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RHC's first automated guided vehicle

News International-French

15 May 2012

Lifting specialists, RHC Lifting Limited has commissioned and supplied its first Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) to GKN Aerospace's new state of the art composite wing structures manufacturing and assembly facility, near Bristol, which was officially opened in April by George Osborne.

RHC Lifting designed, manufactured and commissioned the AGV, which is to be used to transport the wing spar mould tools to different manufacturing processes around the facility. The AGV combined with the multi-latching crane system and vacuum lifting beams already installed by RHC Lifting gives GKN Aerospace a complete solution to their material handling problems onsite.


This is RHC Lifting Limited first AGV which utilized their vast industry experience and strong supplier relationships to help deliver the AGV. The AGV brought together a number of components from numerous companies who are industry leaders in their own specialty including, the wheel units from CFR, the lifting jacks from PowerJacks Limited, the battery units are supplied by Powercell Industrial Battery Engineers and the control system from Siemens.


The AGV has an overall size of 9.2m x 1.1m x 0.5m, with a self weight of 3.7ton, and has a lifting capacity of 10 tonnes. The AGV can move components around the factory floor up to speeds of 55m/min and is powered by sealed lead acid batteries which have the ability to operate the AGV continuously throughout a single 9 hour shift.


The AGV is controlled by a trained operator via an Autec Dynamic FJM radio controller to drive, steer and lift. The 8 independently driven wheels mean that the AGV can move sideways and turn on the spot, allowing for precision positioning.


To remove human error and reduce the risk of damaging the wing spars, the AGV uses a number of ultra-sonic sensors located on the front, sides and rear to automatically position the AGV into the tool and autoclave.


The AGV is aligned to the tool manually, to the best of the operator's judgment and the ultra-sonic sensors on the front and side of the AGV ensures that the AGV is automatically aligned as it enters the tool. Flags in the tool are used for the final stop position, to align with the 8 lift points and indexing sensors. The same process will be used for entry and alignment to the autoclave with a displacement laser sensor detecting flags in the autoclave for its various stop position.


The travel motion of the AGV remains manually operated from the Autec radio controller but is automatically set to a slow speed as the tool is entered and until it is cleared. A SICK Laser Scanner positioned on the front and the rear of the AGV is an anti-collision precaution, and cuts movement if an obstacle is seen.


The proximity indexing system automatically recognises which of the spar tools the AGV is entering and ensures that the alignment under the lifting points of the tool is correct. The Autec FJM radio transmitter also has data feedback to display the tool number for the operator to clearly see on a 2.7" display.


After the success of the first AGV, GKN Aerospace has already placed the order for a second vehicle and there is provision for a further two vehicles in the future. RHC Lifting is believed to be the only company in the United Kingdom currently producing AGVs with lifting capacity of this size. With AGVs becoming increasingly used in manufacturing processes, in a growing number of industries, RHC Lifting hopes that this successful diversification will create many new opportunities in a rapidly expanding market.


One of RHC Lifting's Directors, Philip Goodway, said "with this AGV, RHC Lifting has shown its ability to develop and produce another highly technical and customised material handing solution which matches GKN Aerospace's requirements and high standards."


GKN Aerospace will now receive RHC Lifting's after sales care package including, operator training, servicing, statutory inspections and provide 24/7 breakdown cover for a two year warrant period.


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