AGV – Automatic Guided Vehicles -, AMR – Autonomous Mobile Robots – and AIV – Intelligent Guided Vehicles – are robots / vehicles with movement capacity that do not require any driver or user to control them directly. Its main functions are aimed at transporting materials in an environment in which they have to follow certain routes.

What are AGV – Automatic Guided Vehicles -, AMR – Autonomous Mobile Robots – and AIV – Intelligent Guided Vehicles – and what are they used for?

AGV, AMR and AIV are part of the new generation of robotic ‘assistants’ which help us to transport loads and materials within our factories. But they have some differences:

  • AGV – Automatic Guided Vehicle: AGVs have enough intelligence on board to follow predetermined programming commands. To navigate, they use filoguiding (they follow a magnetic strip on the ground through the antenna they have incorporated) or optoguided (they follow a line painted on the ground through the camera that they incorporate) or laserguiding (they follow the mirrors installed in the corners to through a laser) which requires a previous installation of the navigation aid elements. The AGV will be restricted to the predetermined routes of the aid elements. They are able to stop if they detect an obstacle but they will not be able to go around it, they will have to wait for the obstacle to move or to be removed.
  • AMR – Autonomous Mobile Robots or AIV – Intelligent Guided Vehicles: AMR or AIV navigate thanks to the mapping that they initially perform or the map, previously introduced in their software. These robots use data from their cameras and sensors to detect their surroundings and choose the best route to reach their target. It is able to detect obstacles and surround them autonomously. This is a technology which offers greater flexibility to the system. Another of its advantages is that it is a more economical solution since it does not need the installation of guides, mirrors or infrastructure at your workplace.

* To facilitate reading the blog we will call the three types “AGVs” on some occasions because they this is the most widely used word in general, but as you have seen they are slightly different.

Security in AGVs – Automatic Guided Vehicles and AMR – Autonomous Mobile Robots

One of the most important elements in AGVs and AMRs is their safety. Because they move autonomously, they need to integrate all kinds of measures that allow them to avoid possible obstacles. For example, it is easy for a person to cross the path of the AGV or AMR without realizing it. To avoid this type of situation, all kinds of tools and algorithms are used, such as presence sensors or computer vision. In this way, they are able to move around their work area safely, as it allows them to recognize obstacles that are not registered on their map and to readjust their route (in the case of AMRs) based on those obstacles.

Transport of Materials and Goods with AGVs – Automatic Guided Vehicles and AMR – Autonomous Mobile Robots

AGVs and AMRs facilitate the transport of materials within an industry. There are also AGVs and AMRs that are not only able to go to the place where the packages are to be collected, but, when there is more than one AGV or AMR taking care of the tasks, they are able to communicate with each other and organize in such a way that they do not interfere in each other’s tasks, making the process much more efficient. All you have to do is, indicate the tasks that you will need to carry out and the system will organize them in the most efficient way. Thanks to this communication capacity, the AGV or AMR are also beginning to be used to keep a registry of the material handled and its current situation, since, being these vehicles the ones that transport it, they are able to automate this task.

As it can be seen, the AGV and the AMR are a tool that can be very useful in the industry, both for the handling of materials and for the organization and registration of these. The advancement of technology allows these robots to become increasingly intelligent and to increase the number of uses that can be use for.

AGVs navigation system – Automatic Guided Vehicles and AMR – Autonomous Mobile Robots

AGVs and AMRs can use different technologies for locating and navigating within facilities:

  • Filoguided: the AGV moves guided by a conductive thread installed under the ground, which is accessed through small grooves where a stem connected to the vehicle is inserted. This guidance method is very simple, but it is the one with the least flexibility, since the movement paths of the AGV is limited to the paths with the thread installed. There are some more comfortable alternatives such as magnetic tapes that avoid doing work to install the thread.
  • Opto-guided: the AGV travels guided by a strip of mirrors, which extends along the paths of the AGV, placed continuously on the sides of the roads (or on the ground) or in the corners where the AGV has to make a decision. Using the retro-reflector, the AGV can detect the guide. The installation of these mirror guides does not require a work as in the case of filoguiding, and the modification or creation of new routes is less complex, since it is enough to draw the new areas with mirror strips to define the movements in the AGV .
  • Laser guidance: the AGV is equipped with a rotating laser unit that sweeps to identify as many reflectors as possible in its environment to determine its position on the map of the facility it has in memory. To make the installation map, retro-reflecting mirrors are placed at strategic points throughout the installation. These mirrors will be reference points with which to calculate the position of the AGV, in the same way as the Opto-guided. The main advantage of this guidance method is the incredible simplicity with which you can create a pallet loading / unloading station or modify a route.
  • 2D-3D mapping (natural): this technology does not need the installation of any external element to the AMR, since by means of all the sensors it has (cameras, LIDAR, ultrasound, …) they are able to create a virtual map of the environment in which they are working (in 2D or 3D depending on the technology). This facilitates the implementation of these devices, since it is simply necessary to manually move the AMR along the paths it will travel, mapping them and internalizing all the information necessary for their subsequent use. It is the most flexible and adaptive system.

What benefits do AGVs – Automatic Guided Vehicles and AMR – Autonomous Mobile Robots have in certain tasks?

In recent years there has been a large increase in the use of AGVs and AMRs in the industrial sector. Its main benefits and advantages are:

  • Automation of routine tasks which generates a reduction in costs
  • Improved productivity
  • Increased plant worker safety
  • Reduction of structures and products damage during cargo handling
  • They can work in unfavorable environments (cold rooms, ovens …)
  • Improvement and ease to control stocks 

How to implement AGVs – Automatic Guided Vehicles and AMR – Autonomous Mobile Robots?

Over the years, AGVs and AMRs have evolved and increasingly improved their functionality and usability. At the beginning, the AGVs needed systems that indicated at all times the route to follow, such as cables or signals that were located on the ground (as in the guided and optoguided. With the passage of time and technological advance, new techniques have been incorporated into AGVs that have allowed them to improve their behavior, as well as ease of integration. Today, AMRs are able to record a map of their work area with which they are able to decide for themselves the most optimal routes by using of various algorithms to reach a certain site, only being necessary to indicate the place to which they have to go.

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