Drives & Controls April 2024

34 n CONVEYORS AND MATERIALS HANDLING April 2024 Conveyors or robots: which are best? Sortation machines are still the go-to technology for moving high volumes of parcels and packages, but if an operation doesn’t have high throughput or large areas of space, conveyors make less sense. Conveyors allow high volumes of items to be moved almost e ortlessly around a facility – but they are no panacea. They are inherently static and inexible. They can’t really expand with a business unless costly renovations are carried out – a handicap in markets such as e-commerce where rapid growth is the norm. When specifying conveyors, you need to think about demand several years into the future, as equipment can only be optimised once. Space is another consideration. Conveyors are bulky, which isn’t ideal. This problem is further exacerbated if there are multiple picking or sorting destinations. Moving items to all of these areas using conveyors can result in a complex jumble of equipment that could be obstacles to personnel during emergencies. The nal problem is the disproportionate e ect conveyor downtime can have on a sorting operation. An unforeseen breakdown on any part of the system risks bringing the entire process to a grinding halt, resulting in late deliveries, lost revenue and dissatis ed customers. Flexible alternative Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) o er a versatile alternative to conveyors for a wide The days of handling parcels manually in warehouses are coming to an end. When businesses experience rapid growth, space is limited or sortation becomes more complex, conveyors can have limitations. In such scenarios, robots excel, argues Hans Jongebloed, senior postal expert at Prime Vision. Space maps ensure safety Prime Vision’s autonomous robots can carry loads of up to 35kg and can detect items as small as 100g. They can handle most items encountered in e-commerce or postal applications. The AMRs are guided using onboard Lidar (light detection and ranging) systems, allowing them to avoid obstacles and personnel. By mapping out the space within which the robots will operate, they can navigate safely around it. Scanning a barcode on a package, identi‹es the intended destination and allows the robot to calculate the best route to reach it. An Œeet management system plots the position of each AMR, identifying any that might cross paths. Each robot can travel independently to any picking or sorting destination. Each AMR is 1m high with an 80 x 60cm loading surface. Fleets of AMRs can get packages to their destinations Œexibly without out taking up a lot of Œoor space