Compact motors for guided robots

| Manufacturing

Automated Guided Vehicles require compact drives with high power density

High power density motors with IoT and remote control capabilities are being used for automatic guided vehicles.

A common feature in modern manufacturing and distribution environments is the Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV), a technology derived from military roots and one which is finding widespread application in commercial applications for providing autonomous transport of heavy materials around warehouses or factories.

Being a vital part of logistics operations, it is critical once AGVs have been adopted that they don’t fail and the choice of motor is a key factor in this. Electric power specialist maxon motor provides some insight into the choice of motor for this application.

Compact form factor

Compactness is an important factor in warehouses both in the machinery used and the storage systems themselves. Customer demands have increased and 24-hour delivery is becoming the norm. As things stand, warehouses can no longer afford to be far from major delivery areas and the price per square metre on the outskirts of a town is not the same as it is in the middle of the countryside, so logistics firms are opting for high-rack storage systems to save space. Consequently, a small footprint is a major issue for applications in logistics.

The robots and automatic systems in warehouses can move vertically and reach the required heights. However, it is difficult, if not impossible, to have a compact AGV if the motor is bulky, therefore it is essential to choose compact motorisation. Drives must also be able to fit into restricted spaces, as they are sometimes integrated into existing trucks.

Plug-and-play modular drives

Although not plug-and-play “off the shelf”, the compact range of IDX drives for automatic systems from maxon are pre-configured at the factory to allow them to be dropped in to their host, connected up and available to operate immediately. The IDX compact drives have all possible connectivity options as standard and are adjustable to suit individual needs. When you plug the IDX drive in, it works immediately.

maxon achieves this by obtaining all the defined parameters at the time of placing the order through the use of an online configurator. How the product communicates, what cables are needed, the electronics you choose, the motor power, whether or not you want a brake, etc can all be defined in the online configurator so that the motor is configured and ready to use when delivered.

Additionally, the motors have been designed to be modular since not all AGVs do the same job and motorisation requirements vary with each application. Once again, the configurator is used for designing which modules are chosen to allow the user to “design” the motor and choose the type of motor, power rating, electronics, connectivity, type of communication, the protection rating of the motor, and whether or not a brake or an encoder is required.

Remote Control

The inherent connectivity of the motors enables them to be managed remotely. The communication buses used can communicate both with the EtherCAT and CANopen systems, and in the future with IoT networks too. The AGV can therefore be programmed by computer and controlled remotely, which makes maintenance much simpler. This means you can work at one time on your entire fleet of AGVs, to run diagnostics or carry out an update, for example.

The motor has built in safety features too. To avoid any danger from overheating, IDX drives have two integrated temperature sensors, one inside the motor and the other within the electronics. If there is a problem, the motor is secured immediately, without waiting until the whole envelope has overheated.

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