References / Presseberichte

Complex motion sequences automatically controlled by AM automation

September 2019

A special kind of shuttle system
AutoStore®: Efficient small parts logistics like from a Lego kit

Use literally every last cubic centimetre of storage space or scale it as required: With AutoStore, this task can be accomplished quickly, effortlessly and at comparatively low cost. AutoStore systems are not based on classic shelving, they are more like columns of rectangular Lego bricks placed close together on the surface of a base plate. The concept is particularly suitable for users who handle small parts and need a flexible solution to expand their storage capacity

As efficient as modern shuttle warehouses may be, practically all systems available on the market are still based on shelving racks with different bay sizes and variable load capacities. Shelving systems will probably remain indispensable for handling bulky and heavy goods in the future; however, when it comes to small parts, classic shelving systems are already obsolete in many applications thanks to AutoStore.

Variable container sizes, maximum space utilization
The AutoStore concept is simple: an aluminum construction up to 7.50 m high and divided into grids forms the basis for the individual customer requirements. The goods are stored in standardized containers available in three sizes. While the volume of the containers varies between 48, 75 or 99 liters, the payload is limited to a maximum of 30 kg for all variants. The containers are simply stacked on top of each other in the grid of the basic construction, with the gaps on the horizontal level only a few centimeters in each case. AutoStore therefore makes maximum use of the available space in all directions.

Depending on the design, an AutoStore construction can hold between 1,000 and more than 1,500,000 containers. The individual containers are stored and retrieved centrally from the top. Compact shuttle systems are used there, which move on rails in four directions and can therefore access every cell in the grid. The robots can only remove the top bin in each cell; in practice, the bins are constantly rearranged within the system and – unlike classic shelving systems – do not have a permanently assigned storage location. A shuttle robot can handle an average of 25 storage and retrieval operations per hour in addition to the shifting work. The higher the desired picking performance, the more robots can be used.

Complex motion sequences controlled automatically
While the storage and retrieval of the containers takes place practically within a closed system that is inaccessible to humans, manual labor is still usually required for picking the removed goods and for loading the containers with new products. Ports can be set up at any location along the lowest level; the AutoStore routing software connected to the warehouse management system then automatically ensures that the requested containers available on the top level reach the desired workstation via vertically unloaded cells. Fast-moving items are automatically placed in the upper area of the system, while slow-moving items “sink” to the lower levels.

The coordination of movement sequences within the system is complex, but is handled reliably and highly dynamically by the AutoStore software, which has been undergoing further development for years. The software is kept up to date at all times as to where which container is currently located and forwards new movement commands to the shuttle robots. Depending on the design, between 2 and well over 600 vehicles are in use on the top of the aluminum structure known as the “grid”. To ensure that the robots do not get in each other’s way at speeds of up to 4 m/s and hourly picking rates of several hundred containers per workstation, they exchange their current position with the central controller by radio. This organizes the best routes centrally. Last but not least, AutoStore systems are characterized by particularly high energy efficiency. The batteries for the vehicles’ drive motors are not only charged automatically, but also utilize the excess kinetic energy via an integrated energy recovery system. Under full load, a shuttle robot requires no more than 100W per hour and can also be operated 24 hours a day.

As the official distributor and AutoStore market leader in Germany, AM-Automation GmbH has now equipped over 65 projects with the unique system. The customer base includes logistics service providers as well as operators of their own warehouses. AM-Automation designs customized logistics solutions, handles the installation of AutoStore systems and the adjacent conveyor and storage areas, as well as their integration into the necessary IT systems, and takes care of operator training and ongoing services.