If you are even slightly interested in robotics or searched for ways to improve your company’s intralogistics, you have probably seen at least one of these acronyms. Why are there so many of them? The answer is simple – companies that manufacture robots tend to give distinctive names to their creations to distinguish them from the competition. Let’s take a closer look at these acronyms and establish which ones are the most relevant.
What do these acronyms mean?
As already mentioned, all of these refer to various groups of mobile robots used in internal transport. Here is what each of them means:
- AGV – Automated Guided Vehicle. This term is used as both a name for a specific group of robots and as an umbrella term for all types of self-driving machines. Automated guided vehicles as a group are robots which only move along preplanned routes that are often physically represented in their work environments (more on that later).
- AMR – Autonomous Mobile Robot. AMRs are typically considered as a subgroup of automated guided vehicles. However, there’s a significant difference between them – a machine of this type has hardware and software components that give it full autonomy in completing its tasks. AMRs don’t need strict route planning and can safely navigate their surroundings entirely on their own.
- AIV – Autonomous Intelligent Vehicle. That’s basically a synonym of AMR, used by some manufacturers to make their product stand out.
- SGV – Self-Guided Vehicle. Same as above – that’s just an autonomous mobile robot with a different name. Although, this term is older and rarely seen today.
- LGV – Laser-Guided Vehicle. These are advanced AGVs that use laser sensors for detecting special route indicators placed in their environments and collision avoidance. Although they still require guidance, they are a bit more autonomous than trolleys used in a standard AGV system.
As you can see, the most important of these groups are the AGVs and AMRs – the rest of these acronyms/terms are either synonymous or refer to a narrow subgroup of these two.
Automated vs autonomous – a few words on the history of robots’ autonomy
Various types of transport robots are a key part of smart factories, which is a relatively new concept. What many people forget is that AGV trolleys are more than a half a century old – the first robot of this type was created in the 1950s. It got deployed in Northbrook, Illinois at the U.S. Barrett Electronics facility. The machine can be described as a tug, made to pull engineless trucks and trolleys. It could move only through inductive guidance, thanks to a live wire embedded into the floor.
Another milestone in the development of automated guided vehicles was the introduction of navigation systems that can be adapted in production facilities and warehouses. The live wires (which were expensive and time-consuming to implement) were replaced by much easier to handle ferromagnetic tape – this development was a massive boon to the popularization of AGVs. Next came the light reflective material tape, laser sensors and LGVs. This technology provided high efficiency in traversing their surroundings, improved safety (robots could distinguish between permanent parts of the workspace and unexpected obstacles on their routes, which minimized the risk of collision) and opened doors for further enhancements. Thanks to the laser sensors and scanners, robots no longer needed a physical guidance system – thus, AMRs were “born”.
What’s so special about AMRs? Thanks to their technology they could achieve true autonomy – all you have to do is give them tasks, and they will find optimal routes to their targets, adjusting their speed to possible restrictions met along the way. This allows them to completely replace humans in the flow of resources and completed products, even in the most extreme conditions. Moreover, they no longer need to stop when encountering obstacles – they can actively avoid them, adjusting their path accordingly. If you’re looking for modern mobile robots with such capabilities, take a look at what VersaBox has to offer.
Unit load vehicles, tugs, and forklifts – various types of industrial robots
Setting aside the level of autonomy, both AGVs and AMRs come in different shapes and sizes, depending on the functions required of them. Besides tugs, you can find e.g. automated/autonomous forklifts (both for horizontal transport and high-stacking), pallet jacks, and under rides/unit load vehicles. These vary between small and agile platforms that can only take light loads, to machines that can easily handle several tons of cargo.
If you require flexibility, the best solution would be picking AMRs with modular build. Their advantage lies in the fact that their work modules can be easily switched, allowing a single machine to work with varied cargos. For example, an under ride can be equipped with a lift, a coupler, or a roller module, depending on the work environment and the type of delivery.
AMRs – the future of intralogistics
To summarize the info gathered in this article – AGV (Automated Guided Vehicle) is the broadest category which includes all mobile robots (such as automated trolleys, self-driving forklifts etc.) and AMR (Autonomous Mobile Robot) is the most important among its subcategories. The other terms are either synonyms or refer to subcategories of these two. Although typical guided robots are still relevant in many factories and warehouses, more and more industries lean toward fully autonomous transport of materials and objects. Thus, AMRs are on the rise and offer the greatest potential.
Despite many options available on the market, the differences between machines coming from various manufacturers are marginal at best (slight variations in navigation systems, load capacity etc.) – that’s why robots of this class have so many names. If you plan to introduce robots into your facilities, the choice of specific models should be based on a thorough analysis of your work environment’s implementation possibilities. Even the best robots won’t help if you can’t implement them properly. Another essential part, and a key issue, is efficient management – if you want to fully use your robot fleet’s capabilities, you’ll need the right software. The best one should be flexible, so it can be fitted to your specific needs, and enable easy management of the whole fleet of robots.