How to Find The Right Drivetrains for Your Automated Guided Vehicle

As the automated vehicle market grows, manufacturers need to choose drivetrains that offer the most flexibility and design freedom. A Tech Briefs article explores your off-wheel traction options, from complex power-transfers to common drivetrains that include a belt and pulley.

After reviewing your options with off-wheel drivetrains, Will Hellinger, Engineering Manager at Allied Motion Technologies, explores a more integrated idea.

The Emergence of AGV

Automated Guided Vehicles, or AGVs, offer an intriguing solution for organizations seeking to do more with less. By 2022, analysts expect the global AGV market sector alone to hit $2.65 billion. To meet demand, OEMs will need to make the right choice on drivetrains and traction technologies.

AGVs and other autonomous vehicles or mobile robots are most commonly driven by one or more independent powered wheels. This Tech Briefs article explores both classes of powered-wheel traction solutions: discrete and integrated.

Finding the best traction or steering solution for a logistics vehicle or mobile robot starts with a detailed review of the requirements. 

Discrete Traction: Your Options on Motors and Drivetrains

Discrete traction assemblies consist of a collection of individual components that are typically located away from the wheel itself. In these “off-wheel” designs, one or more electric motors transmit power to the drive wheels. Locating the motor away from the wheel assembly can provide useful degrees of freedom in the structural design of the vehicle.

Off-wheel traction solutions use drivetrains to transfer power from the motor to the wheel. The most common drivetrains include belt and pulley, chain and sprocket, or gearbox and coupling. As with the motors, the different types of drivetrains involve mechanical and cost tradeoffs.

A helpful, in-article chart demonstrates the advantages and disadvantages of your various options with off-wheel powertrains.

Discrete Traction…or Integrated?

Off-wheel designs offer several benefits. Without the constraint of building the motor into the wheel or directly adjacent, off-wheel technologies give OEMs a greater ability to modify performance, size, and configuration. Drivetrains provide a distributed, flexible architecture that allows manufacturers to more easily add accessories such as encoders, holding brakes, and drives.

Off-wheel designs also protect the vehicle’s motor, mechanical components, and electronics, as the location reduces exposure to shock and contamination.

But adding drivetrains also may increase cost, complexity, and points of failure.

What if you could integrate all of the parts? What about the “on-wheel,” or integrated option?

In an integrated traction actuator or powered wheel, all motion elements are contained within a single assembly. The WheelMax™ wheel drive from Allied Motion, for example, pulls together mototr, gearbox, feedback, and accessories.

In an integrated design, the motion components are integrated into the wheel assembly itself, whether as part of an integrated package (on-wheel designs) or connected directly to the wheel (in-wheel designs).

Selecting Electric Traction Solutions for AGVs and Mobile Robots