Driverless Transport System for SMEs
Driverless transport systems are set to soon become affordable for small businesses: the start-up Flexlog and the IPH want to work together on a joint project to develop an inexpensive and flexible driverless transport system that is easy to put into operation.
Driverless transport systems (DTSs) deliver components from storage to assembly and transport semi-finished products from one workstation to the next. It is almost impossible to imagine car factories and the logistics centres of large mail-order companies functioning without them. Small companies, on the other hand, use DTSs very infrequently because they are extremely expensive to buy. Almost every DTS is currently custom-developed for a specific user, which leads to high procurement costs and long delivery times. In addition, specialist staff are needed to assemble and program the DTS and to put it into operation. Through a joint research project, the IPH and Flexlog want to develop an affordable and flexible DTS that is significantly quicker to implement. The idea is to produce vehicles that can be constructed on the basis of a modular system and that do not require complex configuration performed by specialist staff.
Modular load carriers
Over the next two years, engineers from IPH will mainly be working on hardware components for the DTS. They will design a delivery station where the vehicles will be able to pick up and offload boxes independently as they travel past. They will also design a load carrier that is as versatile as possible and can handle boxes of varying sizes. A Plug&Play-compatible load carrying device will also be developed. In future, businesses will be able to select suitable load carriers in accordance with the modular system. These are then plugged into the vehicle via a universal interface and can be changed at any time. This means that the vehicles can easily be adjusted to suit the needs of different users. The touch display allows workers to communicate with the vehicle and view the job's processing status, for example. At the same time, Flexlog will be working on the software. With the right control algorithms, the vehicle will be able to automatically and reliably learn routes, locate the infrastructure and find its way around the area. The vehicle uses a front camera to recognise objects, guide tracks and stop lines, etc. Thanks to the constant and autonomous charging design, it will, for instance, be possible to charge the vehicles at delivery stations whilst they are in use. The aim of the collaboration is to produce a prototype of an affordable and flexible driverless transport system that can be implemented quickly. This will significantly reduce procurement costs, helping to make driverless transport systems much more of a viable option for small and medium-sized enterprises.