AGVs Gain in Flexibility and Applications

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Roberto Michel, Modern Materials Handling – November, 2020 – Automatic guided vehicles (AGVs) have been reliant in moving loads around industrial facilities since their introduction in the 1950’s. However, the new wave autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) have become more popular as they automate much of the legwork involved in e-commerce order picking. AGV’s can now assist in goods-to-person order picking, while conversely, some AMRs can move and lift pallet-sized loads. A recent study shows that both categories of mobile robots are growing but AMRs are dominating the high growth niche of e-commerce order picking. According to analyst firm Interact Analysis, the AGV market will grow by 11% in 2020, while the AMR market will grow by 45% this year.

AGVs and AMRs share many common applications however, some industry experts say there are markets where each mobile robot can be a better fit than the other. Vecna Robotics believes that while the differences between the mobile robot types are small, AMRs can do everything AGVs can and more. Vecna Robotics, an AMR vendor, offers multiple models used to move larger, pallet-sized loads, as well as smaller loads. The upshot of all this evolution is the notion that larger loads call for AGVs is no longer valid.

“You can’t go by form factor alone,” says Hayes of Vecna Robotics. “Our vehicle technology, for example, is an AMR with respect to how they navigate, but in terms of being able to handle larger loads, they have the application suitability of an AGV.”

Some AGVs beginning to use natural navigation, but points out that overall, most AGVs follow predefined paths, though they have safety sensors to stop on a dime if need be. “The AMR concept just means that the vehicles can path plan versus path follow,” says Hayes. “It’s really that one fundamental difference that changes AGVs to AMRs. An autonomous vehicle can think about the environment and react versus follow a defined path.”

Read the full article from Modern Materials Handling here.