Do you know that AGVs can be used both indoors and outdoors for optimal productivity?

SICK, with its holistic approach, in-depth process understanding, and comprehensive portfolio of sensor solutions is well equipped to tackle the many issues associated with functional safety in outdoor applications.

As the outdoor use of AGVs increases, it is necessary to find a holistic solution to the safety related challenges.

“Customer applications in outdoor settings are challenging and unique, and always require a precise analysis of the relevant application parameters. There exist, nevertheless, many commonalities as the issues and problems faced by our customers are often astonishingly similar,” said Michael Badeja, Strategic Product Manager at SICK and an expert in outdoor applications.

He knows from experience that it is essential to have precise knowledge of specific tasks on site to come up with the best possible solution based on SICK’s comprehensive offerings. They have readily available sensor components and systems, software, controllers, and lifetime services.

An analysis of the specific situation in the intralogistics area is essential for selecting the right sensor solution.

Assembling a complete, correct solution

“The objective is to put together the complete package correctly. The first step is to determine all the things that could affect the safety solution of the AGV when it is operated outdoors. By doing so, we reduce the effort required to implement the particular automation solution,” Badeja said.

Together, analysis of customer needs and basic application requirements are key components in a first step. These requirements include vehicle type, transported goods, location and route.

The size, weight and the design of the AGV determine what type of vehicle it is. Whether it is an underride vehicle, a platform vehicle, or a tugger. In poor weather conditions, many components of the goods and load need to be precisely defined. This includes dimensions, characteristics, and the stability of both. The regional and local climatic conditions need to be carefully considered for each location-specific sensor solution.

Tailored solutions

Will the route be fixed along magnetic tapes or free with GPS-assisted navigation? Are there any critical curves, ramps, steps or other irregularities? What are the floor characteristics? What collision risks with people, other vehicles or fixed obstacles could arise? Will the AGV be used in both indoor and outdoor areas? Could temperature differences lead to condensation on optical surfaces that needs to be countered with technical measures and operating profiles? These are all considerations Badeja believes are essential for the success of the AGV:

We listen carefully to the customer and ideally visualize the situation on site, preferably with the integrator and the end customer at the same table. Particularly when it comes to analyzing the route and the required safety functions, the specific circumstances in the logistics area present a wide variety of requirements when selecting the correct safety solution and its configuration.

Michael Badeja, Strategic Product Manager at SICK

Application-relevant local obstacles also need to be taken into consideration. Are there covered areas, can paths get flooded, or will steam be escaping from manhole covers in certain locations? Only by knowing the local conditions can safety experts from SICK select the appropriate hardware, software, accessories and service offerings.

When operating AGVs between indoor and outdoor areas, precisely determining all application prerequisites can reduce the time and effort required to implement an automation solution.

Complementary technologies

Complementary technologies and smart accessories, like the outdoorScan3 safety laser scanner, offer not only a high safety integrity level, but high visibility in poor weather conditions. If the rain becomes too strong, e.g. at 10 to 30 millimeters per hour, the water spray or rain hitting the sensor can become a challenge. SICK has recently developed a smart accessory for this.

The airWiper removes water drops from the optics cover using compressed air, functioning like a “windshield wiper.” It can be purchased not only for new installations, but also as an upgrade for existing outdoorScan3 devices. If the amount of precipitation increases beyond 30 millimeters, limitations in availability will arise.

The question then is whether the vehicle is able to be brought to a stop, whether it needs to continue on its way automatically, or in exceptional cases whether the vehicle will then need to be manually operated in order to maintain the logistics chain.

The outdoorScan3 ensures greater productivity outdoors even in adverse weather conditions.

For more harsh environments that require a level of accuracy in the millimeter range for the environment perception, the safety expert recommends switching from 2D to 3D and implementing safe radar systems such as the safeRS.

“The radar sensors significantly extend the field of view and are the ideal safety solution, for example, for transit zones between loading stations where few persons or other traffic are present as well as for more simple ambient conditions,” Badeja said. “In these situations the radar sensor technology allows the vehicle to travel at higher speeds and navigate around obstacles, even in very poor weather. Using an intelligent combination of different sensor technologies, we are able to not only avoid interruptions in productivity, but even increase the productivity overall.”

Thanks to this portfolio of complementary technologies, SICK's customers can obtain a solution tailored to their specific application.

Software to increase AGV competency in outdoor areas

In addition to hardware, SICK supplies software components that enhance the availability of the AGVs in outdoor areas. The AGV Dynamic Weather Assist safety system with weather-independent dynamic protective field switching allows continuous operation, even during strong rain or snowfall.

Instead of stopping, the AGVs can automatically adjust their speed and protective field parameters to the particular precipitation situation. This avoids unplanned vehicle stops and thus weather-related interruptions to the material flow, and protects the brakes and mechanics.

Another tool that SICK and the customer can jointly use to develop effective solutions is the Monitoring Box. This digital solution for ongoing monitoring of the device and system increases the productivity in a targeted manner.

From the analyzed data, it creates diagnostics, statistics and prognoses that make predictive and needs-based maintenance possible. It enables the devices and systems to operate in the high-performance range and use resources efficiently. It is a suitable tool for systematically monitoring and optimizing the productivity for outdoor applications.

Services for efficient and safe solutions

The services from SICK support the user with holistic solution approaches for implementing applications efficiently and safely. Working closely with customers, the experts at SICK develop solutions that are focused on optimizing existing safety applications.

SICK’s portfolio of offerings extends from simple solution suggestions to the complete implementation of complex applications. This enables customers to concentrate fully on their core tasks.