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A mini forklift robot

Article · December 2011


DOI: 10.4156/ijei.vol2.issue4.6

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A Mini Forklift Robot
S. Liawatimena, B.T. Felix, A. Nugraha, R. Evans

A Mini Forklift Robot

S. Liawatimena, B.T. Felix, A. Nugraha, R. Evans


Computer Engineering Department, Computer Science Faculty
Bina Nusantara University, 9 KH Syahdan Street. Jakarta. Indonesia. 11480
Tel: (62)21 534 5830, Fax: (62)21 530 0244
s.liawatimena@ieee.org, Member, IEEE
{troojan_102000, b05nanta, Rheza.Evans}@yahoo.com

Abstract
This paper presents the design of a mini forklift robot that can store and pick up object to/ from
specified storage slot from/ to a base using line follower and RFID. Currently, in warehouse storage
systems are mainly still done in a traditional way using human operator to store and pick goods into
specified location. This project is intended to construct an autonomous mini forklift robot that use
Radio Frequency Identification Devices (RFID) technology to find the coordinates of targeted storage
slot and goods identification. The control of movement consists of DC Motor with Pulse Width
Modulation; and infrared sensors for the line follower. The programming operation was performed by
C language using Visual Studio 2005, CodeVisionAVR 2.05, and SQL 2005 as database. The program
on the computer can serve two purposes. Firstly, the program can check, read, write, and erase data
on RFID Tags. Secondly, it can ask a mini forklift robot to store and pick goods at a specified location.
The robot can recognize two sides (A and B), 128 lines, 16 columns and 16 rows cabinets. The total of
success achieved was 100% in storing goods but 58.33% in retrieving goods, because robot fails to
park correctly to the base.

Keyword: Forklift, Line Follower, Radiofrequency Identification, Robot


1. Introduction
Recently Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) has become a solution in the market to identify
goods (books, pallets, boxes, and vehicle), living being (such as live stock, pets, and Automated
Vehicle Identification). The application of RFID robot has a good potential in the warehouse
management. It will replace the manual work and forklift in arranging and storing goods. Robot will
manage the goods automatically according to the database that is programmed in the robot. This will
save cost and time[1]. Loh’ robot can only pick up the item and navigate to prescribed destination
using line follower module to store the item at the appropriate place and location in one dimension only.
The robot in this paper can put goods up to four levels cabinet. The significant potential of RFID
application, especially in manufacturing logistics management, is using RFID. [2]. RFID technology
has become a supporting technology in the supply chain management which plays a large role. Its
application will save labor costs, improve logistics efficiency and makes effective tracking of logistics,
expand the scope of sharing information resources of logistics. [3, 4, 5]
RFID-based logistics management significantly improves the accuracy of real-time tracking of
automated parts or goods, which automatically collect data and place different raw materials or
components rapidly and accurately. A RFID robot uses line follower concept for navigation to the
specified row and column shelf of a cabinet. There is an idea to create a robot with forklift arm that can
lift the goods into the cabinet.

2. Methodology
Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID)

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is a technology that uses communication via radio waves to
exchange data between a reader and an electronic tag attached to an object, for the purpose of
identification and tracking. RFID works by detecting and identifying tag in the reader, and then

International Journal of Engineering and Industries(IJEI) 47


Volume2, Number4, December 2011
doi : 10.4156/ijei.vol2.issue4.6
A Mini Forklift Robot
S. Liawatimena, B.T. Felix, A. Nugraha, R. Evans

transmit the read data to the computer or the other host devices to be processed further. In general,
there are some important parts in the RFID system. They are the reader, tag, and the host (controller).

Figure 1. RFID circuitry


The HF RFID Module SL030 module is used to read and write a RFID tag using 13.56MHz
frequency. The Mifare ISO/IEC 14443A is used as tags. The RFID module communicates with the
controller module using the I2C serial communications.

Motor Driver L298

The motor driver module is using the L298N driver IC, dual full-bridge driver, which is designed to
receive standard TTL level logic and drive inductive load such as relay, solenoid, and motor. Two
enable inputs can activate or deactivate the device in independent way based on input signal. L298N
Motor Driver has four inputs, which is used for motor controller movement, and two enable inputs
used for motor state switching from on and off state.
A PWM signal form with duty cycle variable is used to control the speed of motor in enabling pin.
Fast switching voltage from Vs and GND will give an effective electric power between Vs and GND
where the value is depended on PWM’s duty cycle. 100% duty cycle will give similar electric voltage
as Vs, and 50% duty cycle is similar to 0.5Vs and so on.

Figure 2. Motor driver schematic diagram

PWM that run the motor had a variation of 30Hz to 4 KHz, depends on the DC motor type in use.
The use of PWM that is not appropriate with the DC motor will make the driver too hot and the DC
motor will not operate in a good condition. H-Bridge, which is designed using an optional auto-
shutdown, will stop the motor directly and motor will be protected if any disturbances happened like
overloaded current that cause the driver become too hot. A L298 driver can be used for two motors.

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A Mini Forklift Robot
S. Liawatimena, B.T. Felix, A. Nugraha, R. Evans

Figure 3. The H-Bridge motor driver for forklift arm

As shown in Figure 3, an H-Bridge forklift motor driver can supply up to 6,7 Ampere to lift goods
intoa specified row [6].

Figure 4. Height sensors schematic

Height sensors are installed on the forklift beam to know whether the forklift arm has reached the
specified row.

Line Follower

Figure 5. The line follower block diagram

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A Mini Forklift Robot
S. Liawatimena, B.T. Felix, A. Nugraha, R. Evans

A line Followers is a technique, which is used to follow a groove. A guideline can be a black line on
a white surface (or in the contrary) or an unseen magnetic field. This method works by detecting a line
to control robot maneuver to keep it on its position, and constantly correcting any wrong movement
with feedback like a simple effective closed loop system.

Hardware Design

Hardware design in this system is composed into two sections where the first is used for the robot
and the second is used for control RFID from PC. The two batteries are with the same voltage value
(12, 4V), which are used in the robot. That battery has a current value of 5Ah and it is functioned as the
power supply for every motor in the robot like the motor on the forklift and the motor on the right and
left wheels of the robot. While the battery with the current value of 2.2Ah is used as power supply for
robot’s modules. The RFID_PC module used adaptor 9V/1A.

 
Figure 6. The mini forklift robot block diagram

The robot is using AVR AT Mega 8535 to process all of its movement. The robot can communicate
with PC by using RS-232 bus, so it needs MAX232 IC to make voltage conversion from TTL to RS-
232 and the opposite. The Robot also has RFID as stuff sensor to communicate with the RFID, which
used I2C bus. The robot can also detects line follower sensor and height sensor on the forklift beam.
Therefore, it uses DC motor as its actuator to moving around. There are three motors such as: left
wheel, right wheel, and forklift arm lifter. It is also equipped with LCD module for showing any errors
message that happened to the robot.
An instruction is given from a Personal Computer (PC) to the AVR through serial communication
on RS-232 bus, which is converted by MAX232 to TTL level voltage [7]. The AVR will do
accordingly as instructed to check, read, write, or erase the tag’s contents by using RFID module
controlled by I2C bus.

Software design

Software design steps were divided into three different programs, where every program is executed
on PC, RFID_PC module, and AVR module on Robot [8]. Every program had its special function. The
program on PC is functioned as the bridge user between robot and the RFID tag. The Program uses the
Visual Studio 2005 programming language, because of its complete function and user friendly. Besides

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A Mini Forklift Robot
S. Liawatimena, B.T. Felix, A. Nugraha, R. Evans

using the Visual Studio 2005, the also use SQL 2005 as the database program [9]. The databases that
will be saved are database from goods that is saved in the cabinet, along with the status of its delivery
or withdrawal.

Figure 7. The main program on PC

In general, the program on PC functions as the bridge between the RFID module and the robot. The
program on PC has five commands that can be accessed by the user, which is divided into two options:
for RFID module and for Robot. Commands inside RFID module option are to detect tag availability
nearby, to read data inside the tag, to write data on the tag, and to erase data on the tag. The commands
inside robot option are for placing or picking the goods. All commands will resulted in the response
status of the process that has been executed, which will be send to PC by the UART bus.

(a) Robot Controller Screen

(b)Forklift Controller Screen


Figure 8. Graphical User Interfaces on the PC

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A Mini Forklift Robot
S. Liawatimena, B.T. Felix, A. Nugraha, R. Evans

Functions of every part in the interface program on Figure 8.a are as follows:
1. Cabinet database table
2. Refresh cabinet table button
3. Communication channel option
4. RFID Module controller switch option
5. Reading serial number from tag or check tag availability
6. Reading data on the tag
7. Writing data to the tag
8. Erasing tag
9. Data which will be written or read from tag
10. Sending command to RFID module button.
11. Robot controller switch option
12. Putting stuff into a specified location on cabinet.
13. Getting stuff from a specified location cabinet.
14. Coordination that will be taken or put by robot
15. Sending command to robot button
16.

Figure 9. The program on robot

According to picture 8, in the beginning the robot does the initialization process to UART bus.
Then it will wait command that will be given by the user by using program on PC. If there is no
command received, the robot will wait until it is given. After the robot gets the command ‘Take’, then
the UART buffer will be copied by the robot so that it can acknowledge the slot target coordinates. If
the commend given is ‘Put’, then the coordinate will be copied from memory of the detected tag ,
which will be used to go to slot target coordinates.

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A Mini Forklift Robot
S. Liawatimena, B.T. Felix, A. Nugraha, R. Evans

Structural Design

Figure 10. The robot structural design

Robot features are as follows:


Robot Length : 50cm
Robot Width : 30 cm
Forklift Beam Height : 62 cm
Forklift Maximum Reach : 35 cm
Fork Length : 7 cm
Fork Width : 4 cm
Total Weight : 17 kg
Forward Speed without load : 12.87 cm/s
Reverse Speed without load : 15.39 cm/s
As shown in Figure 10, the structural design of the forklift robot, from front side and left side. A
RFID Module located on the middle of forklift beam to read RFID tag easily.

Figure 11. The robot structural design

The robot uses two wheels and three caster balls for movement. One caster ball is located on the
front, and two caster balls is on the rear of the robot.

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A Mini Forklift Robot
S. Liawatimena, B.T. Felix, A. Nugraha, R. Evans

Figure 11. Layout of the platform

The robot can recognize up to 2 sides (A and B), 128 lines, and 16 column and 16 rows cabinets.

Robot Movement Trial

Table 1. Result of Robot Movement Trial


Destination Mean Time(s) Success Percentage (%)
Cabinet A0 39,35 60
Cabinet A1 44,79 50
Cabinet A2 48,39 60
Cabinet B0 38,78 70
Cabinet B1 44,52 60
Cabinet B2 47,85 50

From the trials that had been done, the robot still experienced errors when the robot must go
backward. The error happened after the robot had success in delivering an object to the cabinet. But
when the robot must return home, it has to go backward by following the same line. The robot seemed
to lose its direction because of the imperfect back sensors in detecting all possible lines when it is
rolling backward. The total success achieved in storing goods was 100%, but it can only reach 58.33%
in retrieving goods, because it fails parking correctly to the base. When the error occurred, then the
robot will identify it through LCD module by showing message ‘ERROR:: Please move the robot to
the base”.

3. Conclusion
From this research, gained some conclusion From this research it can be concluded that

1. Communication between Robot Controller program and Robot, Robot Controller program
with RFID_PC module, and Robot Controller program and database run smoothly as planned.

2. The robot still look looked unstable when it moved backward, because the use of back sensors
design was still poor.

3. The completion of the robot’s works reached the level of 58,33%, where all failures
happened when the robot moved backward.

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A Mini Forklift Robot
S. Liawatimena, B.T. Felix, A. Nugraha, R. Evans

From the result of the experiment, it can be suggested for the future development some topics as
follows:

1. Communicating between PC and robot use wireless

2. Robot can do more than one job such as putting and getting goods

3. Utilizing robot with more light material

4. Utilizing motor with bigger torque to speed up the movement

5. Robot’s ability to identify hindrance while navigating

6. Building a line follower sensor system with more than two back sensors

10. References
[1] Loh Poh Chuan, Ayob Johari, Mohd Helmy Abd Wahab, Danial Md. Nor, Nik Shahidah Afifi Md.
Taujuddin, “An RFID Warehouse Robot”, In Proceeding of IEEE International Conference on
Intelligent and Advanced System 2007 (ICIAS2007), pp. 451– 456, 2007.
[2] Tan Jinrong, Chen Haiquan, “Manufacturing logistics management Using RFID: Dynamic and
Case Study”, In Proceeding of IEEE International Conference on Computer Application and
System Modeling 2010 (ICCASM 2010), pp. V12-56 - V12-60, 2010.
[3] Guo Zhanglin, Zhang Xiaocui, “The application of RFID technology in the logistics supply chain”,
In Proceeding of IEEE International Conference on Computer Science and Information
Technology (ICCSIT), pp. 518 – 520, 2010.
[4] K.T. Vivaldini, J. P. M. Galdames, T. B. Pasqual, R. C. Araújo, R. M. Sobral, M. Becker, and G.
A. P. Caurin, “Robotic Forklifts for Intelligent Warehouses: Routing, Path Planning, and
Autolocalization", in IEEE – International Conference on Industrial Technology, Viña del Mar –
Valparaíso, Chile, pp. 1463 - 1468, 2010.
[5] Zhengyin Zhou, Tianding Chen, Di Wu, Changhong Yu, “Corridor Navigation and Obstacle
Distance Estimation for Monocular Vision Mobile Robots", JDTA: International Journal of Digital
Content Technology and its Applications, Vol. 5, No. 3, pp. 192-202, 2011.
[6] Kamal, Ibrahim. “Build a 5A H-Bridge motor driver”,
http//www.ikalogic.com/H_bridge_old.php, 2008.
[7] Hendawan Soebakti. “Basic AVR Microcontroller Tutorial”. Politeknik-Batam, Indonesia, 2007.
[8] Barnet, Cox, & O’Cull, “Embedded C Programming And The Atmel AVR”, Thomson Learning.
Inc., New York, 2003.
[9] Amri, Choirul, “Tutorial SQL”, http://stibanas.ac.id/~download/linux_opensource/
artikel+tutorial/database_di_linux/lain-lain/choirul-SQL.pdf, 2003.

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