Leveraging robotics and automation together in multiple sectors to ease the workload as well as for better efficiency is slowly becoming the new norm of this industrialist society.
With the world still grappling with the aftereffects of a pandemic era that slowed down the entire industry to the max level, major manufacturing facilities were able to retain their production only due to the support of robots in the industrial sector.
Counting the support of those mobile robots, the workers were able to operate these mobile robots with fewer interactions thus, offering contactless services during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Nonetheless, the field of Autonomous Mobile Robots has begun gaining traction, particularly in the industrial sector due to its self-maintained independent services that allowed a considerable relaxation of workload once implemented.
Before delving into the deep waters of how Autonomous Mobile Robots are making waves in the industrial market, we should get a clearer idea of What Autonomous Mobile Robots are all about in the first place.
What are Autonomous Mobile Robots?
The word Autonomous Mobile Robots can be split up into three main parts to easily understand the function of this new class of robotics.
Autonomous + Mobile + Robots = Independent Decision Maker Robots that could move freely according to their will.
In other words, Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) are any class of specialized robots that can understand and move through their environment without much interference from an operator directly or having any fixed predetermined path.
True Autonomous robots are referred to those intelligent machines that can perform a handful of tasks and operate in an environment independently, without much human control.
Autonomous Mobile Robots are integrated with an array of sophisticated sensors that enable them to understand and interpret their environment, to further help them to perform their task most efficiently and path possible while navigating around fixed obstructions and variable obstructions simultaneously.
Difference between AMRs Vs. AGVs
Before starting with the differences between AMRs and AGVs, we must understand what an AGV is in the first place.
Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) can be described as the early versions of Autonomous Mobile Robots that have been around since the 50s.
Usually employed to transport heavy loads, AGVs follow a specific lane or conveyor belt and follow along with a predetermined route.
Although we can see some similarities between the two, an AGV is not an autonomous mobile robot.
The greatest difference that separates these two is flexibility as AGVs must follow much more rigid, and fixed preset routes than AMRs.
Autonomous Mobile Robots, in turn, find the most efficient route to perform each task and are designed to work collaboratively with operators like picking and sortation operations, whereas AGVs typically do not.
AMRs are also far more independent than AGVs.
In broad terms, if we put an obstacle in an AMR’s path, these robots will easily maneuver around it. However, in a similar situation, an AGV will only stick to its fixed, predetermined path which then stops and wait for the obstacle to be removed.
In short, trackless navigation and autonomous path decision make Autonomous Mobile Robots the best option for defined tasks.
Use Cases of Autonomous Mobile Robots
Though we have specified the usage of Autonomous Mobile Robots, especially in manufacturing facilities, these robots have a wide range of applications once deployed on a large scale.
It includes the following,
AMRs for Logistics
Autonomous Mobile Robots can deliver orders across a warehouse or through a shipping facility countless time a day, in repetitive cycles. Since transport is a labor-intensive job, utilizing robots for these tasks serves as the easiest way to free up human workers for more mental-based job profiles without disrupting workflows.
If you want to know more about the delivery services of these robots, you can check out my previous article on, “Autonomous Delivery Services: A New Reality”.
AMRs for E-Commerce
Another use case of Autonomous Mobile Robots includes moving carts to mobile manipulation and more. As AMR platforms integrate multiple accessories, their flexibility makes them perfect for many applications, even within specific applications like transport and sortation. AMRs can be utilized in tasks like:
- Order Fulfillment
- Raw Materials Transport and Sorting
- Parcel Sortation
- Returns Handling
- Inventory Management
AMRs and Mobile Manipulators for Manufacturing
Specialized to cater manufacturing sector, Autonomous Mobile Robots can transport in-process parts and finished goods and can be utilized as conveyors or robotic arms to assist in the production process. Also, cobots or mobile manipulators i.e., AMRs with robotic arms, can easily sort, pick, and pack products while dynamically moving to multiple locations.
AMRs in Healthcare
Getting a preview of Autonomous Mobile Robots utilized in the pandemic era in some hospitals, these robots served as an integral tool to streamline the transport of supplies and medicine throughout a healthcare facility.
Especially at the time of earlier pandemic stages when a complete contactless patient treatment was a priority in the infectious disease units.
Secondly, medical AMRs were also employed to maintain sanitation as these robots were outfitted with virus-killing UV lights or decontamination sprays.
AMRs for Data Centers
Securing Autonomous Transport in the operations of data centers and research facilities is a newly created application for AMRs.
Autonomous Mobile Robots armed with lock boxes and cabinets can be used to safely transport high-value materials and will ensure a proper chain of custody protocol is followed.