Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 19

Space manufacturing From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article is outdated. Please update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information. (January 2013) Space manufacturing is the production of manufactured goods in an environment outside a planetary atmosphere. Typically this includes conditions of microgravity and hard vacuum. Manufacturing in space has several potential advantages over Earth-based industry.

The unique environment can allow for industrial processes that cannot be readily reproduced on Earth. Raw materials can be collected and processed from other bodies within the solar system at a low expense compared to the cost of lifting materials into orbit. Potentially hazardous processes can be performed in space with minimal risk to the environment of the Earth or other planets. Items too large to launch on a rocket can be assembled in orbit for use in orbit.

Comparison of insulin crystal growth in outer space (left) and on Earth (right). NASA image The space environment is expected to be beneficial for production of a variety of products. Once the heavy capitalization costs of assembling the mining and manufacturing facilities is paid, the production will need to be economically profitable in order to become self-sustaining and beneficial to society. The most significant cost is overcoming the energy hurdle for boosting materials into orbit. Once this barrier is significantly reduced in cost per kilogram, the entry price for space manufacturing can make it much more attractive to entrepreneurs.

Economic requirements of space manufacturing imply a need to collect the requisite raw materials at a minimum energy cost. The economical movement of material in space is directly related to the delta-v, or change in velocity required to move from the mining sites to the manufacturing plants. Near-Earth asteroids, Phobos, Deimos and the lunar surface have a much lower delta-v compared to launching the materials from the surface of the Earth to Earth orbit.

Contents [hide]

1 History 1.1 ISS 2 Environment 3 Materials processing 4 Manufacturing 5 Products 6 See also 7 References 8 External links [edit]History

During the Soyuz 6 mission, Russian astronauts performed the first welding experiments in space. Three different welding processes were tested using a hardware unit called Vulkan. The tests included welding aluminum, titanium, and stainless steel.

The Skylab mission, launched in May 1973, served as a laboratory to perform various space manufacturing experiments. The station was equipped with a materials processing facility that included a multi-purpose electric furnace, a crystal growth chamber, and an electron beam gun. Among the experiments to be performed was research on molten metal processing; photographing the behavior of ignited materials in zero-gravity; crystal growth; processing of immiscible alloys; brazing of stainless steel tubes, electron beam welding, and the formation of spheres from molten metal. The crew spent a total of 32 man-hours on materials science and space manufacturing investigation during the mission.

The Space Studies Institute began hosting a bi-annual Space Manufacturing Conference in 1977.

Microgravity research in materials processing continued in 1983 using the Spacelab facility. This module has been carried into orbit 26 times aboard the Space Shuttle, as of 2002. In this role the shuttle has served as an interim, short-duration research platform in lieu of the upcoming International Space Station.

The Wake Shield Facility is deployed by the Space Shuttle's robotic arm. NASA image In February 1994 and September 1995, the Wake Shield Facility was carried into orbit by the Space Shuttle. This demonstration platform used the vacuum created in the orbital wake to manufacture thin films of gallium arsenide and aluminum gallium arsenide.

On May 31, 2005, the recoverable, unmanned Foton-M2 laboratory was launched into orbit. Among the experiments were crystal growth and the behavior of molten-metal in weightlessness.

[edit]ISS The completion of the International Space Station is expected to provide expanded and improved facilities for performing industrial research. These will lead to improvements in our knowledge of materials sciences, new manufacturing techniques on Earth, and potentially some important discoveries in space manufacturing methods. The completion of this facility has been delayed due to safety problems with the Space Shuttle.

The Material Science Laboratory Electromagnetic Levitator (MSL-EML) on board the Columbus Laboratory is a science facility that can be used to study the melting and solidification properties of various materials. The Fluid Science Laboratory (FSL) will be used to study the behavior of liquids in microgravity.[1]


There are several unique differences between the properties of materials in space compared to the same materials on the Earth. These differences can be exploited to produce unique or improved manufacturing techniques.

The microgravity environment allows control of convection in liquids or gasses, and the elimination of sedimentation. Diffusion becomes the primary means of material mixing, allowing otherwise immiscible materials to be intermixed. The environment allows enhanced growth of larger, higherquality crystals in solution. The ultraclean vacuum of space allows the creation of very pure materials and objects. The use of vapor deposition can be used to build up materials layer by layer, free from defects.

Surface tension causes liquids in microgravity to form perfectly round spheres. This can cause problems when trying to pump liquids through a conduit, but it is very useful when perfect spheres of consistent size are needed for an application. Space can provide readily available extremes of heat and cold. Sunlight can be focused to concentrate enough heat to melt the materials, while objects kept in perpetual shade are exposed to temperatures close to absolute zero. The temperature gradient can be exploited to produce strong, glassy materials. [edit]Materials processing

For most manufacturing applications, specific material requirements must be satisfied. Mineral ores need to be refined to extract specific metals, and volatile organic compounds will need to be purified. Ideally these raw materials are delivered to the processing site in an economical manner, where time to arrival, propulsion energy expenditure, and extraction costs are factored into the planning process. Minerals can be obtained from asteroids, the lunar surface, or a planetary body. Volatiles could potentially be obtained from a comet or the moons of Mars or other planets. It may also prove possible to extract hydrogen from the cold traps at the poles of the Moon.

Another potential source of raw materials, at least in the short term, is recycled orbiting satellites and other man-made objects in space. Some consideration was given to the use of the Space Shuttle external fuel tanks for this purpose, but NASA determined that the potential benefits were outweighed by the increased risk to crew and vehicle[citation needed].

Unless the materials processing and the manufacturing sites are co-located with the resource extraction facilities, the raw materials will need to be moved about the solar system. There are several proposed means of providing propulsion for this material, including solar sails, magnetic sails, mini-magnetospheric plasma propulsion (which uses a cloud of ionized gas as a magnetic sail), electric ion thrusters, or mass drivers (this last method uses a sequence of electromagnets mounted in a line to accelerate a conducting material).

At the materials processing facility, the incoming materials will need to be captured by some means. Maneuvering rockets attached to the load can park the content in a matching orbit. Alternatively, if the load is moving at a low delta-v relative to the destination, then it can be captured by means of a mass catcher. This could consist of a large, flexible net or inflatable structure that would transfer the momentum of the mass to the larger facility. Once in place, the materials can be moved into place by mechanical means or by means of small thrusters.

Materials can be used for manufacturing either in their raw form, or by processing them to extract the constituent elements. Processing techniques include various chemical, thermal, electrolytic, and magnetic methods for separation. In the near term, relatively straightforward methods can be used to extract aluminum, iron, oxygen, and silicon from lunar and asteroidal sources. Less concentrated elements will likely require more advanced processing facilities, which may have to wait until a space manufacturing infrastructure is fully developed.

Some of the chemical processes will require a source of hydrogen for the production of water and acid mixtures. Hydrogen gas can also be used to extract oxygen from the lunar regolith, although the process is not very efficient.[clarification needed][citation needed] So a readily available source of useful volatiles is a positive factor in the development of space manufacturing. Alternatively, oxygen can be liberated from the lunar regolith without reusing any imported materials. Just heat the regolith to 2,500 C in a vacuum. This was tested on Earth with lunar simulant in a vacuum chamber. As much as 20% of the sample was released as free oxygen. Eric Cardiff calls the remainder slag. This process is highly efficient in terms of imported materials used up per batch, but is not the most efficient process in energy per kilogram of oxygen.[2]

One proposed method of purifying asteroid materials is through the use of carbon monoxide (CO). Heating the material to 500 F (260 C) and exposing it to CO causes the metals to form gaseous carbonyls. This vapor can then be distilled to separate out the metal components, and the CO can then be recovered by another heating cycle. Thus an automated ship can scrape up loose surface materials from, say, the relatively nearby 4660 Nereus (in delta-v terms), process the ore using solar heating and CO, and eventually return with a load of almost pure metal. The economics of this process can potentially allow the material to be extracted at one-twentieth the cost of launching from Earth, but it would require a two-year round trip to return any mined ore.[citation needed]


Due to speed of light constraints on communication, manufacturing in space at a distant point of resource acquisition will either require completely autonomous robotics to perform the labor, or a human crew with all the accompanying habitat and safety requirements. If the plant is built in orbit around the Earth, or near a manned space habitat, however, telecheric devices can be used for certain tasks that require human intelligence and flexibility.

Solar power provides a readily available power source for thermal processing. Even with heat alone, simple thermally-fused materials can be used for basic construction of stable structures. Bulk soil from the Moon or asteroids has a very low water content, and when melted to form glassy materials is very durable. These simple, glassy solids can be used for the assembly of habitats on the surface of

the Moon or elsewhere. The solar energy can be concentrated in the manufacturing area using an array of steerable mirrors.

The availability and favorable physical properties of metals will make them a major component of space manufacturing. Most of the metal handling techniques used on Earth can also be adopted for space manufacturing, but a few will need significant modifications. The microgravity environment of space will necessitate modifications to some metal handling techniques.

The production of hardened steel in space will introduce some new factors. Carbon only appears in small proportions in lunar surface materials and will need to be delivered from elsewhere. Waste materials carried by humans from the Earth is one possible source, as are comets. The water normally used to quench steel will also be in short supply, and require strong agitation.

Casting steel can be a difficult process in microgravity, requiring special heating and injection processes, or spin forming. Heating can be performed using sunlight combined with electrical heaters. The casting process would also need to be managed to avoid the formation of voids as the steel cools and shrinks.

Various metal-working techniques can be used to shape the metal into the desired form. The standard methods are casting, drawing, forging, machining, rolling, and welding. Both rolling and drawing metals require heating and subsequent cooling. Forging and extrusion can require powered presses, as gravity is not available. Electron beam welding has already been demonstrated on board the Skylab, and will probably be the method of choice in space. Machining operations can require precision tools which will need to be imported from the Earth for some duration.

New space manufacturing technologies are being studied at places such as Marshall's National Center for Advanced Manufacturing. The methods being investigated include coatings that can be sprayed on surfaces in space using a combination of heat and kinetic energy, and electron beam free form fabrication[3] of parts. Approaches such as these, as well as examination of material properties that can be investigated in an orbiting laboratory, will be studied on the International Space Station.


There are thought to be a number of useful products that can potentially be manufactured in space and result in an economic benefit. Research and development is required to determine the best

commodities to be produced, and to find efficient production methods. The following products are considered prospective early candidates:

Growth of protein crystals Improved semiconductor wafers Micro-encapsulation As the infrastructure is developed and the cost of assembly drops, some of the manufacturing capacity can be directed toward the development of expanded facilities in space, including larger scale manufacturing plants. These will likely require the use of lunar and asteroid materials, and so follow the development of mining bases.

Rock is the simplest product, and at minimum is useful for radiation shielding. It can also be subsequently processed to extract elements for various uses.

Water from lunar sources, Near Earth Asteroids or Martian moons is thought to be relatively cheap and simple to extract, and gives adequate performance for many manufacturing and material shipping purposes. Separation of water into hydrogen and oxygen can be easily performed in small scale, but some scientists [1] believe that this will not be performed on any large scale initially due to the large quantity of equipment and electrical energy needed to split water and liquify the resultant gases. Water used in steam rockets gives a specific impulse of about 190 seconds[citation needed]; less than half that of hydrogen/oxygen, but this is adequate for delta-v's that are found between Mars and Earth[citation needed]. Water is useful as a radiation shield and in many chemical processes.

Ceramics made from lunar or asteroid soil can be employed for a variety of manufacturing purposes.[citation needed] These uses include various thermal and electrical insulators, such as heat shields for payloads being delivered to the Earth's surface.

Metals can be used to assemble a variety of useful products, including sealed containers (such as tanks and pipes), mirrors for focusing sunlight, and thermal radiators. The use of metals for electrical devices would require insulators for the wires, so a flexible insulating material such as plastic or fiberglass will be needed.

A notable output of space manufacturing is expected to be solar panels. Expansive solar energy arrays can be constructed and assembled in space. As the structure does not need to support the

loads that would be experienced on Earth, huge arrays can be assembled out of proportionately smaller amounts of material. The generated energy can then be used to power manufacturing facilities, habitats, spacecraft, lunar bases, and even beamed down to collectors on the Earth with microwaves.

Other possibilities for space manufacturing include propellants for spacecraft, some repair parts for spacecraft and space habitats, and, of course, larger factories. Ultimately, space manufacturing facilities can hypothetically become nearly self-sustaining, requiring only minimal imports from the Earth. The microgravity environment allows for new possibilities in construction on a massive scale, including megascale engineering. These future projects might potentially assemble space elevators, massive solar array farms, very high capacity spacecraft, and rotating habitats capable of sustaining populations of tens of thousands of people in Earth-like conditions.

An automated guided vehicle or automatic guided vehicle (AGV) is a mobile robot that follows markers or wires in the floor, or uses vision or lasers. They are most often used in industrial applications to move materials around a manufacturing facility or a warehouse. Application of the automatic guided vehicle has broadened during the late 20th century.

1 Introduction 2 Navigation

o o o o o o o o

2.1 Wired 2.2 Guide Tape 2.3 Laser Target Navigation 2.4 Gyroscopic Navigation 2.5 Natural Features Navigation 2.6 Steering control 2.7 Vision-Guidance 2.8 Geoguidance

3 Path Decision

o o o

3.1 Frequency select mode 3.2 Path select mode 3.3 Magnetic Tape mode

4 Traffic Control

o o o

4.1 Zone control 4.2 Forward sensing control 4.3 Combination control

5 System Management 6 Vehicle Types 7 Common AGV Applications

o o o o o o o

7.1 Raw Material Handling 7.2 Work-in-Process Movement 7.3 Pallet Handling 7.4 Finished Product Handling 7.5 Trailer Loading 7.6 Roll Handling 7.7 Container Handling

8 Primary Application Industries

o o o o o o o o

8.1 Pharmaceutical 8.2 Chemical 8.3 Manufacturing 8.4 Automotive 8.5 Paper and Print 8.6 Food and Beverage 8.7 Hospital 8.8 Warehousing

9 Battery Charging

o o o

9.1 Battery Swap 9.2 Automatic / Opportunity Charging 9.3 Automatic Battery Swap

10 See also 11 References

[edit]Introduction Automated guided vehicles (AGVs) increase efficiency and reduce costs by helping to automate a manufacturing facility or warehouse. The first AGV was invented by Barrett Electronics in 1953. The AGV can tow objects behind them in trailers to which they can autonomously attach. The trailers can be used to move raw materials or finished product. The AGV can also store objects on a bed. The objects can be placed on a set of motorized rollers (conveyor) and then pushed off by reversing them. AGVs are employed in nearly every industry, including, pulp, paper, metals, newspaper, and general manufacturing. Transporting materials such as food, linen or medicine in hospitals is also done. An AGV can also be called a laser guided vehicle (LGV). In Germany the technology is also called Fahrerlose Transportsysteme (FTS) and in Swedenfrarlsa truckar. Lower cost versions of AGVs are often called Automated Guided Carts (AGCs) and are usually guided by magnetic tape. AGCs are available in a variety of models and can be used to move products on an assembly line, transport goods throughout a plant or warehouse, and deliver loads. The first AGV was brought to market in the 1950s, by Barrett Electronics of Northbrook, Illinois, and at the time it was simply a tow truck that followed a wire in the floor instead of a rail. Over the years the technology has become more sophisticated and today automated vehicles are mainly Laser navigated e.g. LGV (Laser Guided Vehicle). In an automated process, LGVs are programmed to communicate with other robots to ensure product is moved smoothly through the warehouse, whether it is being stored for future use or sent directly to shipping areas. Today, the AGV plays an important role in the design of new factories and warehouses, safely moving goods to their rightful destination. [edit]Navigation [edit]Wired The wired sensor is placed on the bottom of the robot and is placed facing the ground. A slot is cut in the ground and a wire is placed approximately 1 inch below the ground. The sensor detects the radio frequency being transmitted from the wire and follows it.



AGVs (some known as automated guided carts or AGCs) use tape for the guide path. The tapes can be one of two styles: magnetic or colored. The AGC is fitted with the appropriate guide sensor to follow the path of the tape. One major advantage of tape over wired guidance is that it can be easily removed and relocated if the course needs to change. Colored tape is initially less expensive, but lacks the advantage of being embedded in high traffic areas where the tape may become damaged or dirty. A flexible magnetic bar can also be embedded in the floor like wire but works under the same provision as magnetic tape and so remains unpowered or passive. Another advantage of magnetic guide tape is the dual polarity. small pieces of magnetic tape may be placed to change states of the AGC based on polarity and sequence of the tags. [edit]Laser

Target Navigation

The navigation is done by mounting tape on walls, poles or machines. The AGV carries a laser transmitter and receiver on a rotating turret. The laser is sent off then received again the angle and (sometimes) distance are automatically calculated and stored into the AGVs memory. The AGV has reflector map stored in memory and can correct its position based on errors between the expected and received measurements. It can then navigate to a destination target using the constantly updating position.

Modulated Lasers The use of modulated laser light gives greater range and accuracy over pulsed laser systems. By emitting a continuous fan of modulated laser light a system can obtain an uninterrupted reflection as soon as the scanner achieves line of sight with a reflector. The reflection ceases at the trailing edge of the reflector which ensures an accurate and consistent measurement from every reflector on every scan. The LS9 Scanner is manufactured by Guidance Navigation Ltd and, by using a modulated laser; this system achieves an angular resolution of ~ 0.1 mrad (0.006) at 8 scanner revolutions per second.

Pulsed Lasers A typical pulsed laser scanner emits pulsed laser light at a rate of 14,400 Hz which gives a maximum possible resolution of ~ 3.5 mrad (0.2) at 8 scanner revolutions per second. To achieve a workable navigation, the readings must be interpolated based on the intensity of the reflected laser light, to identify the centre of the reflector.



Another form of an AGV guidance is inertial navigation. With inertial guidance, a computer control system directs and assigns tasks to the vehicles. Transponders are embedded in the floor of the work place. The AGV uses these transponders to verify that the vehicle is on course. A gyroscope is able to detect the slightest change in the direction of the vehicle and corrects it in order to keep the AGV on its path. The margin of error for the inertial method is 1 inch.[1] Inertial can operate in nearly any environment including tight aisles or extreme temperatures.[2]

[1] Unit-load AGV using natural-features navigation to carry steel to quality assurance lab, courtesy MobileRobots Inc


Features Navigation

Navigation without retrofitting of the workspace is called Natural Features Navigation. One method uses one or more range-finding sensors, such as a laser range-finder, as well as gyroscopes and/or inertial measurement units with Monte-Carlo/Markov localization techniques to understand where it is as it dynamically plans the shortest permitted path to its goal. The advantage of such systems is that they are highly flexible for on-demand delivery to any location. They can handle failure without bringing down the entire manufacturing operation, since AGVs can plan paths around the failed device. They also are quick to install, with less down-time for the factory.[dead link][3] [edit]Steering


To help an AGV navigate it can use two different steer control systems.[4] The differential speed control is the most common. In this method there are two sets of wheels being driven. Each set is connected to a common drive train. These drive trains are driven at different speeds in order to turn or the same speed to allow the AGV to go forwards and/or backwards. The AGV turns in a similar fashion to a tank. This method of steering is good in the sense that it is easy to maneuver in small spaces. More often than not, this is seen on an AGV that is used to transport and turn in tight spaces or when the AGV is working near machines. This setup for the wheels is not used in towing applications because the AGV would cause the trailer to jackknife when it turned. The other type of steering used is steered wheel control AGV. This type of steering is similar to a cars steering. It is more precise in following the wire program than the differential speed controlled method. This type of AGV has smoother turning but cannot make sharp turns in tight spots. Steered wheel control AGV can be used in all applications; unlike the differential controlled.[1] Steered wheel control is used for towing and can also at times have an operator control it. [edit]Vision-Guidance Vision-Guided AGVs can be installed with no modifications to the environment or infrastructure. They operate by using cameras to record features along the route, allowing the AGV to replay the route by using the recorded features to navigate. Vision-Guided AGVs use Evidence Grid technology, an application of probabilistic volumetric sensing, and was invented and initially developed by Dr. Moravec at Carnegie Mellon University. The Evidence Grid technology uses probabilities of occupancy for each point in space to compensate for the uncertainty in the performance of sensors and in the environment. The primary navigation sensors are specially designed stereo cameras. The vision-guided AGV uses 360-degree

images and build a 3D map, which allows the vision-guided AGVs to follow a trained route without human assistance or the addition of special features, landmarks or positioning systems. [edit]Geoguidance A geoguided AGV recognizes its environment to establish its location. Without any infrastructure, the forklift equipped with geoguidance technology detects and identifies, in three dimensions, columns, racks and walls within the warehouse. Using these fixed references, it can position itself, in real time, and, using instructions from the supervisor, determine its route. Automated forklifts can operate under the same conditions as manual ones (e.g. variable temperature, dust, lighting, or floor conditions). There are no limitations on distances to cover or number of pick-up or drop-off locations. Routes are infinitely modifiable. [edit]Path


AGVs have to make decisions on path selection. This is done through different methods: frequency select mode (wired navigation only), and path select mode (wireless navigation only) or via a magnetic tape on the floor not only to guide the AGV but also to issue steering commands and speed commands. [edit]Frequency

select mode

Frequency select mode bases its decision on the frequencies being emitted from the floor. When an AGV approaches a point on the wire which splits the AGV detects the two frequencies and through a table stored in its memory decides on the best path. The different frequencies are required only at the decision point for the AGV. The frequencies can change back to one set signal after this point. This method is not easily expandable and requires extra guide cutting meaning more money. [edit]Path

select mode

An AGV using the path select mode chooses a path based on preprogrammed paths. It uses the measurements taken from the sensors and compares them to values given to them by programmers. When an AGV approaches a decision point it only has to decide whether to follow path 1, 2, 3, etc. This decision is rather simple since it already knows its path from its programming. This method can increase the cost of an AGV because it is required to have a team of programmers to program the AGV with the correct paths and change the paths when necessary. This method is easy to change and set up. [edit]Magnetic

Tape mode

The magnetic tape is laid on the surface of the floor or buried in a 10mm channel; not only does it provide the path for the AGV to follow but also strips of the tape in different combos of polarity, sequence, and distance laid alongside the track tell the AGV to change lane, speed up, slow down, and stop. This is used by TOYOTA USA, TOYOTA JAPAN and MARUTI SUZUKI INDIA LTD. [edit]Traffic


Flexible manufacturing systems containing more than one AGV may require it to have traffic control so the AGVs will not run into one another. Methods include zone control, forward sensing control, and combination control. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages.[5] [edit]Zone


Zone control is the favorite of most environments because it is simple to install and easy to expand. [1] Zone control uses a wireless transmitter to transmit a signal in a fixed area. Each AGV contains a sensing device to receive this signal and transmit back to the transmitter. If the area is clear the signal is set at clear allowing any AGV to enter and pass through the area. When an AGV is in the area the stop signal is sent and all AGV attempting to enter the area stop and wait for their turn. Once the AGV in the zone has moved out beyond the zone the clear signal is sent to one of the waiting AGVs. Another way to set up zone

control traffic management is to equip each individual robot with its own small transmitter/receiver. The individual AGV then sends its own do not enter message to all the AGVs getting to close to its zone in the area. A problem with this method is if one zone goes down all the AGVs are at risk to collide with any other AGV. Zone control is a cost efficient way to control the AGV in an area. [edit]Forward

sensing control

Forward sensing control uses collision avoidance sensors to avoid collisions with other AGV in the area. These sensors include: sonic, which work likeradar; optical, which uses an infrared sensor; and bumper, physical contact sensor. Most AGVs are equipped with a bumper sensor of some sort as a fail safe. Sonic sensors send a chirp or high frequency signal out and then wait for a reply from the outline of the reply the AGV can determine if an object is ahead of it and take the necessary actions to avoid collision. [6] The optical uses an infrared transmitter/receiver and sends an infrared signal which then gets reflected back; working on a similar concept as the sonic sensor. The problems with these are they can only protect the AGV from so many sides. They are relatively hard to install and work with as well. [edit]Combination


Combination control sensing is using collision avoidance sensors as well as the zone control sensors. The combination of the two helps to prevent collisions in any situation. For normal operation the zone control is used with the collision avoidance as a fail safe. For example, if the zone control system is down, the collision avoidance system would prevent the AGV from colliding. [edit]System


Industries with AGVs need to have some sort of control over the AGVs. There are three main ways to control the AGV: locator panel, CRT color graphics display, and central logging and report.[1] A locator panel is a simple panel used to see which area the AGV is in. If the AGV is in one area for too long, it could mean it is stuck or broken down. CRTcolor graphics display shows real time where each vehicle is. It also gives a status of the AGV, its battery voltage, unique identifier, and can show blocked spots. Central logging used to keep track of the history of all the AGVs in the system. Central logging stores all the data and history from these vehicles which can be printed out for technical support or logged to check for up time. AGV is a system often used in FMS to keep up, transport, and connect smaller subsystems into one large production unit. AGVs employ a lot of technology to ensure they do not hit one another and make sure they get to their destination. Loading and transportation of materials from one area to another is the main task of the AGV. AGV require a lot of money to get started with, but they do their jobs with high efficiency. In places such as Japan automation has increased and is now considered to be twice as efficient as factories in America. For a huge initial cost the total cost over time decreases [edit]Vehicle


AGVS Towing Vehicles were the first type introduced and are still a very popular type today. Towing vehicles can pull a multitude of trailer types and have capacities ranging from 8,000 pounds to 60,000 pounds.[7]

AGVS Unit Load Vehicles are equipped with decks, which permit unit load transportation and often automatic load transfer. The decks can either be lift and lower type, powered or non-powered roller, chain or belt decks or custom decks with multiple compartments.

AGVS Pallet Trucks are designed to transport palletized loads to and from floor level; eliminating the need for fixed load stands.

AGVS Fork Truck has the ability to service loads both at floor level and on stands. In some cases these vehicles can also stack loads in rack.

Light Load AGVS are vehicles which have capacities in the neighborhood of 500 pounds or less and are used to transport small parts, baskets, or other light loads though a light manufacturing environment. They are designed to operate in areas with limited space.

AGVS Assembly Line Vehicles are an adaptation of the light load AGVS for applications involving serial assembly processes.


AGV Applications

Automated Guided Vehicles can be used in a wide variety of applications to transport many different types of material including pallets, rolls, racks, carts, and containers. AGVs excel in applications with the following characteristics:

Repetitive movement of materials over a distance Regular delivery of stable loads Medium throughput/volume When on-time delivery is critical and late deliveries are causing inefficiency Operations with at least two shifts Processes where tracking material is important


Material Handling

AGVs are commonly used to transport raw materials such as paper, steel, rubber, metal, and plastic. This includes transporting materials from receiving to the warehouse, and delivering materials directly to production lines.[dead link][8] [edit]Work-in-Process


Work-in-Process movement is one of the first applications where automated guided vehicles were used, and includes the repetitive movement of materials throughout the manufacturing process. AGVs can be used to move material from the warehouse to production/processing lines or from one process to another.[dead link][9] [edit]Pallet


Pallet handling is an extremely popular application for AGVs as repetitive movement of pallets is very common in manufacturing and distribution facilities. AGVs can move pallets from the palletizer to stretch wrapping to the warehouse/storage and/or to the outbound shipping docks.[dead link][10] [edit]Finished

Product Handling

Moving finished goods from manufacturing to storage or shipping is the final movement of materials before they are delivered to customers. These movements often require the gentlest material handling because the products are complete and subject to damage from rough handling. Because AGVs operate with precisely controlled navigation and acceleration and deceleration this minimizes the potential for damage making them an excellent choice for this type of application [edit]Trailer


Automatic loading of trailers is a relatively new application for automated guided vehicles and becoming increasingly popular. AGVs are used to transport and load pallets of finished goods directly into standard,

over-the-road trailers without any special dock equipment. AGVs can pick up pallets from conveyors, racking, or staging lanes and deliver them into the trailer in the specified loading pattern.[dead link][11] [edit]Roll


AGVs are used to transport rolls in many types of plants including paper mills, converters, printers, newspapers, steel producers, and plastics manufacturers. AGVs can store and stack rolls on the floor, in racking, and can even automatically load printing presses with rolls of paper. [dead link][12] [edit]Container


Container terminals showing a container being loaded onto an unmanned automated guided vehicle.

AGVs are used to move sea containers in some maritime container terminals. The main benefits are reduced labour costs and a more reliable (less variable) performance. This use of AGVs was pioneered by ECT in The Netherlands at the Delta terminal in the Port of Rotterdam. [edit]Primary

Application Industries

Efficient, cost effective movement of materials is an important, and common element in improving operations in many manufacturing plants and warehouses. Because automatic guided vehicles (AGVs) can delivery efficient, cost effective movement of materials, AGVs can be applied to various industries in standard or customized designs to best suit an industrys requirements. Industrys currently utilizing AGVs include (but are not limited to):

[2] A forktruck vehicle delivering a pallet of finished goods

[3] A unitload vehicle for delivering steel plates (blanks)

[edit]Pharmaceutical AGVs are a preferred method of moving materials in the pharmaceutical industry. Because an AGV system tracks all movement provided by the AGVs, it supports process validation and cGMP (current Good Manufacturing Practice). [edit]Chemical AGVs deliver raw materials, move materials to curing storage warehouses, and provide transportation to other processing cells and stations. Common industries include rubber, plastics, and specialty chemicals. [edit]Manufacturing AGVs are often used in general manufacturing of products. AGVs can typically be found delivering raw materials, transporting work-in process, moving finished goods, removing scrap materials, and supplying packaging materials. [edit]Automotive AGV installations are found in Stamping Plants, Power Train (Engine and Transmission) Plants, and Assembly Plants delivering raw materials, transporting work-in process, and moving finished goods. AGVs are also used to supply specialized tooling which must be changed.

[4] A Tugger AGV pulling wheeled carts containing automotive body panels

[5] Supplying a bin of parts for assembly onto cars


and Print

AGVs can move paper rolls, pallets, and waste bins to provide all routine material movement in the production and warehousing (storage/retrieval) of paper, newspaper, printing, corrugating, converting, and plastic film. [edit]Food

and Beverage

AGVs can be applied to move materials in food processing (such as the loading of food and/or trays into sterilizers) and at the end of line, linking the palletizer, stretch wrapper, and the warehouse. AGVs can load standard, over-the-road trailers with finished goods, and unload trailers to supply raw materials or packaging materials to the plant. AGVs can also store and retrieve pallets in the warehouse. [edit]Hospital AGVs are becoming increasingly popular in the healthcare industry for efficient transport, and are programmed to be fully integrated to automatically operate doors, elevators/lifts, cart washers, trash dumpers, etc. AGVs typically move linens, trash, regulated medical waste, patient meals, soiled food trays, and surgical case carts. [edit]Warehousing [edit]Battery


AGVs utilize a number of battery charging options. Each option is dependent on the users preference. The most commonly used battery charging technologies are Battery Swap, Automatic/Opportunity Charging, and Automatic Battery Swap.[13] [edit]Battery


"Battery swap technology"[13] requires an operator to manually remove the discharged battery from the AGV and place a fully charged battery in its place approximately 8 12 hours (about one shift) of AGVs operation. 5 10 minutes is required to perform this with each AGV in the fleet. [edit]Automatic

/ Opportunity Charging

"Automatic and opportunity battery charging"[13] allows for continuous operation. On average an AGV charges for 12 minutes every hour for automatic charging and no manual intervention is required. If opportunity is being utilized the AGV will receive a charge whenever the opportunity arises. When a battery pack gets to a predetermined level the AGV will finish the current job that it has been assigned before it goes to the charging station. [edit]Automatic

Battery Swap

"Automatic battery swap"[13] is an alternative to manual battery swap. It requires an additional piece of automation machinery, an automatic battery changer, to the overall AGV system. AGVs will pull up to the battery swap station and have their batteries automatically replaced with fully charged batteries. The automatic battery changer then places the removed batteries into a charging slot for automatic recharging. The automatic battery changer keeps track of the batteries in the system and pulls them only when they are fully charged. While a battery swap system reduces the manpower required to swap batteries, recent developments in battery charging technology allow batteries to be charged more quickly and efficiently potentially eliminating the need to swap batteries.