AGiTra - Development of an autonomous pallet cage transport system

In today's production systems and intralogistics, automatic cranes are widely used for a variety of transport tasks, e.g. in the steel industry, for automatic warehouses or in bulk goods transport. Cranes are often used for transporting heavy and large unit loads due to their high load capacities and the large 3-dimensional working area. An increasing variety of products due to diverse customer requirements as well as shorter product life cycles demand a high flexibility of material flow and production systems. In order to meet these market requirements, which include ever shorter product life cycles, companies must constantly adapt their manufacturing and assembly processes. To make future material flow systems more flexible, new types of conveyor technology solutions are required.

In the R&D project AGiTra („Entwicklung eines autonomen Gitterbox-Transportsystems“- "Development of an autonomous pallet cage transport system"), the companies Schneider Sicherheitstechnik & Montage GbR (SSM) from Spaichingen and Innokran GmbH from Pleidelsheim together with the Institute for Material Handling and Logistics (IFL) at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), are developing an autonomous transport system for the indoor transport of pallet cages.

The goal in the project is to enable simple "driverless" transport of pallet cages between arbitrary locations without the use of floor-bound transport machinery such as forklift trucks or other industrial trucks. A system is to be developed in which the cranes, that are already available in most companies, can be utilized for the autonomous transport of pallet cages between the work stations without having to integrate lane guides, reserved transport tracks or an additional infrastructure such as transfer or charging stations. The developed system should enable the autonomous indoor transport of pallet cages and other standardized handling units with dynamic transfer points and without fixed safety zones is to be made possible.

Autonomous cranes have so far only been used for a few applications (e.g. in ports) with a relatively low degree of autonomy and fixed safety zones. Especially for production halls, the required machine safety and thus the complex safety technology has been an argument against the use of autonomous cranes up to now. By using new types of radar sensors and the latest AI technologies, the project aims to develop a truly autonomous crane for indoor transport in factory and production halls. The developed system is initially designed for the autonomous indoor transport of pallet cages. However, the technologies developed within the framework of the project can also be used for other transport aids, transport goods or crane tasks with little effort by adapting the load-handling device and by teaching new transport goods or transport processes.

The project partners are working on the three focal points "AI image processing system" (SSM), "novel safety technology and process control" (IFL), and "load handling device with scissor lift" (Innokran). The SSM company is developing the intelligent AI image processing system using the latest methods of image recognition and machine vision. IFL is responsible for the development of the safety technology and the intelligent, autonomous process control. Innokran is responsible for the development of the required load handling device with scissor lift, the electronic equipment and conversion as well as the machine control.