Project/projects financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) of the European Union and the Regional Government of Castile and León, through the Institute for Business Competitiveness of Castile and León (ICE), to support the promotion and development of R&D activities undertaken by companies, doing so with the aim of supporting the creation and consolidation of innovative companies.

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Currently, the following subsidized projects are being undertaken for the development of new technologies applicable to automated guided vehicles (AGVs) at ASTI:

1- EFFICIENCY: Research into new storage systems and motors, as well as validation to improve the efficiency of AGVs

In many AGVs, brushed DC motors are still used. These motors are inexpensive and simple; however, they have some improvements that can be made, such as how to dissipate the heat generated by the electrical current in the rotor and how to handle the sparks in the brushes and the high degree of wear and tear from mechanical friction. In order to improve these motors, research will be undertaken in this project on high efficiency motors like variable reluctance motors and brushless motors and their applicability to AGVs. Likewise, AGVs need to have enough energy to be able to effectively carry out the tasks that they have to do. The storing of this energy is not a trivial task: it involves a considerable amount of volume in the body of the AGV. Said volume increases with the amount of energy to be stored and the maximum instantaneous power needed. Likewise, more and more small AGVs are being sought out to optimize space and be able to have a lower profile. Furthermore, this storage of energy implies an increase in dead weight that reduces the overall efficiency of the vehicle. Therefore, the study of efficient energy storage and transfer systems is vitally important to reduce the energy impact of automated intralogistics solutions and move towards more sustainable industry.

2- COLLABORATION: Collaboration and advanced communication between AGVs, people, and machines

AGVs are widely used for the transport of materials and components in factories and they are considered one of the most reliable and efficient options. However, AGVs don't work alone: they share their workspace with people and other manual lifting equipment and operate in changing environments that can affect their efficiency if the environment is handled improperly. In fact, the recent incorporation of Industry 4.0 design principles into production chains is producing a growing demand for more flexible and collaborative applications, such as follower AGVs and goods-to-person solutions. Therefore, it is becoming more and more necessary to do research into specific technologies that help with collaboration between AGVs, people, and the rest of the machines. Additionally, one of the keys to the versatility of AGVs is their ability to interact with other machines and systems. To accomplish this, AGVs have communication systems that allow them to exchange information with a central hub or plant elements via wi-fi or radio frequency technologies. The proliferation of wi-fi devices and networks today has brought about an increasingly saturated and inefficient electromagnetic spectrum, which hinders effective communication in production systems. Therefore, it is necessary to do research into alternative ways of communication between AGVs, people, and plant elements.

3- DYNAMICS: Advanced navigation and management of AGVs for industrial environments

Traditionally, the guidance of AGVs has been carried out by means of sensors that detect artificial marks added to the environment: magnetic strips, lines painted on the ground, reflectors, etc. Until now, these solutions were sufficient for the implementation of the intralogistics solutions required by the industry. However, with the advent of Industry 4.0, production and logistics processes are increasingly flexible in terms of space and time, becoming more and more incompatible with the rigidity imposed by traditional guidance systems.

Also, research into autonomous vehicles is generating important technological advances in the field of autonomous navigation. It seems necessary to study the applicability of autonomous vehicle technologies in the AGV sector to meet the demands of Industry 4.0. In doing so, in addition, it will be possible to take an important step in migration from the AGV concept (automated guided vehicle) to the SDV concept (self-driving vehicle). Currently, fleets of AGVs are controlled by a central system that decides at all times what order has to be executed by each AGV, as well as what route the AGV has to take, when it should stop, and when it should continue. This centralized way of working has scalability limitations. As the number of AGVs to be managed grows, the calculation needs of the machine that manages all the requests also grow, as well as the bandwidth required at the central hub, where all messages pass through. Another problem with centralization is reliability: all AGVs depend on the proper workings of the central system, and if this link in the chain has a problem, all the AGVs stop. Faced with this situation, decentralized control models allow the workload to be distributed among several subsystems, providing greater scalability and reliability.