© (Photos | ebm-papst)

The future of intral­o­gis­tics

In intral­o­gis­tics appli­ca­tions, auto­mated guided vehi­cles are becoming increas­ingly impor­tant in the age of digi­tal­iza­tion and industry 4.0. All types have one thing in common: They require compact, dynamic drive systems which satisfy high require­ments in terms of trans­port speed, posi­tioning accu­racy and service life, and which also operate reli­ably under tough indus­trial condi­tions.


A diverse array of sectors can benefit from auto­mated guided vehi­cles, from online consumer retailers right the way through to the produc­tion lines of the auto­mo­bile industry. AGVs are deployed both indoors and outdoors. The contin­uous advance­ment of the systems and the installed tech­nology has led them to be used flex­ibly and effi­ciently in the intral­o­gis­tics appli­ca­tions of an increasing number of compa­nies. One advan­tage is their ability to be designed to trans­port a vast range of goods with different weights and spec­i­fi­ca­tions. This is accom­pa­nied by other bene­fits. Auto­mated guided vehi­cles can be easily inte­grated into existing logis­tics struc­tures, to name one example. 

Auto­mated guided vehi­cles can be easily inte­grated into existing logis­tics struc­tures.

Subse­quent changes or opti­miza­tions to the ware­house layout or the ware­house and goods struc­ture are also possible while oper­a­tion is ongoing. Aside from this, fluc­tu­ating power require­ments can be easily mastered. The fact that the AGVs are controlled centrally by the manage­ment system means they can be sched­uled for changing tasks or order peaks at an early stage, and that prior­i­tized jour­neys can be executed accord­ingly.

Varying power classes, tasks and require­ments

Irre­spec­tive of the area of appli­ca­tion, the AGVs operate partic­u­larly econom­i­cally when they achieve the longest possible travel routes and times without repeated charging of the on-board energy storage units. This results in fewer inter­rup­tions in oper­a­tion, while the batteries are also conserved and conse­quently “live” longer. The wheel motors, drive systems for lifting equip­ment or load-securing devices there­fore all need to fulfill special require­ments.

Even with a trans­mis­sion and the safety brakes which may be stip­u­lated depending on the assigned tasks, AGV drive systems should remain light­weight and compact while retaining high power density and energy effi­ciency. The instal­la­tion space avail­able for the drive systems is often small, espe­cially in ever-smaller trans­port vehi­cles, such as the ones used for distri­b­u­tion systems in ware­houses or small load carriers of up to 200 kg. Aside from these constraints, the motors should also be designed for a safety extra-low voltage, not to mention being “smart” to provide relief for the control system.

A range of modular drive vari­ants

Further­more, the wishes of AGV manu­fac­turers are varied, including where drive power, trans­mis­sion vari­ants, reduc­tion stages, closed-loop control systems or connec­tion tech­nology are concerned. For this reason, it has become a tried-and-tested prac­tice to put together an ideal, customized drive solu­tion by combining a variety of different modules. The motors supplied by drive system specialist ebm-papst from St. Georgen are a good example of this and are designed for such modular drive systems.

The ECI-42, ECI-63 and ECI-80 model series are perfectly suited to appli­ca­tion in AGVs, allowing users to benefit from complete drive solu­tions from a single source.

A great deal of appli­ca­tion exper­tise is involved in the devel­op­ment of compact, elec­tron­i­cally commu­tated, brush­less internal rotor motors. This makes the ECI-42, ECI-63 and ECI-80 model series perfectly suited to appli­ca­tion in AGVs, allowing users to benefit from complete drive solu­tions from a single source. As such, these users only need to deal with a single expert contact in the industry, even with a signif­i­cant range of vari­ants.

With diam­e­ters of 42, 63 and 80 mm espec­tively, the three motor sizes cover a power range of between 30 and 750 watts and can be flex­ibly adapted to the specific task at hand thanks to their modular design. In other words, they can be combined with control elec­tronics, trans­mis­sions, encoders and brakes.

With diam­e­ters of 42, 63 and 80 mm respec­tively, the three motor sizes cover a power range of between 30 and 750 watts. The drive systems can be quickly and flex­ibly adapted to the specific task at hand thanks to their modular design. In other words, they can be combined with control elec­tronics, trans­mis­sions, encoders and brakes as needed.

Several thou­sand vari­ants are possible in total.

Several thou­sand vari­ants are possible in total: Preferred types are ready for ship­ment within just 48 hours, meaning that the user can quickly make a start with their own devel­op­ment. The motors also impress with their length. The active compo­nents (wound stator and rotor equipped with magnets) are just 20, 40 or – in the most powerful variant – 60 mm long, meaning they can be easily accom­mo­dated in the tight instal­la­tion spaces offered by the AGVs.

Free selec­tion of motors, trans­mis­sions and brakes

Various trans­mis­sion modules are avail­able for bringing the high rota­tional speeds of the internal-rotor drive systems and the output torque to the appro­priate level required in the appli­ca­tion. Along­side plan­e­tary and spur gears, space-saving EtaCrown crown gear­heads based on inno­v­a­tive crown-gear tech­nology can also be supplied, for example. The effi­cient trans­mis­sions cover a wide range of reduc­tion ratios, enabling the drive systems to adapt easily to a broad spec­trum of tasks.

What is on the inside counts: modular drive systems with inte­grated logic and power elec­tronics, optional trans­mis­sions, encoders and brakes.

If the appli­ca­tion in ques­tion demands holding or safety brakes, such as for safely main­taining the posi­tion of lifting equip­ment in the event of a power supply failure, modules with perma­nent-magnet or spring-oper­ated brakes can be added to the drive unit. Redun­dant encoder systems are one option for safety-rele­vant appli­ca­tions, while the issue of oper­a­tional reli­a­bility is also taken into consid­er­a­tion when the drive systems are being designed.

A choice of control elec­tronics

There are many appli­ca­tion-appro­priate options to choose from with regard to the control elec­tronics as well. In the simplest scenario, the motors are equipped with elec­tronics featuring hall sensors for rotor posi­tion detec­tion and are actu­ated by an external, closed-loop controller. On the other hand, if the drive systems are equipped with fully inte­grated K4 control elec­tronics, they can be config­ured using simple and intu­itively oper­ated PC soft­ware. The drive systems can then inde­pen­dently assume numerous processes, which relieves the higher-level control system.

Sinu­soidal commu­ta­tion enables low-vibra­tion, quiet running with pronounced over­load capacity and high effi­ciency.

Three oper­ating modes are possible (for speed, torque and posi­tioning). Sinu­soidal commu­ta­tion enables low-vibra­tion, quiet running with pronounced over­load capacity and high effi­ciency. The K5 control elec­tronics (currently avail­able for the ECI-63.xx) addi­tion­ally feature a CANopen inter­face, which opens up further commu­ni­ca­tion options. K5 drive systems can also be used as a CAN master, for example.

The indi­vid­u­ally config­urable drive systems fulfill the require­ments of protec­tion class IP54 while also offering vari­able options in terms of elec­trical connec­tion. These include industry-stan­dard connec­tors, in which the radial angled plug with bayonet connector can rotate and engages auto­mat­i­cally. An axial plug is avail­able for space-crit­ical appli­ca­tions; even an alter­na­tive, preassem­bled cable connec­tion is possible.  

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