist nun für viele Hersteller: Sie müssen ihren Kunden Lösungen anbieten, die preislich attraktiv und immer auf dem neuesten Stand der Technik sind. Die Unternehmen sollen also in der Lage sein, individuelle Steuerungssoftware für ihre Systeme schnell und kosteneffizient zu entwickeln. Hierfür haben wir mit MOTORCORTEX nun eine Lösung im Angebot, die am Markt einmalig ist und welche die Entwicklungszeit von Robotersteuerungen drastisch verkürzt.“
Echtzeit-Steuerungsanwendungen in der Cloud erstellen und auf Offline-Steuerungen deployen sowie aus der Ferne warten
MOTORCORTEX umfasst ein ganzes Paket an Apps bzw. Templates und Tools zum Entwerfen, Steuern, Analysieren und Bereitstellen von industriellen Automatisierungsanwendungen. Dazu gehört beispielsweise auch ein Widget für die einfache grafische Programmierung (“no code”) von Robotern, was im Bereich der Cobots zum Standard wird. Die Plattform für individuelle Roboter- und Maschinensteuerungen ist mit modernster Softwaretechnologie implementiert, erfüllt alle Anforderungen der Automation der Zukunft und ist zugleich hoch leistungsfähig und skalierbar.
„Die Nutzung von MOTORCORTEX ist so einfach wie das Einrichten einer einfachen Webseite. Mit etwas Konfigurationsarbeit und ein paar Zeilen Code können sich Entwickler von jedem Webbrowser aus direkt und sicher mit ihrer Maschine verbinden und schnell Daten austauschen. Kein anderes industrielles Steuerungssystem ist so einfach und flexibel für anspruchsvolle und moderne Steuerungsaufgaben einzurichten“, erklärt Nikolai Ensslen. „Anwendungen, die auf MOTORCORTEX basieren, teilen alle ihre Daten automatisch in der darunterliegenden Echtzeitdatenbank, so dass externe Anwendungen oder Dienste einfach und sicher auf die Daten zugreifen können.“
Entwicklung beschleunigt, Kosten gesenkt
Erste Projekte mit Kunden zeigen, dass es Entwicklern mit MOTORCORTEX in der Cloud gelingt, den Entwicklungsprozess von Software um bis zu 90% zu reduzieren. Zugleich sinken tatsächlich die Kosten für die Softwareentwicklung deutlich, da MOTORCORTEX auf ein einfaches Lizenzmodell ohne zusätzliche Kosten für Wartung und Weiterentwicklung setzt. Da MOTORCORTEX zudem vollkommen Hardware-unabhängig ist, bleibt es den Entwicklern freigestellt, welche Hardware-Komponenten sie für die Entwicklung ihrer Steuerungssoftware nutzen. Ideale Resultate und höchste Effizienz verspricht dabei die Kombination der MOTORCORTEX-Software mit den SOMANET-Servoantrieben aus dem Motion Control-Portfolio von Synapticon.
MOTORCORTEX hat nicht den Anspruch, der eigenen Softwareentwicklung von Roboterherstellern oder innovativen Steuerungslösungen von Drittanbietern, etwa zum einfachen Teachen von Robotern oder für die Integration von Bildverarbeitung und KI, zuvor zu kommen bzw. diese zu ersetzen. Die Plattform soll vielmehr als solide Grundlage für diese dienen und die Entwickler in der Basis entlasten.
„MOTORCORTEX versteht sich, ebenso wie die SOMANET-Elektroniken, als im Endprodukt versteckte Infrastruktur. Sie soll ein leistungsfähiges, zuverlässiges Fundament für die modernsten und innovativsten Robotersteuerungen zur Verfügung stellen. Wir sehen uns als Technologie- und Infrastrukturpartner der besten Innovatoren in Robotik und Automation,” fasst Nikolai Ensslen zusammen. „Ich bin mir sicher, dass wie in vielen anderen Industriebereichen zukünftig Software auch in der Robotik zu einem wesentlichen und kritischen Unterscheidungsmerkmal wird. Mit MOTORCORTEX geben wir Unternehmen hierfür die beste Plattform in die Hand, so dass diese sich auf die relevanten Innovationen für Ihre Kunden und die Differenzierung von ihrem Wettbewerb konzentrieren können.“
Autonomously driving robotic assistance system for the automated placement of coil creels
Due to the industry standard 4.0, digitalisation, automation and networking of systems and facilities are becoming the predominant topics in production and thus also in logistics. Industry 4.0 pursues the increasing optimisation of processes and workflows in favour of productivity and flexibility and thus the saving of time and costs. Robotic systems have become the driving force for automating processes. Through the Internet of Things (IoT), robots are becoming increasingly sensitive, autonomous, mobile and easier to operate. More and more they are becoming an everyday helper in factories and warehouses. Intelligent imaging techniques are playing an increasingly important role in this.
To meet the growing demands in scaling and changing production environments towards fully automated and intelligently networked production, the company ONTEC Automation GmbH from Naila in Bavaria has developed an autonomously driving robotic assistance system. The „Smart Robot Assistant“ uses the synergies of mobility and automation: it consists of a powerful and efficient intralogistics platform, a flexible robot arm and a robust 3D stereo camera system from the Ensenso N series by IDS Imaging Development Systems GmbH.
The solution is versatile and takes over monotonous, weighty set-up and placement tasks, for example. The autonomous transport system is suitable for floor-level lifting of Euro pallets up to container or industrial format as well as mesh pallets in various sizes with a maximum load of up to 1,200 kilograms. For a customer in the textile industry, the AGV (Automated Guided Vehicle) is used for the automated loading of coil creels. For this purpose, it picks up pallets with yarn spools, transports them to the designated creel and loads it for further processing. Using a specially developed gripper system, up to 1000 yarn packages per 8-hour shift are picked up and pushed onto a mandrel of the creel. The sizing scheme and the position of the coils are captured by an Ensenso 3D camera (N45 series) installed on the gripper arm.
Pallets loaded with industrial yarn spools are picked up from the floor of a predefined storage place and transported to the creel location. There, the gripper positions itself vertically above the pallet. An image trigger is sent to the Ensenso 3D camera from the N45 series, triggered by the in-house software ONTEC SPSComm. It networks with the vehicle’s PLC and can thus read out and pass on data. In the application, SPSComm controls the communication between the software parts of the vehicle, gripper and camera. This way, the camera knows when the vehicle and the grabber are in position to take a picture. This takes an image and passes on a point cloud to a software solution from ONTEC based on the standard HALCON software, which reports the coordinates of the coils on the pallet to the robot. The robot can then accurately pick up the coils and process them further. As soon as the gripper has cleared a layer of the yarn spools, the Ensenso camera takes a picture of the packaging material lying between the yarn spools and provides point clouds of this as well. These point clouds are processed similarly to provide the robot with the information with which a needle gripper removes the intermediate layers. „This approach means that the number of layers and finishing patterns of the pallets do not have to be defined in advance and even incomplete pallets can be processed without any problems,“ explains Tim Böckel, software developer at ONTEC. „The gripper does not have to be converted for the use of the needle gripper. For this application, it has a normal gripping component for the coils and a needle gripping component for the intermediate layers.“
For this task, the mobile use for 3D acquisition of moving and static objects on the robot arm, the Ensenso 3D camera is suitable due to its compact design. The Ensenso N 45’s 3D stereo electronics are completely decoupled from the housing, allowing the use of a lightweight plastic composite as the housing material. The low weight facilitates the use on robot arms such as the Smart Robotic Asstistant. The camera can also cope with demanding environmental conditions. „Challenges with this application can be found primarily in the different lighting conditions that are evident in different rooms of the hall and at different times of the day,“ Tim Böckel describes the situation. Even in difficult lighting conditions, the integrated projector projects a high-contrast texture onto the object to be imaged by means of a pattern mask with a random dot pattern, thus supplementing the structures on featureless homogenous surfaces. This means that the integrated camera meets the requirements exactly. „By pre-configuring within NxView, the task was solved well.“ This sample programme with source code demonstrates the main functions of the NxLib library, which can be used to open one or more stereo and colour cameras whose image and depth data are visualised. Parameters such as exposure time, binning, AOI and depth measuring range can – as in this case – be adjusted live for the matching method used.
The matching process empowers the Ensenso 3D camera to recognise a very high number of pixels, including their position change, by means of the auxiliary structures projected onto the surface and to create complete, homogeneous depth information of the scene from this. This in turn ensures the necessary precision with which the Smart Robot Assistant proceeds. Other selection criteria for the camera were, among others, the standard vision interface Gigabit Ethernet and the global shutter 1.3 MP sensor. „The camera only takes one image pair of the entire pallet in favour of a faster throughput time, but it has to provide the coordinates from a relatively large distance with an accuracy in the millimetre range to enable the robot arm to grip precisely,“ explains Matthias Hofmann, IT specialist for application development at ONTEC. „We therefore need the high resolution of the camera to be able to safely record the edges of the coils with the 3D camera.“ The localisation of the edges is important in order to be able to pass on as accurate as possible the position from the centre of the spool to the gripper.
Furthermore, the camera is specially designed for use in harsh environmental conditions. It has a screwable GPIO connector for trigger and flash and is IP65/67 protected against dirt, dust, splash water or cleaning agents.
The Ensenso SDK enables hand-eye calibration of the camera to the robot arm, allowing easy translation or displacement of coordinates using the robot pose. In addition, by using the internal camera settings, a „FileCam“ of the current situation is recorded at each pass, i.e. at each image trigger. This makes it possible to easily adjust any edge cases later on, in this application for example unexpected lighting conditions, obstacles in the image or also an unexpected positioning of the coils in the image. The Ensenso SDK also allows the internal camera LOG files to be stored and archived for possible evaluation.
ONTEC also uses these „FileCams“ to automatically check test cases and thus ensure the correct functioning of all arrangements when making adjustments to the vision software. In addition, various vehicles can be coordinated and logistical bottlenecks minimised on the basis of the control system specially developed by ONTEC. Different assistants can be navigated and act simultaneously in a very confined space. By using the industrial interface tool ONTEC SPSComm, even standard industrial robots can be safely integrated into the overall application and data can be exchanged between the different systems.
Further development of the system is planned, among other things, in terms of navigation of the autonomous vehicle. „With regard to vehicle navigation for our AGV, the use of IDS cameras is very interesting. We are currently evaluating the use of the new Ensenso S series to enable the vehicle to react even more flexibly to obstacles, for example, classify them and possibly even drive around them,“ says Tim Böckel, software developer at ONTEC, outlining the next development step.
ONTEC’s own interface configuration already enables the system to be integrated into a wide variety of Industry 4.0 applications, while the modular structure of the autonomously moving robot solution leaves room for adaptation to a wide variety of tasks. In this way, it not only serves to increase efficiency and flexibility in production and logistics, but in many places also literally contributes to relieving the workload of employees.
St-Sulpice, Switzerland, February18, 2021 – BlueBotics, the global leader in natural feature navigation, has announced its Autonomous Navigation Technology (ANT®) is now estimated to have driven automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) over 10 million kilometers, in applications ranging from warehousing and manufacturing to commercial cleaning services, UVC disinfection and more.
Dr. Nicola Tomatis, CEO of BlueBotics, said, “The timing of this milestone is perfect as it comes the same month that we celebrate the company’s 20-year anniversary. It is amazing to think that our customers’ ANT® driven vehicles have driven over 10 million kilometers, almost 250 times the circumference of the globe. This achievement really speaks to the robustness of our industry-proven ANT® technology.”
ANT® navigation is popular with manufacturers and end users of AGVs, automated forklifts and AMRs, since it simplifies and shortens vehicle installation times as well as providing flexible, accurate and user-friendly operation. The technology suits a myriad of vehicle types and kinematics, from small 100 kg AMRs to 30-ton heavy load transporter AGVs. In addition, with BlueBotics’ accompanying ANT® server software, users whose vehicles are driven by BlueBotics’ ANT® lite+ product can create and operate a synchronized fleet of ANT® driven vehicles, no matter what the type or even brand. All of these vehicles are able to interact seamlessly with on-site equipment and machinery, including an organization’s existing WMS/MES/ERP software, using ANT® server’s simple API.
Dr. Tomatis continued, “In arriving at our 10-million-kilometer milestone, we conservatively estimate that AGVs driven by ANT® technology have worked more than one million days – over 2,500 years – of commercial operation.”
“It is exciting to see the impact ANT® technology is having, both on the AGV market and – most importantly – on the efficiency of those companies that operate ANT® driven vehicles. With our continuing strong growth, it shouldn’t be long before ANT® driven products will have circumnavigated the globe 500 times!”
BlueBotics is the reference in natural feature navigation and has the mission to help companies meet the challenge of vehicle automation. With its 20 years of industry experience, the company provides the autonomous navigation technology (ANT®) and expert support customers need to bring their AGV, automated forklift or mobile robot successfully to market. Today, there are more than 2,000 ANT® driven vehicles in operation worldwide. https://www.BlueBotics.com
St-Sulpice Switzerland, October 07, 2020 – The COVID-19 crisis has focussed public attention on the role that hospitals and healthcare professionals play in treating those infected by the virus. Working within strict social distancing guidelines and limited staff has strained the resources of some of the support staff including internal logistics suppliers.
This is why an increasing number of hospitals around the world are reaping the benefits of investment in automated guided vehicles (AGVs).
A modern hospital or clinic handles a huge amount of internal transportation daily. A 200-bed hospital transports an average of six tons of materials per day over a total distance of about 60 km, while an 800-bed hospital can handle up to 27 tons of materials, covering a distance of about 800 km. By utilising an AGV logistics system these movements can be handled more efficiently, freeing up valuable resources for medical activities.
One hospital in Garbagnate Milanese, Italy, for example, employs AGVs to automate these processes. The 57,000 m2 facility has over 500 beds and the backend logistics are handled by 12 AGVs that transport goods to 147 reception stations throughout the hospital.
The quality of transport in healthcare is essential, in order to safeguard the integrity of the materials carried, ensuring a high level of hygiene and assuring the health of patients. One company that has been supporting healthcare facilities automate their logistics since 2012 is Italy-based Oppent, with its EvoCart series of mobile robots, specifically developed for hospitals and medical centres. These vehicles can handle food, laundry, waste, sterilisation, pharmacy, and general supplies, including ensuring that vital personal protection equipment (PPE) is in the right places at the right time during the current pandemic. Oppent has managed handling in more than 20 healthcare facilities.
Oppent’s bi-directional mobile robots have a programmable speed of 0.10 m/s to 2.0 m/s and respect the safety regulations ISO 3691-4. Their movements are controlled by Autonomous Navigation Technology (ANT®), by BlueBotics, which uses natural structures in the environment—such as walls or furniture—as references, to ensure each vehicle knows where exactly it is. This approach means an AGV installation does not require expensive infrastructure changes, such as inductive wires being laid in the floor, or triangulation reflectors on the walls, in order to navigate effectively.
The AGVs are quickly installed with ANT® lab tool suite and modifications to routes are even simpler. As a result, installations are simple and economical to set up and maintain, whether a single automated guided vehicle or a large fleet. A specific built-in safety system using specific certified laser scanners can identify any obstacles along the path and adjust the movement of the vehicle, with the AGVs autonomously handling obstacles either by adapting their speed to avoid emergency situations (path following) or moving around them (obstacle avoidance).
BlueBotics aims to become the reference in autonomous navigation with the mission to enable the mobility of vehicles for the automation in the professional use market.
The company is now active in two segments:
Industrial automation – BlueBotics proposes ANT®, its innovative navigation solution.
Service robotics – The company proposes engineering services based on its expertise in mobile robotics with standard platforms, feasibility studies, custom designs, and dedicated developments to enable new customer applications.
Scottsdale, AZ, January 4, 2017 – Roboteq, Inc (www.roboteq.com) introduces a new magnetic guide sensor capable of detecting and reporting the position of a magnetic field along its horizontal axis. The sensor is intended for line following robotic applications, using adhesive magnetic tape to form a track guide on the floor.
Measuring only 165 x 35 x 35mm, the MGSW1600 is built into a rugged, watertight, all-metal enclosure. It uses an 8-pin waterproof M12-type connector for its power supply and IO signals.
The sensor uses advanced signal processing to accurately measure its lateral distance from the center of the track, with millimeter resolution, resulting in nearly 160 points end to end. Tape position information can be output in numerical format on the sensor’s RS232, CANbus or USB ports. The position is also reported as a 0 to 3V analog voltage output and as a variable PWM output. Additionally, the sensor supports a dedicated MultiPWM mode allowing seamless communication with all Roboteq motor controllers using only one wire.
The sensor is primarily used to steer Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGVs), moving material on factory floors. However, its unique sensitivity and accuracy opens a world of new application opportunities, such as automatic shelf replenishing in supermarkets, patient transport in hospitals, stage theater props, or rail-less tramways.
Compared to other guiding techniques, magnetic guides are totally passive and therefore easy to lay and modify. The tape creates an invisible field that is immune to dirt and unaffected by lighting conditions. The magnetic track can be totally hidden under any non-ferrous flooring material, such as linoleum, tiles, or carpet.
Roboteq provides drawings, How-To videos and software free of charge for building Magnetic Track Guided mobile robots. Roboteq’s RoboAGVSim is a software package that lets the user develop and simulate such robots.
The sensor will detect and manage up to 2-way forks and can be instructed to follow the left or right track using commands issued via the serial, CAN or USB ports. All of the sensor’s operating parameters and commands are also accessible via its CAN bus interface.
In addition to detecting a track to follow, the sensor will detect and report the presence of magnetic markers. Markers are pieces of tape of opposite magnetic polarity that may be positioned on the left or right side of the track. The sensor is equipped with four LEDs for easy monitoring and diagnostics.
The sensor incorporates a high-speed, Basic-like scripting language that allows users to add customized functionality to the sensor. A PC utility is provided for configuring the sensor, capture and plot the sensor data on a strip chart recorder, and visualize in real time the magnetic field as it is “seen” by the sensor.
The sensor firmware can be updated in the field to take advantage of new features as they become available.