Latest member of the STILL iGo family - An automated tugger train solution
14 March 2017
STILL shows intelligent automation solutions at the LogiMAT 2017 trade fair.
In its 15th year, the LogiMAT international trade fair for distribution, materials and information flow in Stuttgart takes place under the motto “Shaping change. Digital – Connected - Innovative”. Faithful to this motto, visitors to STILL’s trade fair Stand B41 in Hall 8 can plunge into the world of intelligent intralogistics solutions and enjoy a live experience of the next level of automation. The focus is on the youngest member of the iGo family – an automated tugger train solution. STILL uses this to visualise how tugger trains can be deployed to implement intelligent supply to a production operation in the future. Another trade fair highlight from the iGo family is the iGo neo CX 20. This not only proves that the intralogistics specialist is one step ahead in autonomy, but at the same time shows the direction in which the journey will take it. Intralogistics 4.0. Made by STILL: it’s just Simply Smart!
STILL presented the LiftRunner tugger train system with a variety of tugger trucks, frames and trolley types for the first time at the CeMAT 2016 trade fair. An automated loading and offloading process with the aid of C-frames using two electrically activated double telescopic fork pairs with a load-carrying capacity of up to 1,000 kilograms was exhibited at the same time. To prove its competence in the Lean Logistics area, the company is now taking a decisive step forward with a fully automated tugger train. Herbert Fischer, Head of the Tugger Train Business Segment of STILL GmbH, explains: “At the LogiMAT trade fair we present a fundamental step into the future by showing what is technologically possible in the area of tugger train utilisation. The objective was to utilise automation to design our customers’ processes more efficiently so they can reduce costs. By using our innovative tugger train solution, we can achieve a fully automated flow of goods right up to the production conveyor, thus making the cycle-controlled supply to production lines even cleverer and more economic.”
The automation solution presented at the LogiMAT trade fair displays all the goods flow stations in fully automated form – from loading the tugger train at the departure point, through the journey to the individual stations on the production line, and all the way to the final offloading station. It consists of an automated STILL EXV high lift pallet truck to load and unload at the stations, an automated tugger truck leading the tugger train, automated standard E-frames and transfer stations. These are at the heart of STILL’s tugger train solution. The E-frame carries conveyor technology in the shape of two electrically driven roller tracks instead of a trolley. The automated E-frame is driven in front of the transfer station to offload or accept the load. By lowering and positioning, two sensors ensure that the E-frame is in contact with the transfer station. Releasing the conveyor technology starts the loading or unloading process. Another sensor ends the conveying operation, ensuring at the same time that complete loading or unloading has taken place.
The automated E-frame and transfer station can also be used with a manually operated tugger truck to load and unload particularly heavy loads at individual stations on the production line. In this case, a classical tugger train solution would not have been suitable in the past, since when using a tugger train manually the load weight is restricted to approx. 500 kg per trailer, because the load is pushed down from and/or up onto the trolley by manpower. By using an automated E-frame and a transfer station, STILL opens up new options for customers. Even loads up to 1.5 tons per trailer can now be brought to the production point by tugger train.
The fully automated tugger train solution presented by STILL at the LogiMAT trade fair is an option for companies needing to move mainly heavy loads, or wanting to relieve their employees’ workload.
In this case the tugger truck with the E-frames starts its round by automatically driving to the supermarket loading stations and positioning the E-frames precisely in front of the transfer stations on which full pallets are located. The latter have previously been retrieved from the shelf and placed on the transfer stations by a STILL EXV automated high lift pallet truck. Automatic loading of pallets onto the E-frames then begins. When all the E-frames have been loaded, the tugger train starts its milk run – i.e. delivery to the production line. Arriving at the first station, the pallet with the material is offloaded automatically with the assistance of a transfer station. On arriving at the next station, the E-frame that is now free accepts an empty pallet in the same way. When the tugger train has driven to all the stations on the line and has delivered full pallets and received empty pallets, it carries the empty pallets to the loading station, offloads them and receives full pallets already standing there in readiness for the next round.
Herbert Fischer explains that “With STILL’s automated tugger train solution, even heavy loads can now be included in the tugger train supply. In this respect, the features that characterise STILL’s automated tugger train are high process safety and reliability, ease of handling, and low implementation costs.”
When configuring its iGo automation portfolio, STILL also focuses on the needs of the client, who is brought on board with us in relation to all developments. Christian Fischer, Head of Product Management for Business & Automation Solutions, says “We want to design Intralogistics 4.0 in cooperation with our customers. That’s why an exact knowledge of the customer’s processes is important. Automation, or even an autonomous solution, is always based on a STILL series production truck, because this gives the customer not only proven premium quality but also a high degree of flexibility, since he can also operate the truck manually at any time.”
In the past year, STILL already broke through the frontier from a purely automated truck to an intelligent team player that interacts with its environment, the iGo neo CX 20 autonomously operating order picker. The iGo neo can move forward intelligently by recognising its surroundings and its operator, and following only in the latter’s footsteps. In contrast to an automated truck, the so-called AGV, that drives along a rigidly predefined track and is not independently in a position to avoid obstacles in its path, the autonomous truck is able not only to avoid obstacles skilfully, e.g. other industrial trucks or people, but also to adapt its speed to the operator’s walking pace and to always take up a loading position that is optimum for the user. “With the aid of autonomy and the cognitive abilities of the STILL iGo neo CX 20 arising from it, we have created entirely new opportunities that will enable us to implement logistics processes, e.g. order picking, even more efficiently in the future. At the same time, this has brought us a decisive step closer to the aim of adaptable intralogistics in an era of advancing digitisation.”
It is important to note that autonomy and automation are not competing technologies. Quite the contrary, STILL wants to bring these worlds together. Thus an autonomous tugger train, for example, would be conceivable in the future. Entirely based on the iGo modular principle: The client describes his process to us, and we find the matching series production truck and combine it with the appropriate technology to automate his processes. STILL implements this by focusing entirely on product-based solutions.