What are Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs)? An Overview.
What are Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs)? An Overview.
The trade fair that we recently attended, Motek & Vision 2022 in Stuttgart, there were plenty of AMRs around, and we decided that that’s an interesting article to write about. It captivated our attention and we wanted to explore more about AMRs.
It’s no secret that agricultural businesses, healthcare institutions, logicostial companies, warehouses and more are searching for new and innovative methods and systems to improve operational efficiency and ensure precision whilst also increasing safety. Hence why many are looking to autonomous mobile robots for help.
So let’s get straight into it.
What are Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs)?
An Autonomous Mobile Robot, also known as AMRs, is a machine controlled by software that uses sensors and other technologies to identify its surroundings to move around its environment.
AMRs in a nutshell, as with other technologies, are a combination of software and hardware. How autonomous mobile robots function is by using a combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and physical robotic elements such as wheels, tracks and legs.
Autonomous mobile robots are designed to dramatically increase productivity in respect to manufacturing and logistical operations. We will elaborate on the applications and industries of AMRs further below.
How do AMRs work?
Above we mentioned the software and hardware aspects to the AMRs, but how do these AMRs actually function?
AMRs are equipped with cameras and sensors, therefore if they experience an unexpected obstacle while navigating their environments, such as a fallen box or a crowd of people, they will use a navigation technique like collision avoidance to slow, stop, or reroute their path in the most efficient manner around the object and then continue with their task.
What’s the difference between an AGV and an AMR?
It is important to understand the differences between an AMR and an AGV. Both are similar in respect to function but have varying degrees of differences.
AMRs differ from autonomous guided vehicles, also known as AGVs, in respect to their pathing. An autonomous mobile robot can understand and move through its environment intelligently and independently whilst for an autonomous guided vehicle, it relies on predefined paths or tracks to move. Oftentimes, an AGV would require an operator to monitor the movements.
Industries and Applications for AMRs:
The list of industries and applications of AMRs consists of:
1. Hospitals & Healthcare:
Hospitals and healthcare providers mainly rely on AMRs for critical operations such as disinfection of high-touch areas, the delivering of medication and medical supplies, and also telepresence. This frees up staff to spend important time with patients and more.
Retailers, banks, and hospitality companies are using AMRs to streamline and enhance the customer experience—from customer service to inventory automation, room service, luggage assistance, and way finding.
Pharmaceutical industries often operate around contagious, hazardous or toxic materials, therefore AMRs are often employed to transport these materials internally from point A to B. Depending on the task at hand, the AMRs can also be employed by transporting semi-finished products brought from the warehouse to production lines, and vice versa.
4. Accessing dangerous areas without guiding infrastructure (examples include fire, nuclear military, etc):
This will be touched on below, AMRs tend to be employed for these applications because more often than not, these areas are dangerous, harmful and potentially toxic. This would be more than harmful to a human, therefore an AMR would be perfectly suitable for tasks such as these.
5. Manufacturing, Warehousing, and Logistics:
Autonomous mobile robots are quickly becoming a valuable part of manufacturing, warehouses, and logistics businesses because of their versatility and ease of integration into existing infrastructures. They can be used to perform heavy- and light-duty tasks, deliver items to human employees, and carry out safety and security checks.
6. Entertainment (Casinos):
An application that is hopefully as amusing as it is for us, AMRs are also employed in casinos. Similar to hospitality, an AMR is utilized by serving people drinks and snacks.
Benefits of AMRs:
It’s without a doubt an important aspect to consider, the benefits of AMRs. We will break down the potential benefits an AMR can bring to your side of operations.
Enhanced Safety for Staff
Many businesses nowadays employ AMRs for tasks that would be potentially harmful, dangerous or just not possible for humans. A prime example of this would be, as mentioned earlier, health industries, to clean and disinfect sections or areas to maintain health and safety standards. Other examples include transportation of contagious or toxic materials such as in the pharmaceutical industries, the transfer of heavy loads in industrial environments and also work operations in extreme conditions.
Autonomous mobile robots can dynamically analyze, assess and respond to their surroundings and environments whilst completing a range of tasks. Unlike an AGV, the AMR operates without the supervision of an operator.
As mentioned earlier, due to their location and mapping technologies, an AMR is able to understand and adapt to the changes in their environments. This is what makes an AMR flexible and a hugely valuable tool that can be employed to a variety of applications and industries.
Increased Efficiency and Productivity
To utilize the current staff to maximize efficiency and productivity, these staff can now focus on high-value activities whilst the AMRs can be employed to assist in the operations of moving inventory, locating and picking.
Productivity is always key to any leading company, which means reducing downtime and keeping production ongoing. If required, AMRs can easily be reprogrammed and suited to function in new routes, potentially new warehouses and new workflows.
If you have read this far and what has been mentioned has been ticking boxes, Autonomous Mobile Robots may be the right solution for your business but it is largely dependent on the specifications or requirements needed to carry out your operations.
It is wise to consult a skilled and trusted systems integrator to help you determine the best approach forward for your business. This would allow you to have the right analysis and recommendations to best fit your operations and business.
To learn more about AMRs, click here.