In this blog, we will review several more popular topper configurations and the key considerations when selecting a topper.

Understanding Autonomous Mobile Robot Toppers

At the core of cutting-edge robotics, autonomous mobile robot toppers serve as specialized modules seamlessly integrated onto mobile robots. These toppers act as the linchpin, unlocking unparalleled adaptability and functionality that span across different industries. Equipped with these toppers, mobile robots gain the capacity to effortlessly tackle a wide range of tasks with precision and efficiency.

Versatile Toppers Across Industries

In the realm of material handling excellence, conveyor top modules are catalysts for efficiency. In warehouse logistics, these toppers streamline the movement of pallets, totes, and other container types, facilitating meticulous inventory management and increasing process flexibility and efficiency. In manufacturing, they become indispensable, optimizing the smooth transfer of components along assembly lines.

Lifter modules have similar functions to those of conveyors but differ in the way they interact with payloads. As the name suggests, lifter topper modules lift and drop loads from fixed load and unload stations. These are commonly used in applications where loads must be transitioned to and from the AMR via a manual process. An example of this would be a fork truck, providing users the flexibility to use the automation in some areas while maintaining manual processes in others.  Additionally, lifters can be used in conjunction with other hardware such as conveyor toppers and carts, allowing AMRs to address loads from different height conveyors or pick up carts and racks that need to move to various locations.

Agile storage solutions come to life with the integration of shelving units on mobile robots. In e-commerce warehousing, these toppers create dynamic storage solutions for the diverse range of products, optimizing space and accessibility. In pharmaceuticals, they offer an organized and efficient means of transporting medical supplies within healthcare facilities. In manufacturing facilities, these toppers facilitate just-in-time inventory management, enhancing overall efficiency and reducing operational bottlenecks.

Collaborative robots have revolutionized many applications in the ability to have a robot work near workers. Recently, new solutions have been created where collaborative robots are combined with AMRs to create a mobile manipulator (or “MoMa”). This pairing of technology frees the collaborative robot of its fixed location and allows it to move to where and when it is needed, providing an even more flexible collaborative robotic solution.  In aerospace manufacturing, these toppers assist in performing intricate assembly tasks on large components, contributing to the precision and safety of aircraft production. In the electronics industry, collaborative toppers contribute to detailed soldering and assembly processes. Even in general manufacturing, these toppers collaborate seamlessly with human workers, enhancing efficiency and productivity across diverse assembly tasks.

Innovative applications for all emerge with the adaptability of AMRs to accept new and novel topper solutions. In healthcare facilities, UV disinfection modules toppers maintain sterile environments crucial for patient well-being. In retail inventory management, toppers equipped with vision and RFID systems conduct efficient inventory audits, providing accurate stock levels and minimizing discrepancies. In restaurant and retail delivery services, toppers configured for seamless goods delivery revolutionize customer experiences, making the process efficient and customer-centric. Furthermore, AMR toppers can be customized with additional hardware and combined to add extra capabilities and increase versatility. In some applications, AMRs can even be configured with special top modules that allow them to exchange different toppers automatically. For example, an AMR that is moving loads with a conveyor top can exchange the conveyor top with a lifter top to enable it to process different loads. The sky is the limit in terms of possibilities.

Considerations for Topper Design and Selection

Mobile robot toppers are designed to seamlessly integrate with different mobile robot platforms. They can be made to be easily attached and detached, allowing for quick reconfiguration and adaptability, or are permanently attached for dedicated duties. Whatever the need, there are important aspects that need to be considered when identifying a mobile topper solution.

  • Integration: Many toppers have built-in automation, such as actuators that drive lifts and positioners, sensors to sense loads and environments, indicators that inform users of system status and more, all of which require power and communications. To make sure that toppers can operate properly, it's critical that the capabilities of your AMR are in place to support the top’s function. You need to consider if the AMR can provide adequate power and at the correct voltage. Communications are also key, as many toppers can send data back to your AMR or back to your factory system. An evaluation of the I/O needed, and network communications compatibility is critical in being able to facilitate proper topper function and realize the full potential of your solution.
  • Payload Capacity: When selecting a mobile robot topper, it is essential to consider the payload capacity it can handle. Different toppers have varying weight limits, and exceeding these limits can affect the robot's performance and safety. Understanding the payload requirements of your application is crucial to ensure optimal performance and avoid any potential issues. For instance, a mobile robot with a heavy-duty lifting topper can handle larger and heavier objects, but it may be too large and enables a user to unintentionally load payloads that exceed the AMR capabilities. The weight of the topper itself also needs to be evaluated as it is calculated into the payload an AMR must move. If you have an AMR with a 650kg max payload capability and the topper weighs 100kg, then together, the AMR and topper solution now has a max payload capability of 550kg, so as you see, the entire weight of all items attached to the robot must be considered.
  • Safety Considerations: Safety is paramount when using mobile robot toppers. It is essential to ensure that the topper's design and operation comply with safety standards and regulations. Proper risk assessments should be conducted to identify potential hazards and implement necessary safety measures. For example, a mobile robot equipped with a collaborative robot should have appropriate safety features to make sure that the robot operates safely near workers. Additionally, training employees in the safe operation and interaction with mobile robots equipped with toppers is crucial to prevent accidents and injuries.
  • Maintenance and Support: Like any other equipment, mobile robot toppers require regular maintenance to ensure optimal performance and longevity. It is important to follow the manufacturer's guidelines for maintenance and schedule routine inspections. Additionally, having access to reliable technical support and spare parts is essential to address any issues promptly and minimize downtime. For example, a mobile robot with a vacuum topper used for cleaning tasks should undergo regular maintenance to ensure proper suction power and filter cleaning.

Mobile robot toppers are valuable additions to mobile robot platforms, enhancing their capabilities and enabling them to perform a wide range of tasks. Understanding the integration, payload capacity, safety considerations, and maintenance requirements of toppers is crucial for successful implementation. By leveraging the power of mobile robot toppers, businesses can optimize their operations, increase efficiency, and unlock new possibilities in automation.

Remember, when choosing mobile robot toppers, always consider your specific application requirements and consult with experts to ensure the best fit solution is chosen to meet your needs. Embrace the potential of mobile robot toppers and take your automation efforts to new heights.