We take it easy – juggling colossi with the KUKA omniMove

By Denise Ebenhoech

When today’s aerospace and railway manufacturers relocate parts from one production station to another across big factories, they’re not wheeling cart trays. Instead, automated guided vehicles (AGVs) such as KUKA’s omniMove platforms transport parts that weigh up to 100 tons and can measure 32 m long. With omnidirectional wheels, these nimble KUKA AGVs move sideways and diagonally, not just forward and back, operating in less space than other mobile systems – and they no longer need tracks or guidelines to tell them where to go.

Mecanum wheel provides the necessary mobility

The omnidirectional drive technology on KUKA’s omniMove platforms relies on the Mecanum wheel, with 360° movement for unlimited maneuverability that reduces travel time compared to other types of transports. Driven with electric motors, the wheels typically use two rims and nine barrel-shaped rollers that move independently. These platforms take direct routes, even in tight spaces, and can move parts for everything from aircraft and satellites to turbines and trains.

With specially developed wheels, the mobile heavy-duty platform moves with millimeter precision in all directions – even from a standing position.

That includes giant aircraft fuselage sections, which Aerospace OEM Airbus transports around its Hamburg, Germany production plant on KUKA omniMove platforms. The building covers an area the size of a football field, but these AGVs take the task in stride, maneuvering with millimeter precision even in confined areas filled with workstations and other giant parts.

Navigation solution for autonomous mobile robots

Safety is paramount with AGVs. In simpler setups, employees operate them manually or the vehicles follow optical guidelines on the floor. With KUKA’s autonomous navigation feature, however, laser scanners monitor each platform’s surroundings and eliminate the need for fixed guidance systems.

Each platform goes into service through a manual teaching process in which they’re driven around the facility to “see” everything up to 15 cm above the floor. This teaching process generates and stores a 2D map for the navigation software that enables the facility to define the vehicles’ travel. Modular KUKA.NavigationSolution software operates independently of the platform product to provide intelligent navigation that prevents collisions or deadlocks, all without the need for artificial guidance markings.

As manufacturers integrate diverse automation systems to speed up their processes, many of these setups lack the flexibility to reconfigure for use in another area of a facility. Track-based systems can be especially costly, complex and time consuming to move or reconfigure if a cell changes processes or machine tools, let alone locations.

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But KUKA’s omniMove platforms can reprogram to go wherever they’re needed, relocating to new applications without complex reconfiguration. With complete freedom of movement, they’re the ultimate assistants in a world of big, heavy, valuable parts.

Find out why mobile robot systems are also extremely attractive for the factory of the future in the blog article “Mobile robot systems are a quantum leap in the evolution of automated guided vehicles.

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