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Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) are a rapidly growing segment of industrial automation that have lacked universally accepted definitions and their own safety standards. Consensus safety standards must be in place so that industry can be assured that industrial mobile robots are safe. In turn, these same standards assist technology vendors to ensure that the solutions they develop follow universally accepted best practices for safety.
Recently, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and Robotic Industries Association (RIA) have released a new safety standard – For Industrial Mobile Robots – Safety Requirements ANSI/RIA R15.08-1-2020 (R15.08) – that delineates safety standards for different types of mobile robotic systems, including AMRs. R15.08 also provides clarity on the definition of an ‘AMR’, and differentiation between other mobile robot types, which is critical to the proper application of R15.08.
A Little History
To understand the definitional importance of R15.08, it would be beneficial to review a brief history of the safety standards for AMRs and Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs). Before R15.08, mobile robots applied ANSI B56.5-2019 (B56.5) as their safety standard across the board.
B56.5 was originally released in 1978 to address safety for AGVs. With its AGV roots, B56.5 initially focused on making sure the AGV stopped if it deviated from the intended path, or encountered an obstacle.
B56.5 is a useful standard that still applies to a broad range of automated vehicles. However, with the advent of AMRs, a grey area emerged. AMRs do not follow a strictly-defined path. They can also navigate around obstacles or reroute to alternative paths instead of stopping for blockages.
Recent updates to ANSI B56.5 have recognized that current robotic systems can dynamically plan their path and do so safely. However, its history as an AGV standard created ambiguity on its applicability to AMRs. Indeed, many AMR vendors chose to forego ANSI B56.5 compliance altogether. This is why we have become familiar with collaborative AMRs – or smaller robots – that can operate within inches of humans.
AGVs are mobile robots that follow exact guide paths whether a physical or virtual “line.” AMRs are mobile robots that dynamically generate paths based on the current environment and the most efficient route between the AMR’s current location and future destinations.
Classifying Industrial Mobile Robots
In addition to ambiguity around relevant safety standards, the industry did not fully agree upon the definition of AMR technology. Some AGV suppliers argue what constitutes an AMR is their use of LiDAR, vision, and/or fiducial-based navigation systems, combined with lower infrastructure requirements compared to the older magnet and wire-guided AGVs. On the other hand, many customers refer to smaller, lightweight, deck-load mobile robots (used for order fulfillment applications primarily) as AMRs, while referring to any high-capacity vehicle such as tuggers and forklifts as AGVs – regardless of the navigation technology.
Formal AMR Definition
R15.08 defines an AMR as a platform that dynamically plans and adjusts its path within a structured or semi-structured environment (Figure 1). The standard subsequently offers updated safety standards around these adaptive navigation functions.
Additionally, the standard provides a helpful framework for understanding which safety standard to use for which robot platform. It also clarifies vehicle type based on intelligence and path planning capabilities rather than size, payload capacity, or localization method.
Editor’s Note: For a downloadable chart on the technical differences between AMRs and AGVs, click here.
R15.08 defines AGS, AMRs and Industrial Robots as follows:
- Industrial Robots – Industrial robots are manipulators that have three or more degrees of freedom. 08 applies to industrial robots if it is attached to a mobile AGV or AMR. Industrial robots are also always governed by the safety standards found in ANSI/RIA 15.06.
- AGV – AGVs are mobile robots that follow exact guide paths whether a physical or virtual “line.” If there is an obstacle in its travel path, the AGV will stop until the obstacle is removed. 08 also applies to AGVs that have an industrial robot attached. AGVs are also always governed by the safety standards in ANSI B56.5.
- AMR – AMRs are mobile robots that dynamically generate paths based on the current environment and the most efficient route between the AMR’s current location and future destinations. AMRs are also able to drive around obstacles that block their path.R15.08 applies unless the AMR is a low lift or high reach forklift that primarily moves pallets using forks or tines. These forklifts are still currently governed by the safety standards in ANSI B56.5.Vecna Robotics complies across both standards for our pallet moving robots, including fork trucks, pallet trucks, and tuggers.
The committee that produced R15.08 included expertise in industrial robotics, AGVs, AMRs, and industrial safety from US-based organizations, including the ANSI and the RIA. US-based users of this technology should ensure that their automation vendors comply with the relevant standards.
Editors Note: Robotics Business Review would like to thank Vecna Robotics for permission to reprint this article (with modifications). The original piece can be found HERE.
About the Authors
Mike Bearman serves as the Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel at Vecna Robotics. In this role, he is responsible for leading the company’s efforts to commercialize logistics and material handling robotic technologies, establish strategic partnerships and work closely with the marketing and sales team to negotiate terms with partners and customers. Bearman is actively involved in a number of organizations working to establish standards and best practices for the robotics industry, including MassRobotics, MHI’s Mobile Automation Group, and the Robotic Industries Association. Prior to Vecna Robotics, he held various roles at Vecna Technologies and practiced law as an attorney for four years. Bearman holds a bachelor’s in International Studies from the University of Washington and a Juris Doctor from the Georgetown University Law Center.
Matthew Cherewka serves as Director of Business Development and Strategy at Vecna Robotics. He collaborates closely with Vecna Robotics’ strategic customers and partners and uses his expertise in the practical application of cutting-edge automation to help the world’s leading logistics companies understand, develop, integrate and implement intelligent automation into their operations and business strategies, preparing them for success in the next industrial revolution. Prior to Vecna Robotics, Cherewka worked with a wide range of startups, investors, consulting firms, and even Sci-Fi filmmakers to commercialize new robotic technologies and grow the market, including developing biomimetic robots for Disney; worked closely with Six Sigma black belts to implement automation solutions in struggling manufacturing companies. He is an alumnus of Bucknell University with dual degrees in mechanical engineering & business management and is also an electric fiddle player in several bands around New England.
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