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    09.07.2024
    Inside the Mechanics of the arculee M: Focus on Backpacks and Stations

    In this blog post, meet Linus Ferlinz, Product Owner, and Fabian Na, Senior Mechanical Design Engineer at arculus, as they discuss the mechanics of our latest Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR), arculee M, focusing on its versatility with different backpacks and stations.

    The Functionalities: Backpacks, Stations, and the arculee M Mechanics

    What are the different types of backpacks and stations currently available, and how do their functionalities differ?

    Linus: The reason for having backpacks is to facilitate a variety of use cases. For example, our customers have pallets. Depending on the use case and the factory layout, you can transport pallets lengthwise as well as crosswise. Now, backpacks allow us to adapt a robot for different tasks without needing another variant of the robot. We can do that just by adding another backpack on top.

    How does the arculee M’s mechanical design ensure compatibility with various backpacks?

    Fabian: The mechanical design is, in a way, a universal interface between the base product and the backpacks. So, we have the same mounting positions and electronic interface for all the backpacks. As a result, the base product of the arculee M never needs to change, and all the backpacks are compatible.

    How does mechanical design ensure durability and ease of maintenance, especially considering the environments the robot will operate?

    Fabian: We understand that our Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) are used in highly industrial environments where durability and safety are crucial due to the possibility of workplace hazards. Additionally, we prioritise serviceability and maintenance by ensuring service technicians can access all components without needing extra tools, facilitating efficient field maintenance.

    Fabian Na, Senior Mechanical Design Engineer at arculus, discusses the various aspects of the arculee M mechanics

    Integration between the Backpacks, Stations, and the arculee M

    What are some key considerations in ensuring seamless integration between the robot, its backpack and the stations?

    Linus: One of the strengths of arculus is our close-knit working environment. So we have the production in the same building as the software and hardware development. As a result, we constantly interact in the office, even on breaks, such as in the kitchen and at the coffee machine. This facilitates collaboration. Moreover, we discuss topics and progress during our biweekly sprint reviews, ensuring feedback for different departments. Finally, at the same time, on the team level, we have daily alignments on topics we’re working on to ensure that we all work in the same direction and have the same focus.

    Fabian: So it’s not like segregated departments work in their own directions. Instead, we’re all working together on the product as the final goal. And I think that’s something special that arculus does.

    The Creation Process

    What does the design and development process for a new product typically involve?

    Fabian: The process starts with the conceptualisation phase. We base it on the product requirements and try to meet the functionalities with any concept possible. Once we have a couple of concepts, we typically do some sort of decision matrix to determine our best way forward, and then we go into a detailed design process. Of course, we’re keeping the product’s functional requirements and technical specifications in mind during this whole time. That’s how we make sure that the product works.

    How do you ensure that new products meet both technical specifications and user needs during the development process?

    Linus: A very important point here is that we are all involved in testing our products. So, we have a testing area in the building, and everybody, including the developers working on the mechanical design, can go there and test their product – This is the very first step. For example, when we have a proof of concept or a prototype, we can test it and see how it feels and works. Then, in the next stage, we have pilot phases in our internal factories at Jungheinrich, where we can get customer feedback before we roll out to external customers.

    Fabian: Additionally, the technical specifications we define for our new products typically come from the use case and user needs. So we really try to focus on, for example, what performance our customers need to stay competitive. Such requirements are then translated into the technical specifications for the product.

    Linus: Another critical point is our use of short, iterative cycles during development. We can quickly adjust our approach if something isn’t working as planned. This flexibility allows us to change direction whenever necessary, ensuring we stay on the right track.

    Testing a product at different stages of development is crucial for improving the mechanical design

    Were there any specific components or systems that required extensive testing or redesign?

    Linus: We recently had this one situation when we changed the navigation method, a significant change for many of our products. We collaborated very closely with our software team to align on the visual detection of, for example, our handover stations. The solution included iterating our station design, significantly impacting the overall products.

    Was there a point where you had to balance mechanical complexity with functionality or cost? How did you navigate this?

    Fabian: I would say that mechanical complexity results from balancing functionality and cost. So, as a mechanical design engineer or any type of engineer, when you’re designing something, there are three main factors:

    1. Cost
    2. Time
    3. Quality

    Depending on which of those three factors is the priority for the project will determine how complex the system will have to be. So, the day-to-day work that we do includes trying to balance and manage these three factors of how we can design something cheap but also, let’s say, complex enough to achieve the functionality that we require.

    Linus: You might also need to consider the product’s stage. For example, at a very early stage, you just want proof of concept. Maybe costs are not the highest priority at this stage. Once you have checked that it’s working how you want it to, you can move on to the next stage and optimise it for costs.

    Can you discuss the process of creating custom-designed backpacks for specific customer’s needs?

    Linus: So we get those inquiries from the customers. Our first step is to ensure we have all the necessary data. This includes understanding the layout of their sites to verify all accessible driveways. Once we have this data, we can either redesign the load carriers or obtain CAD (Computer Aided Design) models from the customer. We then check if our existing portfolio can accommodate these load carriers. It’s always good if the company doesn’t have too many different components because keeping the parts inventory manageable is crucial. However, we will create a customised design for the specific load carrier if our existing options are insufficient.

    Linus, Product Owner at arculus, explains that the mechanical complexity decisions differ depending on the AMR’s development stage

    How does each of you view the most impactful functional improvements in the arculee M compared to the arculee S?

    Linus: I think the most important feature of the arculee M is its increased load capacity of 1.3 tons. Despite this higher capacity, it maintains the footprint of a standard pallet, making it ideal for carrying industrial pallets. Additionally, the new AMR offers greater compatibility with load carriers, allowing it to transport pallets both lengthwise and crosswise, a capability not available in the arculee S. This focus on pallet transportation makes the arculee M truly versatile.

    Fabian: We have made significant strides in the design of the arculee M, focusing on assembly, serviceability, and design simplification. These improvements ensure that the product is durable and long-lasting. Additionally, this new AMR is easier to maintain. Overall, we’ve enhanced general performance to guarantee that arculee M will remain reliable in the field for an extended period.

    The Functionalities of the arculee M

    Can you discuss a specific functionality that you personally worked on or found challenging?

    Fabian: There are a lot of complex assemblies inside the product. One of the challenges is to find a solution that can withstand the forces and the dynamic conditions that the product will be experiencing in the field. So it’s, for example, the lifting system. It’s not simply lifting something up and down; we must reinforce the system by breaking centrifugal forces when driving in curves. We have made some very big strides in the design of how we provide this robustness to our product.

    How did your approaches differ during development?

    Fabian: During the development process, we worked closely together. We focused on meeting the requirements, like ensuring the AMR can lift and travel fast enough. But we weren’t, or at least, I wasn’t so far in depth with how we’re transporting load carriers and the whole backpack floor station aspect of it.

    This is all about backpacks, stations, and the arculee M mechanics. Watch the entire interview here!