Warehouses are places with a lot of traffic. The number of industrial trucks (pallet trucks, forklifts, etc.) passing through the aisles has grown particularly large – in facilities that themselves are growing in size. In this case, accidents are inevitable even if many safety measures are taken.
Now, optical sensors on industrial trucks may offer better protection for warehouse workers as they work. AZOM, the Fraunhofer Application Center for Optical Metrology and Surface Technology, together with BASF and Kinotex Sensor GmbH, developed a prototype aimed at ensuring increased safety in everyday activities.
The Fraunhofer Application Center in Zwickau, Germany is a branch laboratory of the Fraunhofer Institute for Materials and Beam Technology IWS. With its custom-developed optical sensors, it hopes to enable companies in the future to reduce transport accidents involving industrial trucks. For this purpose, BASF provided two pallet trucks.
“Every day, hundreds of industrial trucks drive around our factories and warehouses. In cooperation with the Fraunhofer Application Center, we are eager to integrate safety technology into our vehicles in order to provide better services for our employees.” protection,” said Dr. Christian Fischmann is responsible for vehicle engineering at BASF SE in Ludwigshafen.
Together with Kinotex Sensor GmbH, he acted as a consultant in this project as a customer. “Our system is designed to protect the user from mechanical compression, especially in the area around their feet,” explains Prof. Peter Hartmann, director of the Fraunhofer AZOM. “To achieve this, our research team developed a special proximity sensor that detects when the operator gets too close to a danger zone in front of the vehicle and then applies the brakes.”
Laser pulses and sensors work together
Laser pulses are emitted with a defined length and distance between them and then reflected off obstacles, a process that yields information about how far away the object is. The real innovation of the system is its ability to combine information from multiple directions in space and continuously monitor the sector around the pallet truck, courtesy of BASF.
The signal from a second optical sensor that responds to pressure is processed using distance information to the object – thanks to a collaboration with Kinotex. Tactile sensors stop the vehicle and automatically move it back slightly, preventing the operator from being crushed.
This ability to reverse the pallet truck in response to proximity sensors is a unique selling point of the new safety technology, which has been tested by BASF employees. Their feedback will be included in additional work to optimize the technique, and the relevant employers’ liability insurance associations will also be on site to advise the researchers.
Manufacturers have expressed interest
BASF has already presented both prototypes at professional conferences and trade fairs – and both users and manufacturers are showing great interest.
“This technology could be used in almost any transport vehicle, but it is a particularly interesting prospect for autonomous vehicles,” says Dr. Christopher Taudt, group manager for surface metrology at Fraunhofer AZOM’s Mechanism.
“Currently, we are working on the idea of integrating the sensors into a sort of retrofittable sensor belt, rather than having them as a fixed part of the vehicle. This would allow them to be added to any type of vehicle from all manufacturers,” he said. explained.
New system closes safety gap
According to the German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV) association, bruises, crushes and fractures are the most common types of injuries caused by pallet trucks and forklifts. Collectively known as floor handling equipment, these vehicles travel at speeds of 6 to 7 kilometers per hour and, in some cases, can have an unladen weight in excess of 500kg. So far, they haven’t included any safety tech that would prevent accidents in the area around the feet — so that’s where the new system steps in.
Supplied by Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft
quote: New Safety Technology Reduces Traffic Accidents (2022, Dec. 1), Retrieved Dec. 2, 2022 from https://techxplore.com/news/2022-12-safety-technology-accidents.html
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