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A01 STEEL, STAINLESS STEEL AND RELATED ALLOYS A04 IRON CASTINGS A05 METALLIC-COATED IRON AND STEEL PRODUCTS B01 ELECTRICAL CONDUCTORS B05 COPPER AND COPPER ALLOYS B07 LIGHT METALS AND ALLOYS C01 CEMENT C04 VITRIFIED CLAY PIPE C07 LIME AND LIMESTONE C09 CONCRETE AND CONCRETE AGGREGATES C11 GYPSUM AND RELATED BUILDING MATERIALS AND SYSTEMS C12 MORTARS AND GROUTS FOR UNIT MASONRY C13 CONCRETE PIPE C14 GLASS AND GLASS PRODUCTS C15 MANUFACTURED MASONRY UNITS C16 THERMAL INSULATION C17 FIBER-REINFORCED CEMENT PRODUCTS C18 DIMENSION STONE C21 CERAMIC WHITEWARES AND RELATED PRODUCTS C24 BUILDING SEALS AND SEALANTS C27 PRECAST CONCRETE PRODUCTS D01 PAINT AND RELATED COATINGS, MATERIALS, AND APPLICATIONS D04 ROAD AND PAVING MATERIALS D07 WOOD D08 ROOFING AND WATERPROOFING D09 ELECTRICAL AND ELECTRONIC INSULATING MATERIALS D11 RUBBER D14 ADHESIVES D18 SOIL AND ROCK D20 PLASTICS D35 GEOSYNTHETICS E05 FIRE STANDARDS E06 PERFORMANCE OF BUILDINGS E33 BUILDING AND ENVIRONMENTAL ACOUSTICS E36 ACCREDITATION & CERTIFICATION E57 3D IMAGING SYSTEMS E60 SUSTAINABILITY F01 ELECTRONICS F06 RESILIENT FLOOR COVERINGS F13 PEDESTRIAN/WALKWAY SAFETY AND FOOTWEAR F16 FASTENERS F17 PLASTIC PIPING SYSTEMS F33 DETENTION AND CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES F36 TECHNOLOGY AND UNDERGROUND UTILITIES G03 WEATHERING AND DURABILITY C14 GLASS AND GLASS PRODUCTS C21 CERAMIC WHITEWARES AND RELATED PRODUCTS D01 PAINT AND RELATED COATINGS, MATERIALS, AND APPLICATIONS D06 D09 ELECTRICAL AND ELECTRONIC INSULATING MATERIALS D10 PACKAGING D11 RUBBER D12 SOAPS AND OTHER DETERGENTS D13 TEXTILES D14 ADHESIVES D15 ENGINE COOLANTS AND RELATED FLUIDS D20 PLASTICS D21 POLISHES D31 LEATHER E12 COLOR AND APPEARANCE E18 SENSORY EVALUATION E20 TEMPERATURE MEASUREMENT E35 PESTICIDES, ANTIMICROBIALS, AND ALTERNATIVE CONTROL AGENTS E41 LABORATORY APPARATUS E53 ASSET MANAGEMENT E57 3D IMAGING SYSTEMS F02 FLEXIBLE BARRIER PACKAGING F05 BUSINESS IMAGING PRODUCTS F06 RESILIENT FLOOR COVERINGS F08 SPORTS EQUIPMENT, PLAYING SURFACES, AND FACILITIES F09 TIRES F10 LIVESTOCK, MEAT, AND POULTRY EVALUATION SYSTEMS F11 VACUUM CLEANERS F13 PEDESTRIAN/WALKWAY SAFETY AND FOOTWEAR F14 FENCES F15 CONSUMER PRODUCTS F16 FASTENERS F24 AMUSEMENT RIDES AND DEVICES F26 FOOD SERVICE EQUIPMENT F27 SNOW SKIING F37 LIGHT SPORT AIRCRAFT F43 LANGUAGE SERVICES AND PRODUCTS F44 GENERAL AVIATION AIRCRAFT A01 STEEL, STAINLESS STEEL AND RELATED ALLOYS A04 IRON CASTINGS A05 METALLIC-COATED IRON AND STEEL PRODUCTS A06 MAGNETIC PROPERTIES B01 ELECTRICAL CONDUCTORS B02 NONFERROUS METALS AND ALLOYS B05 COPPER AND COPPER ALLOYS B07 LIGHT METALS AND ALLOYS B08 METALLIC AND INORGANIC COATINGS B09 METAL POWDERS AND METAL POWDER PRODUCTS B10 REACTIVE AND REFRACTORY METALS AND ALLOYS C03 CHEMICAL-RESISTANT NONMETALLIC MATERIALS C08 REFRACTORIES C28 ADVANCED CERAMICS D01 PAINT AND RELATED COATINGS, MATERIALS, AND APPLICATIONS D20 PLASTICS D30 COMPOSITE MATERIALS E01 ANALYTICAL CHEMISTRY FOR METALS, ORES, AND RELATED MATERIALS E04 METALLOGRAPHY E07 NONDESTRUCTIVE TESTING E08 FATIGUE AND FRACTURE E12 COLOR AND APPEARANCE E13 MOLECULAR SPECTROSCOPY AND SEPARATION SCIENCE E28 MECHANICAL TESTING E29 PARTICLE AND SPRAY CHARACTERIZATION E37 THERMAL MEASUREMENTS E42 SURFACE ANALYSIS F01 ELECTRONICS F34 ROLLING ELEMENT BEARINGS F40 DECLARABLE SUBSTANCES IN MATERIALS F42 ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING TECHNOLOGIES G01 CORROSION OF METALS G03 WEATHERING AND DURABILITY D21 POLISHES D26 HALOGENATED ORGANIC SOLVENTS AND FIRE EXTINGUISHING AGENTS D33 PROTECTIVE COATING AND LINING WORK FOR POWER GENERATION FACILITIES E05 FIRE STANDARDS E27 HAZARD POTENTIAL OF CHEMICALS E30 FORENSIC SCIENCES E34 OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY E35 PESTICIDES, ANTIMICROBIALS, AND ALTERNATIVE CONTROL AGENTS E52 FORENSIC PSYCHOPHYSIOLOGY E54 HOMELAND SECURITY APPLICATIONS E58 FORENSIC ENGINEERING F06 RESILIENT FLOOR COVERINGS F08 SPORTS EQUIPMENT, PLAYING SURFACES, AND FACILITIES F10 LIVESTOCK, MEAT, AND POULTRY EVALUATION SYSTEMS F12 SECURITY SYSTEMS AND EQUIPMENT F13 PEDESTRIAN/WALKWAY SAFETY AND FOOTWEAR F15 CONSUMER PRODUCTS F18 ELECTRICAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT FOR WORKERS F23 PERSONAL PROTECTIVE CLOTHING AND EQUIPMENT F26 FOOD SERVICE EQUIPMENT F32 SEARCH AND RESCUE F33 DETENTION AND CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES G04 COMPATIBILITY AND SENSITIVITY OF MATERIALS IN OXYGEN ENRICHED ATMOSPHERES A01 STEEL, STAINLESS STEEL AND RELATED ALLOYS C01 CEMENT C09 CONCRETE AND CONCRETE AGGREGATES D02 PETROLEUM PRODUCTS, LIQUID FUELS, AND LUBRICANTS D03 GASEOUS FUELS D04 ROAD AND PAVING MATERIALS D15 ENGINE COOLANTS AND RELATED FLUIDS D18 SOIL AND ROCK D24 CARBON BLACK D35 GEOSYNTHETICS E12 COLOR AND APPEARANCE E17 VEHICLE - PAVEMENT SYSTEMS E21 SPACE SIMULATION AND APPLICATIONS OF SPACE TECHNOLOGY E36 ACCREDITATION & CERTIFICATION E57 3D IMAGING SYSTEMS F03 GASKETS F07 AEROSPACE AND AIRCRAFT F09 TIRES F16 FASTENERS F25 SHIPS AND MARINE TECHNOLOGY F37 LIGHT SPORT AIRCRAFT F38 UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS F39 AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS F41 UNMANNED MARITIME VEHICLE SYSTEMS (UMVS) F44 GENERAL AVIATION AIRCRAFT F45 DRIVERLESS AUTOMATIC GUIDED INDUSTRIAL VEHICLES E11 QUALITY AND STATISTICS E36 ACCREDITATION & CERTIFICATION E43 SI PRACTICE E55 MANUFACTURE OF PHARMACEUTICAL PRODUCTS E56 NANOTECHNOLOGY F42 ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING TECHNOLOGIES
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Features

Features

Steering a New Course

New ASTM International Committee Addresses AGVs

ASTM Committee F45 on Driverless Automatic Guided Industrial Vehicles organizes to consider standards for AGV performance and capabilities.

A roll clamp-equipped forklift stores and retrieves large newsprint rolls.

A unique mobile platform moves a massive 12-m-long, 18,000-kg vehicle through the production process at an automotive manufacturing facility.

A specialized vehicle transports heavy cathode blanks in a copper refinery/precious metals plant where high temperatures and chemical exposure are a fact of life.

What do these scenarios have in common? There’s no one behind the wheel. These machines are automatic (or automated) guided vehicles, and they go about their business controlled — either individually or in combination — by wires, magnets, lasers and computer programs. No driver required.

The Material Handling Institute, the primary trade association for the automatic guided vehicle industry, defines AGVs as “computer-controlled wheel-based load carriers (normally battery powered) that run on the plant floor (or if outdoors, on a paved area) without the need for an onboard operator or driver.” They are used in a wide variety of industries, among them automotive, chemicals and plastics, healthcare, commercial printing, paper, food and beverage, and warehouse and distribution.

AGVs have been in use for decades — since the early 1950s, in fact. However, as their technical sophistication has grown, so has the realization among industry stakeholders that universal standards for evaluating AGV capabilities and performance would benefit both equipment manufacturers and end users. This realization is the impetus behind a new technical committee to establish such standards under the aegis of ASTM International.

A Safer, More Efficient Workplace

AGVs are as diverse as the work environments in which they operate. Their physical design can vary from basic forklift-type vehicles to massive rolling platforms with integrated roller conveyors, to low profile configurations that fit under production lines and transfer workpieces to the next step in the manufacturing process.

The typical driverless vehicle navigates via laser guidance technology, with targets located throughout the plant floor or warehouse that pinpoint its exact location. The AGV’s software coordinates its guidepath — a specific route through the facility (e.g., from a rack of stacked pallets to a loading dock) — based on incoming orders and the movements of other vehicles in the facility.

Numerous case studies compiled by MHI enumerate the benefits of AGVs, including improved process flow, reduced material damage from mishandling, seamless interface between inventory management software and the vehicle’s onboard system, and the flexibility to modify the “choreography” of vehicle movements as production requirements evolve.

Another important benefit of AGV systems is the potential for improved worker safety. In busy manufacturing plants and distribution warehouses where forklifts, electric carts and people are zipping hither and yon, AGVs can be programmed to follow predetermined paths at specific times, reducing the chances that a collision could occur. Such vehicles are also equipped with sensors so they’ll stop automatically if something — or more important, someone — ventures into their path.

AGVs can also be designed to perform in hazardous work environments, such as the copper refinery/precious metals plant mentioned above. Transporting raw materials within the plant more efficiently while reducing employee exposure to high heat and chemicals like hydrochloric acid results in obvious benefits in terms of both human resources and production throughput; in fact, this plant cut its metal production process cycle from 45 days to five days after implementing an AGV program.

Concerns for Safety

Safety has become more of an issue as the use of AGVs has spread. Roger Bostelman is senior engineer, mobile robots for smart manufacturing, at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, Md., which has played a key role in disseminating technology developed for mobile military robots to the private sector.

“As advancements such as path-free ranging, 2D (laser) and 3D (light) detection and ranging, sensor integration, and object detection and avoidance have been adapted for private industry, safety concerns have increased,” says Bostelman. These concerns, among others, have been and continue to be addressed through the American National Standards Institute and the Industrial Truck Standards Development Foundation, which established ANSI/ITSDF B56.5-2012, Safety Standard for Driverless, Automatic Guided Industrial Vehicles and Automated Functions of Manned Industrial Vehicles.

“I serve on the B56.5 AGV safety committee to support and improve the standard to today’s capabilities. However, performance is not a B56.5 concern, only safety,” he says. “Test methods to compare AGV capabilities are needed.”

Building Consensus

In order to create a forum for the development of performance-related standards, Bostelman, after preliminary discussions with key industry stakeholders, contacted ASTM International in January 2013. At a planning meeting held in May of last year, those present — representing key constituencies that included manufacturers (Kollmorgen, Jervis Webb, Elletric80, SICK Inc., JBT Corp.), NIST and MHI — agreed to hold an organizational meeting for the activity within ASTM in October.

One of the challenges facing any effort to develop new standards in an evolving industry is gaining consensus from stakeholders with different agendas. Questions can also arise from manufacturers who misunderstand the voluntary nature of the process and see it as a government-driven regulatory exercise that will end up telling them how to make their products. These and other concerns were expressed at the October organizational meeting.

As the NIST point man, Bostelman strove to allay the misgivings of AGV manufacturers in a document sent to meeting attendees in mid-November, pointing out the crucial difference between standard test methods and standard equipment specifications. The former focus on measuring a machine’s capabilities; the ultimate goal of the new ASTM technical committee, is to arrive at agreed-upon ways to test — and compare — these capabilities. Equipment specifications will remain the unique and proprietary prerogative of individual AGV manufacturers.

Bostelman also pointed out that NIST is not a regulatory agency and selected ASTM based on its expertise in managing the development of standards, and only after conversations with stakeholders revealed solid support for the effort.

As director of developmental operations at ASTM International, Pat Picariello has managed this process before. “Developing standards in a space that doesn’t have existing standards is always a challenge,” he says. “The goal is to become a microcosm of the industry, with all relevant parties involved. People are interested, but they often want to wait and see what happens. They’ll hop in throughout the evolution of the activity.”

The efforts of Bostelman, Picariello and others supporting the effort paid off in January at the second organizational meeting, which was attended by a number of major AGV end-users — including the U.S. Postal Service, Pepsico and General Mills — in addition to Microsoft (a supplier of Windows embedded operating systems used in many AGVs), vehicle manufacturers, NIST and MHI. The decision was made to officially organize the activity within ASTM International.

The committee’s name — ASTM Committee F45 on Driverless Automatic Guided Industrial Vehicles — scope, and structure (see below) were subsequently submitted to ASTM’s Committee on Technical Committee Operations and approved at COTCO’s March meeting. ASTM’s board of directors gave the final go-ahead at its April meeting.

The Road Ahead

Now the real work begins. Committee F45 has identified a variety of potential standards-related topics, including terminology; specifications for different navigation technologies; a practice for determining maintenance costs, minimum quality levels, obstacle detection and avoidance, and distinctions between interactive AGVs and stand-alone machines; test methods for battery life and vibration analysis (surfaces); and speed control (performance levels).

Microsoft’s Gershon Parent, principal software design engineer/robotics, sums up the importance of this initiative: “As AGVs become more mainstream, having standard methods for evaluation will be critical to achieving commercial success. Customers will want an easy-to-understand benchmark or metrics they can use to evaluate solutions in the marketplace. As a technology provider you also then have a yardstick with which to measure your own solution and communicate with customers.”

NIST’s Bostelman notes that having standard test methods in place will help AGV manufacturers — and their software partners, like Microsoft — adapt the technology to new markets, such as unstructured environments with workers present. And Picariello points out that the makers of AGVs will benefit from “the marketing cachet of being able to say their products meet the standards.”

The ultimate goal will be a mutually beneficial outcome that expands the market for automatic guided vehicles while enabling end users to more easily determine which AGV is best for their particular application.

Jack Maxwell is a freelance writer based in Westmont, N.J.

F45 on Driverless Automatic Guided Industrial Vehicles

Scope

The development of standardized nomenclature and definitions of terms, recommended practices, guides, test methods, specifications and performance standards for driverless automatic guided industrial vehicles. The committee will encourage research in this field and sponsor symposia, workshops and publications to facilitate the development of such standards. The work of this committee will be coordinated with other ASTM technical committees and other national and international organizations having mutual or related interests.

Subcommittee Structure

  • Environmental Effects
  • Docking and Navigation
  • Object Detection and Protection
  • Communication and Integration
  • Terminology
  • Executive

This article appears in the issue of Standardization News.