Easy to deploy, reliable and scalable, EchoRing multiplies the performance potential of automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and ensures secure, real time wireless controls even in complex industrial environments. EchoRing’s advantages have been proven in Stäubli WFT’s ongoing AGV development.
AGVs of various types and sizes are increasingly employed in logistics and manufacturing use cases. Communicating over a wireless network, they efficiently perform tasks ranging from transporting production jobs between assembly stations to retrieving steel plates from a warehouse for a car body press shop. Current industry-standard solutions such as CAN Bluetooth and Industrial WLAN fall short of the performance criteria that fleets of networked AGVs require, however. An AGV loaded with 100 tons of material must be counted on to stop instantly at any time – the shortest delay can spell disaster.
"Integrating a wireless AGV fleet into a highly networked production system often requires extensive setup," says Cajetan Kredler, Team Leader of New Technologies at Stäubli WFT GmbH. Headquartered in Sulzbach-Rosenberg, the company is one of Europe's leading AGV manufacturers. Stäubli WFT also develops software to deploy and operate Industry 4.0 environments and integrate AGVs into existing warehouse management systems.
"Radio transmissions within an AGV control system must function just as reliably as an industrial cable," Kredler continues. "The more wireless devices are added to a closed production network, the more difficult this requirement becomes."
Stäubli WFT discovered R3's EchoRing protocol at a trade show in early 2020 and saw its potential as an AGV network solution: "With its 5.8 GHz frequency band, EchoRing employs a range outside of standard transmission paths and is not affected by existing network participants," says Kredler. "Its underlying token ring technology also ensures that data transmission is lossless and in real time, which meets our reliability requirements." As further advantages, Kredler cites the EchoRing Ethernet Bridge module’s fast and easy integration with standard AGV interfaces and EchoRing’s sufficient data rate for long-term operations.
After a round of internal testing, Stäubli WFT found an industrial client to test EchoRing in practice, who have employed the protocol for several months to control two AGVs within a cleanroom application. Kredler describes the results so far as promising: "EchoRing is proving to be as reliable as cables, the connection is very process-safe, and interactions with other network participants has been completely seamless." Although the pilot project is not yet complete, Kredler already sees considerable potential for EchoRing/AGV collaborations. "Production environments with several hundred AGVs all on the move in close proximity will be a reality in the near future. For workplace safety alone, effective fleet management requires rock-solid communication paths that can be counted on to not collide with each other, regardless of the number of participants. EchoRing currently meets this criteria and has much potential for future development."
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.
Stäubli Group is a global provider of mechatronic solutions in the areas of connectors, robotics and textiles. Headquartered in Pfäffikon Switzerland, the company has offices in 50 countries across four continents. For over 20 years its German subsidiary Stäubli WFT GmbH has developed and manufactured automated guided vehicle (AGV) solutions for industrial applications.
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