Abstract:The Automatic Forklift System (AFS) is designed to make the process of stocking warehouses
safer and more efficient. With current manually operated forklifts, employees are at risk of
injury. Employers also spend a lot of money on insurance and paying multiple employees to
operate forklifts in their warehouses. The AFS will limit the need for employees to operate
forklifts manually. This will not only cut down on long term employer costs, but will reduce the
chance of injury among employees as well.
We built a 1/6th scale prototype of a single AFS. This model takes pallets to and from the
docking area and different aisles. The user chooses what they want the forklift to do by way of
the hand-held user interface. The commands from the user are sent wirelessly to the forklift. It
then drives itself along predetermined paths, picks up the pallet, and brings it to the desired
location. When finished, it returns “home” where it awaits another command. “Home” is the
aisle were the forklift parks while waiting for commands; on a full scale electric forklift this
would also be where it pulls into its charger.
For safety purposes, the forklift is equipped with a tilt sensor, a wireless camera, front and rear
proximity sensors, and emergency shut off buttons. The tilt sensor detects if the forklift tips over;
if this happens, the forklift stops and tells the user via the user control that the forklift has tipped
over. Once the forklift has been righted, the user may then choose to proceed, or go back home.
The front and rear proximity sensors detect if an object is in the path of the forklift; if this
happens, the forklift stops and the user control asks the user if it is safe to proceed. The user may
check the video feed that shows the area immediately in front of the forklift and determine if the
area is clear. Emergency shutoff buttons are located on three sides of the forklift; in case all other
safety options fail, someone can push one of the buttons which physically disconnects the power
to the motors.