The Futuristic Novelty of Laser Guided Vehicles
by Andrea Mustine, IQS Editor
Few things utilized in industrial settings can be called “novel” because most of the equipment is practical, lacking the frills that would place it in the novelty category. However, some of the technological advancements in modern machinery have led to the crafting and operating of things most people would only recognize from science fiction books, films and television shows. An example of equipment with an undeniable futuristic novelty is laser guided vehicles. Like something out of The Jetsons, these AGV (automated guided vehicles) are designed to operate without any human assistance, going from one place to another with preprogrammed instructions. In addition, the lasers that enable the vehicles to get from here to there are also able to recognize obstacles in the preprogrammed path and alter the course to avoid the obstacle and then get right back on the original path. Acting like intelligent life forms but without demanding higher pay or talking back, laser guided vehicles benefit the industrial companies that utilize them in many ways while retaining an element of novelty for all those who work with them.
Saving money on manual labor is one of the major reasons that laser guided vehicles are incorporated into so many industrial company set-ups, and savings has always been a goal of the past, present and is for the foreseeable future. Not only do they look cool, but these vehicles are the better option when it comes to transporting goods. The other options would include human operated vehicles, which mean that on top of the cost of the vehicle, the company would also have to pay for a driver and a person to load and unload the various goods. Some companies may utilize conveyor systems, but these are expensive to install and maintain as well as taking up all the floor space of a factory or warehouse. Laser guided vehicles are able to run independently of human interaction, excepting the initial set up of path maps and occasional interaction to check loads. For the most part, a company utilizing laser guided vehicles is also using other robotic elements to load and unload the parts or products, meaning a warehouse or manufacturing facility could have more machines then humans working at any given time. If that doesn’t sound like a futuristic approach to business, I don’t know what does.
Although the novel side of these science-fiction-like machines exists, there is nothing novel about the safety measures laser guided vehicles contribute to the companies that purchase them. Because of the way these machines are operated, which involves a connection to the mapped out path or paths that they are programmed to navigate, laser guided vehicles automatically move to avoid collisions. The pathways are set by mounting retroreflective tape to map out the routes exactly for the laser guided vehicles along walls, poles and stationary machines, and this tape is referenced by the vehicle as it moves by way of its laser navigation system. Also, by doing all the heavy labor, laser guided vehicles are saving companies from the risk of injured workers who try to lift or move more than their bodies can handle. These are invaluable safety features for any industrial company, whether they are based in the pharmaceutical, food processing, communications, electronics, cosmetics, automotive or aerospace manufacturing arena.
Any number of images gleaned from science fiction will never actually take shape in the world we live in today. However, seemingly independent machinery like laser guided vehicles, which is far from intelligent but able to do more than any other human-free system before it, is here to stay. With all of the savings, regarding the protection for workers and products as well as cost of labor, laser guided vehicles are an excellent, and novel, addition to the industrial world.