Flexible, efficient, and reliable. Today’s intralogistics have to be all of these to be able to meet the requirements of shorter product life cycles, faster delivery times, and greater turnover rates with shrinking batch sizes. Many companies therefore rely on innovative automation solutions that ensure a standardized and automated flow of material around the clock. One example of such solutions is the automated guided vehicle (AGV), also known as the autonomous mobile robot (AMR). They are the cornerstone of an automated warehouse. Controlled by intelligent software and communication, they improve the efficiency of material flow and contribute to end-to-end optimization of the value chain.
The right drive
A central component of an automated guided vehicle is the right gearbox. After all, nothing runs (or drives) without it. Framo Morat is well aware of this. With 110 years of experience in developing custom drive solutions, the company recognized early on the need for gearbox designs for automated guided vehicles. Framo Morat knew they were the obvious starting point for entering the AGV market segment. This was based on numerous successfully implemented gearbox projects in the field of intralogistics as well as their own experience in modernizing their in-house warehouse and logistics concepts.
The NG250 and NG500 hub gears, which are available in single- and two-stage designs based on a modular system, were the result of this undertaking. The NG250 lends itself to smaller AGVs. The single-stage version has a total gear length of 62.5 mm and a standard wheel size of 125 mm, and it can handle a load of up to 250 kg per wheel. In terms of compactness, the NG500 also has an impressive total gear length of 64 mm and a standard wheel size of 160 mm. With a wheel load of up to 500 kg, this is meant for larger vehicles. When it comes to gears, Framo Morat has unlocked the maximum power density of the hub gears. They prove their worth, particularly in wheel drives for automated guided vehicles, thanks to their favorable arrangement of the separate wheel bearings and the integration of the planetary gear in the PUR wheel.
From the first customer solutions…
Being the individual components they are, the gearboxes are just one part of the automated guided vehicle. As such, the logical next step was to work together with a longtime partner in motors to offer the first complete system for the drivetrain. “Depending on customer demands, renowned motor manufacturers have developed and established as standard either high-performance systems for transporting heavy loads or compact solutions that can be put in limiting spaces,” Felix Kneipp explains with excitement. He is responsible for business development in the hub drive / intralogistics division at the Black Forest gear and drive specialist. Framo Morat drew on its experience developing drives to adapt the solutions for seamless application in a variety of different motors. Thanks to the modular principle, economic efficiency can be maintained despite system differences.
…to their own system solution
Their own automated guided vehicle system solution was the obvious next step following successful customer projects. “Our focus was no longer just on a matched power density for the gearbox, but also for the motor and the electronics. We also wanted to develop a drive unit for which the load capacity and dynamic requirements were reliable for the entire service life of the AGV,” explains Kneipp.
Out of this came a highly integrated and powerful wheel hub drive. Based on the NG500, it unites all the functional elements into an all-inclusive solution. The modular and scalable system is a true jack of all trades that features impressively high and targeted performance in the smallest of spaces. With this, AGV manufacturers have a system matched to the application, yielding either more compact vehicles with the same load capacity or increased usable installation space for batteries and electronics.
Furthermore, customizations on the load capacity, torque, interfaces, sensors, and control profiles can be made upon request. Through the high degree of in-house vertical integration for the gear components, freedom in defining the motor characteristics, and having their own assembly team, Framo Morat can also make short delivery times a reality for the wheel hub drives.
“The drive can be used in all different AGVs. Whether in automated warehouses, in production for distributing parts, packaging, and components, or as a drive unit for disinfection robots or vehicles for pharmaceutical transport in medical facilities. All of this makes it interesting for vehicle manufacturers from all different sectors,” says Kneipp.
Continued demand for custom developments
In addition to system solutions, there is also continued interest in custom AGV solutions. The acquired expertise in the market segment of hub gears and drives as well as their decades of experience in the development and production of individual drive systems for a multitude of customers and industries has been an advantage for Framo Morat. “Core competence is important in custom developments, especially for applications that can’t be serviced by the typical systems,” Kneipp explains. “That’s why it’s a given for us also to offer our customers individualized solutions upon request.”
Their vertical integration allows Framo Morat to produce initial prototypes very quickly and economically. But Framo Morat is thinking even beyond custom developments. “We’re always considering how we can draw on current market trends to create universal in-house developments so that other applications and big players in the intralogistics sector can also benefit,” says Kneipp.
The latest example is the drive for lift trucks and small forklifts based on the speeroX gear. The system consists of a high-performance electric motor, a helical-cut spur gear stage, and a speeroX gear set as an angle stage. Compared with existing systems, the new development has an outstanding efficiency, power density, dynamics, durability, and system performance. “This makes the speeroX particularly attractive to manufacturers of lift trucks and small forklifts,” Kneipp says.
The speeroX gear is a proprietary development of Framo Morat that allows for a high gear ratio and power flow around the corner in just one stage. The gear set relocates the gearing of the wheel to the flat side. The favorable spatial arrangement of the spiral-toothed wheel and as the modified worm gear allow for a markedly smaller installation space compared with conventional gear designs. The speeroX gear set is also quiet and features high efficiency with a long service life.
Future automated guided vehicle market
At Framo Morat, they know that automated guided vehicles are part of the future and that, in just a few years, they will be indispensable in intralogistics. That’s why the company is continuing to focus on developing custom solutions as well as their own drive concepts for AGVs.