Your Guide to Autonomous Mobile Robots

PAL Robotics' guide to Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR)

Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR): all you need to know

A number of developments in transportation of goods in industry have been transforming operations in recent years. Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) are one of these. AMRs are Mobile Robots that navigate autonomously by being able to identify and map their surrounding area independently.

Autonomous mobile robots like TIAGO Base connect to continuing advances in robotics including increasing Human-robot collaboration. Product development today focuses on methods to enable robots to respond in real-time; to be able to adjust their motions to their environment for a true responsive collaboration

AMRs challenge some of the roles which have in the past been filled by Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) which work along fixed routes only. AGVs take time to establish, and can be more expensive to set up, yet once they are in place they help contribute to a set production output. However, the development of AMRs brings with it the chance to do things differently. The choice for the organization between whether to implement AMRs, AGVs, or a combination of both, depends on both their production processes and requirements. 

Discover how the autonomous mobile robot StockBot tracks inventory.

AGVs versus AMRs 

We’ve identified some of the key differences in navigation, responsiveness, accessibility and production between AMRs and AGVs.

Navigation

  • The way AMRs and AGVs navigate demonstrates how they operate. AMRs are more responsive and flexible, and are able to adapt to changes in the factory layout and carry out new operations without requiring major changes in their environment, or significant resources, time or or financial investment. AGVs’ adaptability is limited because they are normally deployed to accomplish one mission, so if the company needs to change production, modifying them can be expensive.

Responsiveness and flexibility

  • AGVs are limited to being able to perform the same task, whereas AMRs can perform broader tasks.
  • When navigating, AMRs are able to recognize and avoid obstacles in order to safely find their way to their destination. AGVs will not be able to smartly re-adjust their path when encountering obstacles and sometimes require human intervention to re-start.
  • AGVs typically weigh more than 150kg, whereas AMRs usually weigh between 40 and 60kg. 

Accessibility

  • AGVs require significant installation and training before use, whereas AMRs can be used by workers with no previous robotics knowledge or experience.

Production lines

  • AMRs’ tasks can be easily changed, in order to work within Agile production lines.
  • AGVs are programmed to perform set tasks, so changing these is a much more extensive project.

Adopting Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs)

AMRs have many benefits for organizations, however implementing them into a manufacturing environment does bring with it some challenges. Most of these challenges are related to finding the right AMR structure and customization to meet company needs. As is the case when adapting any new technology to an industrial environment, clear expectations and goals should be set in order to maximise effectiveness and ROI. 

Safety in the workplace is always a priority. In this sense, Autonomous Mobil Robots are a major advantage because they are able to carry out tasks that can be time consuming, repetitive, dull, and dangerous, freeing up workers to dedicate time to more valuable and complex tasks, and contribute to higher levels of safety in the work environment.

Check out the differential and omnidirectional drive for  the Autonomous Mobile Robot TIAGo Base.

AMR use case: a car manufacturing plant

AMRs are bringing more flexibility into manufacturing. A recent example of a successful AMR use case is at a car manufacturing company near Barcelona, Spain. The company successfully incorporated PAL Robotics’ AMR platform into their powertrain plant in 2019. 

This project was implemented by the company to use robots for delivery of transmission parts. The organisation wanted to improve their assembly/quality/production line, in order to reduce their operational costs. For the company, this technology was introduced in a complex environment, where the robots moved around fully autonomously sharing the environment with people and other vehicles (forklifts, AGV and manual carts).

Read the Autonomous Mobile Robot use case of TIAGo Base at MAPCABLE.

TIAGO Base, the autonomous mobile robot (AMR) in three different configurations

The future of AMRs

The demand for AMRs in manufacturing is forecast to rise, with growing consumer demand. Ongoing advances in artificial intelligence are expected to lead to even better route planning and remote sensing, as well as improving the ability to predict the intention of people and other vehicles even further. It has also been suggested that AMRs will grow into multi-use robots, where a whole fleet of robots collaborate to work together with humans and make deliveries within factories. 

AMRs bring numerous benefits: they can find their way to their destination whilst recognizing and avoiding obstacles. Autonomous Mobile Robots can also be used by workers with no previous robotics knowledge or experience and can take on tasks that are boring, repetitive and dangerous to humans. AGVs, on the other hand, are designed to work in a highly structured environment on set tasks. The choice for the organization between whether to implement a system of AMRs or AGVs should be determined by their production process and specific requirements, as well as for example whether production lines are established or likely to change.  

If you are looking to incorporate AMRs into your factory or warehouse, we will be happy to help and guide you with our expertise. Download your free copy of our whitepaper: “Our guide to AMRs – Bringing more flexibility to manufacturing” to find out more here.  For more information or to ask us any questions, don’t hesitate to visit our contact page!

If you found this guide interesting, then you should take a further look at all our posts and resources in our robotics blog!

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