What Are Forklift Automated Guided Vehicles?

Straddle Forklift AGV

Technology continues to progress at extraordinarily fast rates to improve the lives of people across the globe. One of the testaments of technological advancement is automated guided vehicles and robots that are deployed in manufacturing facilities and distribution centre operations. 

What are Automated Guided Vehicles?

An automated guided vehicle (AGV) is essentially a mobile robot with transportation capabilities that reads path information via magnetic strips, QR codes, or simultaneous localization and mapping technology (SLAM), for directional guidance.

Overall, these unique machines are used to perform highly standardised and repetitive tasks, without the need for human management.

AGVs are usually deployed to industrial settings to transport materials around buildings like factories or warehouses. They are often utilised to transport raw materials like metal, plastic, rubber or paper. For instance, AGVs can transport materials from receiving areas to the main warehouse, or even directly to production lines.

Read our comprehensive post on “Automated Guided Vehicles” for more information. 

What are Forklift Automated Guided Vehicles?

Forklift automated guided vehicles, also sometimes referred to as self-driving computer-controlled forklifts, are AGVs that consist of a forklift for moving around and transporting goods, without human intervention. Simply put, they are ‘driverless’ forklifts.  

Advantages of Forklift Automated Guided Vehicles

  • Reduces the cost of labour 
  • Help with labour shortages
  • Increase overall productivity
  • Improves personnel safety
  • Better optimised flow of goods
  • Increase energy efficiency

Features of Forklift Automated Guided Vehicles

Forklift AGVs typically constitute sophisticated robotic components, dedicated forklift management system software, and electronic peripherals. 

In practice, forklift AGVs are modelled after traditional human-manned forklifts and designed to provide horizontal and vertical movements of loads. 

Typically, they consist of safety features like safety lasers to ensure safe conditions when travelling at high speeds, detect suspended loads, guide backward operations like unit load deposit or removal.

Generally, forklift AGVs have:

  • High-manoeuvrability
  • 360⁰ obstacle detection
  • The ability to interface and communicate with conveyors, racking, and other plant equipment
  • Ability to work with double deep, flow, and push back racks
  • Intelligent design that is sturdy and compact

Types of Forklift Automated Guided Vehicles  

Pallet mover AGV

Also called a Fork-over AGV or Automated Pallet Jack, the pallet mover AGV is used to transport palletized loads in manufacturing facilities.    

Inspired by the traditional pallet jack, the pallet mover AGV allows limited vertical movement of a load to reach pallets on high racks, or shelves at low heights for floor-to-floor operations.

Furthermore, AGV pallet movers have stabilizers beneath the forks to allow reduced AGV dimensions, weight, and a tight turning radius that ensures great manoeuvrability.

DF Automation's Model Zetha TS Forklift AGV and AMR

Counterbalanced AGV fork truck

The counterbalanced AGV forklift truck is basically a forklift that counterbalances the weight of a load with a firm weight, typically a cast iron, or the battery, in the rear of the truck.

It is employed whenever it’s impossible to use a fork-over AGV and whenever a factory is dealing with a high payload and stacking height capacity. However, counterbalanced AGVs need more space for their turning radius in contrast to fork-over AGVs.

Furthermore, counterbalanced AGVs are mainly used for shipping and receiving loads as they are ideal for moving pallets to and from storage.

Counterbalanced AGV fork truck

Reach truck AGVs

Reach truck AGVs are robot forklifts mainly designed to work in narrow aisle warehousing spaces. In practice, they consist of two outer legs that distribute the load weight with a mast that extends the forks outside the vehicle footprint to improve vehicle manoeuvrability. 

As such, reach truck AGVs are capable of reaching outside of the footprint of the vehicle to pick and drop loads.

 

Straddle Forklift AGV

 

Straddle AGVs

Also known as outrigger AGVs, straddle AGVs are equipped with two horizontal stabilising legs that are positioned out of the load width.   

As a result, straddle AGVs need less manoeuvring space than counterbalanced AGVs, thus are more stable during lifting and travelling.  

Very narrow aisles AGVs

Very Narrow Aisle (VNA) AGVs are the most efficient forklift AGV type for performing transportation tasks in large and high warehouses. However, they’re very expensive but performant vehicles for moving material in racks.

How do Forklift Automated Guided Vehicles work?

Overall, forklift AGVs employ advanced computer technology and are programmed to monitor their surroundings while tracking and imitating the actions of human workers. In practice, they are trained to navigate their surroundings and operate in the safest and most efficient way possible. 

This is achieved via laser navigation as each vehicle is typically equipped with forklift telematics tools and navigation laser components. These navigational lasers are usually positioned on top of a mast that interfaces with targets positioned in the AGVs’ working area.

In practice, the laser device sends rotating laser arrays around a 360-degree radius that interact with several reflector targets like reflective tapes or cylinders which send the laser arrays back to the laser navigation device. 

The forklift AGV needs a minimum of three of these laser feedback signals to calculate its positioning with the help of sophisticated algorithms powered by a forklift management system.

Conclusion

In summary, forklift automated guided vehicle technologies play an intricate role in improving industrial efficiency. 

Because pallet handling involves repetitive movement, forklift AGVs are fast becoming integral solutions for material handling operations in distribution and manufacturing facilities. So, consider adopting them for your bulk handling needs, or for even transporting hazardous materials.

The blog is a part of our comprehensive article on “Automated Guided Vehicles”.

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