RHC Lifting’s Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV).
RHC Lifting’s Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV).

RHC Lifting designed, manufactured and commissioned the AGV, which will be used to transport the wing spar mould tools to different manufacturing processes around the facility.

The AGV combined with the multi-latching crane system and vacuum lifting beams already installed by RHC Lifting gives GKN Aerospace a complete solution to its material handling problems onsite.

The AGV has an overall size of 9.2 m x 1.1 m x 0.5 m, with a self weight of 3.7 tons, and it has a lifting capacity of 10 tonnes. It can move components around the factory floor at speeds of up to 55 m/min. It's powered by sealed lead acid batteries which can operate the AGV continuously throughout a single 9 hour shift.

The AGV is controlled by a trained operator via an Autec Dynamic FJM radio controller to drive, steer and lift. The 8 independently driven wheels mean that the AGV can move sideways and turn on the spot, allowing for precision positioning.

Ultrasonic sensors

To remove human error and reduce the risk of damaging the wing spars, the AGV uses a number of ultrasonic sensors located on the front, sides and rear to automatically position the AGV into the tool and autoclave.

The AGV is aligned to the tool manually, to the best of the operator’s judgment, and the ultrasonic sensors on the front and side of the AGV ensure that the AGV is automatically aligned as it enters the tool. Flags in the tool are used for the final stop position, to align with the 8 lift points and indexing sensors.

The same process will be used for entry and alignment to the autoclave with a displacement laser sensor detecting flags in the autoclave for its various stop position.

The proximity indexing system automatically recognises which of the spar tools the AGV is entering and ensures that the alignment under the lifting points of the tool is correct.

GKN Aerospace has already placed the order for a second AGV and there is provision for a further two vehicles in the future.

The new £170 million GKN Aerospace composite wing facility was officially opened on 27 April.