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Tracking Automated Guided Vehicles in Industrial Applications

B+B SmartWorx - Ottawa, United States

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Automated guided vehicles (AGVs) increase efficiency and reduce costs by helping to automate a manufacturing facility or warehouse. AGVs are mobile robots that follow markers or wires in the floor, or use vision, magnets, or lasers for navigation. They are most often used in industrial applications to move materials around a manufacturing facility or warehouse.

A manufacturer of "Green" agricultural, commercial, consumer, construction and forestry equipment used Automated Guide Vehicles (AGVs) to move backhoe units from station to station along an assembly line. The system used wired, serial communications to guide the mobile AGVs along a magnetic path in the floor. But there was no direct communication between the AGVs and the PLC that controlled the manufacturing processes. As a result, an AGV that was approaching a station could run into another AGV if that AGV had not yet moved on.

Quality control was limited to station-to-station, employees had to physically walk around and observe processes directly, and as a result, quality control processes and build times were suffering.

Installing B+B SmartWorx Zlinx® I/O products gave the plant PLC the ability to track the AGVs. The overall process is maintained by a single remote group. On the AGVs, two Zlinx I/O modules configured in wire replacement mode send discrete wireless signals to the control center. The bidirectional communication capability of the wireless modules not only allows the PLC to monitor backhoe position and status alarms, it also lets the PLC send critical emergency stop commands.

AGV backhoe ref design image

The Zlinx product used wire replacement of I/O signals through a matched pair of I/O modules without the need for expensive gateways. Bi-directional I/O mapping was essential for this application to exchange status and control information from the PLC to the backhoe AGV control.

The Zlinx® Model ZZ24D-NB-SR 2.4 GHz short range wireless I/O module has the following features:

B+B SmartWorx products Used in this Reference Design

Wireless Base Module
Link to ZZ24D-NB-SR data sheet
Picture of ZZ24D-NB-SR