Widely used across many industries, Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV) have been scooting around factory floors for decades. Thanks to evolving technologies like sensors, wireless networks, and automatic control technologies, their guidance methods and physical dimensions continue to evolve and now small lightweight trackless AGV are being rolled out.
An AGV system integrator (SI) was designing a Laser Guided Vehicle (LGV) for a material handling system in an automotive assembly plant. Since the plants existing AGV system used an expensive PLC-based control system, there weren't enough functions to meet the new control requirements. The company decided to upgrade and shift to a compact PC-based PAC control system ideal for the new compact vehicle design capable of integrating with upper management systems using a single software application to replace the original two software applications.
There were a few requirements, not only did the hardware have to be small enough and robust enough to survive in the harsh factory conditions, it was also essential that there wouldn't be any breakdown in communication between the LGV and the control room.
To ensure this stability, the SI used industrial grade wireless devices with wider network coverage and higher power output. It was also required that any system provided to the SI would be able to support their bespoke version of Linux (Debian Wheezy X64).
Inside the LGV, an APAX-5580 Control IPC with three modules (APAX-5490, APAX-5046, APAX-5040) was connected to the motion controller and safety relay. To wirelessly communicate to the control site and EKI-5525 and EKI-6311GN were connected to the APAX-5580. An IDS-3110 touch-screen monitor was attached tot he exterior of the LGV.
The APAX-5580 combines the capabilities of the PLC and PC but also is a PC-based open control platform to provide industrial computing performance and integrate a variety of I/O modules with ease. Featuring a fanless, low power, ultra-compact and cable-free connection makes it particularly suitable for the AGV automation control applications with require high stability in limited space. To protect the operating system and its data, the APAX-5580 also includes an industrial-grade mSATA SSD with excellent anti-shock and anti-vibration properties. In the event of system problem, the PAC also includes a SD card one key recovery function which lets users quickly return the system to the default factory settings. It's also an application ready platform for embedded applications. Regardless of what the customers' applications require, users can fully utilize it's rich I/O interfaces to connect a wide range of peripheral devices such as digital/analog signals. Ethernet network, computer monitor, memory card, etc. Plus, it can support multiple operating systems and drivers to shorten the development time of SI.
To communicate with the control station, the LGV also includes a small EKI-5525 5-port fast Ethernet ProView switch and EKI-6311GN IEEE 80211 a/n Wi-Fi AP/CPE wireless module. For users to help communicate directly with the LGV and IDS-3110 10.4 industrial-grade TFT LCD touch screen. By adopting ultra-thin and non-frame design, the monitor perfectly fits with the compact AGV embedded applications.
In the control site, the EKI-7710E managed switch is responsible for sending signals to the EKI-6311's spread throughout the site. The EKI-7710 is an all-in-one manged redundant switch that not only provides network redundancy, but also has high output power for the reliable coverage and at a throughout and 2x2 MiMo (multiple input multiple output) to optimize data transmission, as well as support wide temperature range of -20 to 70 C with IP55 protection.
Compared to a PLC-based control system, the PC-based PAC control system is an upgraded version of the former. Advantech's PAC open control platform provides many advanced features for SI to quickly and conveniently develop applications. The one-stop hardware supply and professional software design reduces development risk and can get ride of cumbersome compatibility testing. It only two two weeks to plan the customer's solution and provide testing samples to satisfy the SI of Advantech's services while helping ti speedily design a highly stable and reliable LGV for material handling operation in the car assembly plant.