Jun 29, 2020 — The role of robots becomes increasingly important with the growing need for automation. They help unburden workers of repetitive and dangerous tasks, increase productivity and reliability, and save costs. And their assistance became priceless with the outbreak of COVID-19.
AMRs (autonomous mobile robots) have also joined the coronavirus response and support hospitals, production facilities, and warehouses to maintain the continuity of their processes.
A small assistant saving time and maintaining safety
AMRs equipped with UVD units or helping with safe distribution of medical materials in hospital quarantine zones have lately been at the forefront of automation. Hospitals around the globe have been deploying AMRs to keep their workers and patients safe. One of them is a hospital located in Kosice, Slovakia . The facility has been using an AMR manufactured by a Slovak company for some time now, and its importance increased with the outbreak of the virus. The AMR helps the hospital staff transport pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, and other stuff between the individual hospital departments based on eleven stories. The robot was primarily aimed at unburdening employees of heavy material handling, as well as at saving time and increasing efficiency . This allowed the hospital to free its staff for tasks necessarily requiring the human workforce. With the outbreak of COVID-19, the potential of the robot was extended to unprecedented levels. Saving the employees’ time and energy, and enabling a safe distribution of drugs and other materials without personal contact has become more important than ever. The need to enter hospital zones with special restrictions or quarantine areas has been eliminated to a significant degree.
Autonomous, vision-guided performance
The robot can autonomously navigate itself on the basis of a lidar, 3D camera, and a virtual map - throughout the individual floors as well as between them, getting in and off the elevators. Thanks to this, it does not require any wires, magnetic tapes attached to the floor, nor any other infrastructure adjustments . This is of great benefit as such robust solutions are rather susceptible to damage or need to be rebuilt in case of changes in the trajectory. Because the robot understands its surroundings, it can operate very flexibly and reliably. The laser scanner area covers 360°, and the body of the robot has an interchangeable front and rear with a zero turning radius, which allows reversible movement. The robot allows trajectory creation with custom curves and instant map redrawing.
The AMR was designed to meet the hospital requirements, such as dimensions of elevators. Though it can move very fast, it is absolutely safe, meeting the requirements of the safety class SIL2 PL.d Category 3. It reaches its destination without posing any risk of colliding with other objects or people. This is thanks to the fact that the robot checks its surrounding environment 33 times per second and its system is able to detect obstacles every 30 ms with a minimum width of 30 mm. The laser scanner prevents collisions with objects up to 200 mm above the surface and the 3D camera does so significantly above the safety layer. In addition to this, the robot enables the setting of adaptive safety zones.
Variability of applications
In this particular use case, the mobile robot can carry up to 100 kg and pull up to 350 kg of medical stuff and other materials. Its variability makes it suitable for many applications and resides in the fact that is can be combined with various add-on modules. One of them is a UV light system that is able to kill germs, viruses, and disinfect the environment. The AMR was co-developed by the Technical University of Kosice, Slovakia.