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A look under the bonnet

26 May 2020

SICK technology has played a key part in helping tug manufacturer MasterMover to develop AGV models.

MasterMover has a 20-year pedigree in electric tugs and it came at AGVs from a different angle to software engineers as guidance systems often lead the way in AGV development.

The MasterMover AGV 300 Tow can carry loads up to 3,000kg. It is suited for towing kitting trollies for lineside deliveries, enabling movements of loads to be automated without the need for expensive fixed infrastructure. MasterMover’s AGV model offers customers the opportunity to start with a sole, entry-level AGV with on-board intelligence, right up to a centralised fleet management solution for multiple AGVs managed centrally over WiFi.

Developing a new AGV, it was safety that was the unequivocal starting point for the team, stresses Dan Evans, Research and Development Manager at MasterMover. 

MasterMover turned to SICK’s safety laser scanners and its Flexi Soft Safety Controller with EFI Pro Gateway (EtherNet/IPTM CIP SafetyTM) as the foundation for an integrated and standards-compliant safety design.

Using SICK’s Flexi Soft Safety Controller and SICK Safety Designer software provided an ecosystem for Evans and the R&D team to confidently integrate their own safety system. Each standard MasterMover AGV model will use two SICK microScan3 scanners that communicate via EFI Pro to the Flexi Soft controller. Together with SICK’s DFS60 safety encoders, and the SICK Drive Monitor FX3-MOC1, all of these products are integrated into an application achieving PLd (EN ISO 13849)/SIL2 (EN 62061).

SICK’s UK machinery safety product manager, Dr Martin Kidman, explains: “The complete MasterMover AGV system achieves a PLd/SIL2 due to safety laser scanner technology. The microScan3 scanners enable an exceptionally wide 275° wide scanning angle with a field range of up to nine metres and the field sets can be configured to support the changing vehicle paths as the AGV turns and changes direction.

“If the inner protective field is breached, the Flexi Soft ensures that all drives are stopped immediately and are prevented from starting up again until it is safe to do so. The Drive Monitor can also safely detect standstill allowing a safe stop rather than complete emergency stop. If risk assessment allows, auto-restart can also be enabled preventing possibly hours of an AGV sat waiting for a manual reset.”

Evans continues: “We offer a full range of AGV navigation options and try to encourage our customers along the line of what we call “natural navigation” using a laser scanner. It’s more flexible, as you don’t need to have fixed infrastructure such as tape, RFID tags or barcodes, which can impact on reliability.

“The AGV navigation we are using can tolerate a fair amount of change in the environment. So, for example, forklifts or heavy foot traffic can walk around the AGV quite comfortably. If you have a distribution scenario, where you have got pallets moving around and changing position, and you have got unpredictable objects in the path, we can navigate around that with technology we are using.” 

Using the AGV for line side delivery also offers the prospect of working in tandem with the MasterMover PS AGV. With a load capacity of up to 30,000 kg, the PS AGV can be used for pulsed production line automation as an alternative to a conveyor.