McKinsey describes mobile robots as autonomous guided vehicles (AGVs) and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs). AGVs and AMRs are not fixedly installed but mobile. Navigation is either onboard (camera or laser based) or external (path based using magnetic tape, wire, or rails on the ground). Application mobile robots are used for logistics and delivery as well as for moving pieces, such as boxes, pallets, or tools, in industrial settings between machinery, transfer points, or storage areas.
According to IDTechEx, automated guide carts and vehicles (AGC and AGV) have been in use for a long time. They are reliable and trusted to handle all manner of payloads. Their installation is however time-consuming, and their workflow can be difficult to adapt.
The landscape of mobile robots was set on fire when Amazon acquired Kiva Systems in 2012. The event set off a wave of start-ups, and Amazon has continued to develop mobile robot technology and acquire mobile robot companies. IDTechEx forecasts that between 2020 and 2030, more than 1 million mobile robots will be sold.
Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 19 years, 17 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years, he was owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.
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