Autonomous mobile robots are one of the success stories in robotics this year, thanks to rising interest in using them for e-commerce order fulfillment, materials handling, and hospitality. Today, Aethon Inc. is expanding its TUG line of mobile robots with a new model and a toolkit for integrating with third-party controls.
The Pittsburgh-based company announced the autonomous mobile robot (AMR) products at MOTEK 2018 in Stuttgart, Germany. Aethon is owned by Vision Technologies Systems Inc., a subsidiary of Singapore Technologies Engineering Ltd., and is on the 2018 RBR50 list of leading robotics companies.
Aethon’s TUGs serve in the manufacturing, supply chain, healthcare, and hospitality industries. The company moved into a new headquarters in April and has more than 100 employees.
T4 autonomous mobile robots designed for easy deployment
Aethon’s T4 is designed to be a smaller, faster, and integration-ready mobile robot for industrial use. Systems integrators and distributors will value the autonomous mobile robot because its ease of deployment, cost-effectiveness, and open connectivity options, said Aethon.
The T4 provides greater flexibility with built-in connections to allow the integration of active payloads such as tools or conveyors. Aethon is encouraging third parties to develop systems that will work with its mobile platform.
As an example, Aethon demonstrated at MOTEK 2018 a powered conveyor attached to its mobile chassis that could interact with fixed automation equipment.
The T4 will pair with existing automation equipment, even in tight spaces, thanks to its center-pivot 17 in. (44 cm) turning radius.
The autonomous mobile robot can haul loads up to 250 lb. (113 kg) and roll on sloped areas up to 5 degrees thanks to a unique independent suspension system, said Aethon. The T4 can also travel at speeds of up to 2 m/s (4.47 mph). It can automatically pick up and drop off carts, avoiding the labor costs of cart-tending required by competing AMRs.
“The T4 is a big step forward for Aethon in the industrial segment,” stated Aldo Zini, CEO of Aethon. “The needs of our manufacturing customers, integrators, and distributors drove this innovation, and we are thankful for the insight they provided. We are excited to add T4’s open platform design to our existing product line, giving our customers a wide range of capabilities in industrial settings.”
Like all of Aethon’s autonomous mobile robots, the T4 can autonomously navigate a facility using predefined maps and routes, as well as delivery and pickup points. It does not require complex or fixed infrastructure, and it can be installed easily in a facility with existing Wi-Fi coverage, said the company.
The T4 works with Aethon’s existing fleet-management capabilities, which ensure that an installation with numerous robots can scale and be operationally efficient. The autonomous mobile robot also integrates with building systems and elevators. Aethon said that it will maintain the company’s track record of safety and reliability.
All of these advantages result in a faster return on investment (ROI) and more reliable operations, claimed Aethon.
LogicOS a tool to integrate AMRs with PLCs
Aethon‘s LogicOS is an integration toolkit designed to provide third-party direct control of its TUG autonomous mobile robots using industry-standard programmable logic controllers (PLCs).
“LogicOS is another enabling technology innovation from Aethon,” Zini stated. “We believe an AMR is only viable if it is part of the overall workflow, processes, and environmental systems of a facility.”
LogicOS facilitates the command-and-control communications among automation equipment, tools, and sensors monitored by PLCs, as well as autonomous mobile robots, said Aethon.
“Autonomy requires a great deal of interactivity and integration,” said Zini. “LogicOS provides the fine-resolution control needed by industrial customers who are already using standard PLCs.”
In addition, LogicOS provides an intelligent layer of task control and synchronization. It also supports integration with the human-machine interface (HMI) to allow management of Aethon robots throughout a facility.
These LogicOS capabilities allow greater process integration and further establish Aethon’s autonomous mobile robots as integral to a manufacturer’s Industry 4.0 strategies and initiatives, the company said.
“We see deeper integration into business processing, and with software for logistics and scheduling, users can extract the full value of our autonomous mobile robots,” Zini told Robotics Business Review during a site visit. “By connecting with PLCs, we’re in the heart of manufacturing.”
LogicOS will include an instruction library of predefined TUG events and a sample application as building blocks to speed the implementation effort for integrators and customers.