Traditional chain-based conveyance is highly mechanical. Frequent maintenance is required. With so few moving parts, AGV maintenance costs are lower, making this a lower-lifecycle-cost alternative for the customer.
In a different application, a battery-free AGV is being designed with an integrated scissor lift for an automaker. In this case, the AGV line interacts with the customer’s existing overhead power and free conveyor. The vehicle chassis is brought in on overhead conveyance, and the AGV carries the exhaust system to be lifted up and attached to the vehicle from underneath. The AGVs are in a loop, so that while exhaust systems are decked to the chassis on one AGV, a new exhaust system is loaded onto another AGV.
For a commercial aircraft manufacturer, the primary benefit of battery-free AGVs is that all of the electrical power, air hoses, testing cables, and tool connections can travel with the aircraft as it’s being built. Instead of taking many hours to connect and disconnect all of its cables and hoses, the airframe can move directly from one station to the next, carrying its connections with it. This would be impossible with traditional conveyance.
Beyond assembly lines, battery-free AGVs are suited for material handling of large quantities of printing press paper, steel, liquids, and other high-weight products. Die change is also suited for battery-free AGVs, where a 100-ton stamping press may make car hoods during one shift and fenders the next. With IPT guiding the AGV path, dies can safely and easily move in and out of the stamping press. As long as there’s a path that varies predictably, this type of AGV is a safe and cost-effective solution.
There will always be a need for battery-powered AGVs, especially where paths vary unpredictably and loads are light. But when heavy lifting is required and paths vary on a predictable basis, battery-free AGVs are the best choice.
Rod Emery is a vice president at Superior Controls Inc.