An automobile manufacturer located in the southeast U.S. needed to develop a system for delivering kitted parts to its assembly lines in support of a mixed assembly production system. Its objective was to install an unmanned AGV system that could efficiently operate with minimal human involvement and from a supermarket storage area where the parts were being kitted for sequential assembly. The company chose Creform Corporation to meet these objectives.
Creform designed and built a series of carts towed by its Tite-Space BST AGV models to deliver the kitted parts. The carts, built using the Creform System of pipe and joints, have canted shelves for good loading ergonomics and proper presentation at the point of use. Each shelf cart holds several boxes of kitted parts and can be easily modified. There are several carts in the delivery system in active use at all times including some as a buffer.
A Creform BST style AGV drives under a loaded kitting cart equipped with a BST interface, extends a tow pin and then moves out to deliver it. After delivering the cart, it lowers the tow pin and drives forward to pick up an empty cart returning to the supermarket area where it deposits the empty cart for refilling. After it retracts the tow pin it moves forward to pick up the next full cart, starting the cycle all over again. The only requirement of an associate is to hit the start button after a cart is released. The automaker's system uses three Creform Tite-Space BST AGVs, which have a minimum turning radius of 400 mm (17.5") so they easily navigate tight turns and narrow aisles encountered in the system's quarter-mile route. In operation, the AGV's operate at speeds of 4-50 m/min and follow a magnetic tape guidepath, approximately one-quarter of a mile long with six delivery stops along the way.
The system is designed to require minimal human involvement, especially as it is related to AGV battery maintenance. Each unit is equipped with an optional "opportunity charging" module. The rear-mounted modules do not interfere with an AGV's performance. This add-on module can be included with many of Creform's new BST AGVs or even retrofitted to units that have been in the field for a while to eliminate the need for daily battery handling.
There is an opportunity charging station located in one of the stops and each AGV has an optical communication device that signals its presence as it pulls in. After it stops, the AGV lowers charging probes that make contact with a conductor plate embedded in the floor turning on the charger for a quick battery boost. This allows the AGV to operate 24/7 without battery changeouts.
This feature allows the use of two 12V AGM batteries, which are smaller than those that would be required for a normal shift if it did not have the charging feature. Plus, the opportunity charging capability eliminates the need for someone to change batteries freeing them up to perform value added services.
For safety, the Tite-Space units have electromagnetic braking, audible warning and flashing light, obstacle sensor, bumper switch and e-stop.
The Creform AGV system also offers other advantages to this user, the company said. In addition to the carts being easily modified, the magnetic tape route can be rerouted or changed without damaging the floor by simply removing and reapplying the tape. Creform also offers an AGV rehabilitation service after years of heavy industrial use or to simply modify electronic packages to meet new requirements.
The new AGV system in place for this auto manufacturer is performing up to expectations, helping with its lean and continuous improvement programs while keeping its assembly lines supplied, the company said.
For more information contact:
P.O. Box 830
Greer, SC 29652-0830