Radio-based control of automated guided vehicles (AGVs) is becoming increasingly demanding. In complex industrial environments, it must be possible to transmit more and more data reliably, which is not always feasible with conventional technologies. Götting KG, a leading supplier of sensor technology for vehicle automation, has now been able to test a number of special applications with EchoRing technology, thus also opening up new potential uses for AGV control.
A concrete example is the "Cooperative Transport of Goods", i.e. the transport of large and bulky loads with the help of several small vehicles which, due to their scalability, can be used more cost-effectively and flexibly than a single, large heavy transporter. The individual vehicles are connected to each other via a "virtual drawbar" rather than mechanically, but they must be able to act as an integrated system. "One of the challenges is to keep the relative positions of the vehicles to each other very precisely constant over longer distances, even during the transport process, so that no mechanical forces are transferred to the load being transported," explains Thomas Neugebauer, head of the development department at Götting KG. Via an EchoRing radio link, the required position and status data of the vehicles could now be exchanged cyclically and absolutely reliably among each other, so that Götting could prove the safety of the technology for position control of "virtual drawbars".
In addition to AGV control, EchoRing also proved itself at Götting KG in use with automated guided vehicles (AGVs), particularly in infrastructure-free communication between vehicles when approaching intersections, junctions or other decision points. Usually, FTFs or AGVs (Automated Guided Vehicles) receive their driving orders via WiFi or a campus network from a central guidance control system, which also takes care of traffic control at critical points to avoid congestion or even collisions. If the communication system is disrupted, vehicles usually come to a halt, which can cause mutual blockades at intersections, for example. To avoid such disruptions or to relieve the central communication network, vehicles can be equipped with the EchoRing system as a reliable redundant system. At neuralgic points, the AGVs then exchange information directly among themselves and autonomously regulate the right of way. Current transport orders can thus be completed without downtime and operations maintained.
As part of a research project, Götting KG is also using EchoRing in combination with an LTE Sidelink transmission system. As an infrastructure-free data transmission system, sidelink is a component of cellular networks in the 4G or 5G standard and is also intended to serve communication between vehicles in road traffic in the future. To investigate a software-based implementation, two Sidelink radio systems were mounted on two AGVs traveling predetermined routes with different environmental characteristics. Position control is provided by an EchoRing radio link. "Thanks to the special architecture of the EchoRing system, data transmission works absolutely error-free, even in the presence of obstacles in the radio path," says Götting development manager Thomas Neugebauer, summing up the results so far. Neugebauer adds, "Not only, but especially in difficult environmental conditions, EchoRing represents an advantageous and reliable solution for the navigation of driverless systems."
About R3 Berlin-based R3 - Reliable Realtime Radio Communications GmbH develops high-performance URLLC wireless solutions for industrial applications. The company’s EchoRing solution combines the reliability of a cable connection with the mobility of a wireless network, ensuring transmission latencies of under 5ms. The technology is suited to a wide range of critical machine-to-machine communications applications, up to and including workplace safety controls. EchoRing’s users already include high-profile industry leaders such as Airbus, BMW and Kuka.
About Stäubli Götting KG is a leading supplier of components for localization, navigation and communication of automated guided vehicles (AGV/FTF) in industrial environments. The owner-managed company was founded in 1965 with headquarters in Lehrte near Hanover and currently employs 83 people. In addition to the components business, the company also carries out customer-specific projects with large-scale automated vehicles in industry and ports worldwide.
More Information: R3 – Reliable Realtime Radio Communications GmbH Jan Rähm Bismarckstraße 10-12 10625 Berlin/Germany