ThinKing March 2021: Lightweight design dominoes: Lightweight construction – improved productivity, lower costs



ThinKing March 2021 shows in an impressive way that lightweight construction can do more than just save weight. For EMM! solutions, lightweight design is part of their corporate DNA. The term lightweight design describes the company's central development strategy.

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Its goal is to optimally utilise all resources, including material and time, to produce the required product properties and ensure short product development times. The more specifically vehicles need to be adapted to customer requirements, the more important this becomes. The custom DTS (driverless transport system) from the ThinKing Award winner saves resources and proves itself to be high-performing, energy-efficient and reliable in fully-automated continuous operations – the perfect example of lightweight design from A to Z.

The Baden-Württemberg State Agency for Lightweight Design will present the ThinKing for this innovation in March of 2021. Each month, Leichtbau BW GmbH uses this label to award innovative lightweight design products or services from Baden-Württemberg.

At a glance:

  • Higher payloads: Optimising the design of the transportation system increases payloads. The ratio between payload and vehicle weight has a factor greater than 12 to 1. 
  • Energy-efficient: Less mass requires sammeler engines and therefore less energy; the required battery capacity drops.
  • Space-optimised: Not too big and not too small – the geometry of the transport system is adapted to the application.
  • Customised: Each DTS has a specific operational environment and framework conditions. These requirements result in DTS systems with different designs that can be implemented quickly.
  • Highly automated: Multiple, automated individual DTS systems create a swarm that can be regulated for significantly better production efficiency, including with artificial intelligence.

The lightweight design idea came from the requirement to reduce the energy consumption for each mass moved. The DTS (driverless transport system) by EMM! Solutions GmbH implements this requirement in a small and flexible solution for intralogistics, and shows how lightweight design can be an essential part of future product development. The team benefits from its experiences with the ILO1 – a lightweight design concept vehicle for last mile mobility, which also won the ThinKing Award two years ago.

Last mile mobility, translated to industrial applications

If you were to walk through the production halls and warehouses of many companies, you might notice that locations can differ, even despite industrial standards. Handover stations have different dimensions, corridors have different widths and different degrees of automation. And then, of course, there are the varying loads, handover equipment and the structures adapted to work with them – a true challenge when designing automated transport systems. In the past, standardised transport systems were primarily used for these tasks – forklifts, manned transport vehicles or permanently installed transport systems that can be adapted to specific requirements. However, these do not represent a “rethinking” of transport systems, but rather a case of modifying an existing base with compromises. When it comes to performance and lightweight construction, an innovative approach is needed. How can individualised transport systems be created? The answer from developers at EMM! solutions is a modular, individually adaptable driverless transport system with electric battery drive, ideally with navigation using an “experienced” internal map (SLAM navigation). The developers’ idea to implement the specific requirements of the later DTS users right from the start, was focused on saving resources as much as possible and using materials efficiently, even in the design phase. “Lightweight construction was just the right choice” says Daniel Lienhard, Sales and Project Manager at EMM! solutions GmbH. “We plan our transport system to be exactly as large as it needs to be. We do so by rethinking processes in the operational environment, questioning previous intralogistics standards and using our system design kit to achieve excellent resource and energy-efficiency. The lightweight design ideas are then integrated into the configuration in a targeted way”. This means resources are used in a smart way, exactly where they are needed.

Lightweight construction increases payload, even for small vehicles

The lower the vehicle weight, the greater the load with the same driving stability and performance. This is true not only for heavy commercial vehicles, but for small, driverless transport systems as well. The DTS from EMM! Solutions weighs approx. 80 kg, with a payload of over 1000 kg and a high battery capacity. The ratio is worse in most other transport systems. Therefore, the lightweight construction of the driverless transport system increases its payload per kilogram of DTS empty weight by approx. 15% – saving a significant amount of energy even on empty trips.

Interaction between digitisation and lightweight design

The digitisation and automation module allows the DTS to integrate perfectly into the existing production automation architecture, in line with Industry 4.0 principles. DTS can integrate into the existing environment without interface problems, seamlessly improving efficiency in production and logistics. “Intelligent management, for instance, makes it possible to integrate charging into the DTS driving cycle, allowing it to weigh less, with smaller batteries, thanks to more frequent charging” says Lienhard, describing how digitisation and lightweight construction positively influence one another. An external controller is used for this purpose, turning multiple individual vehicles into a coordinated swarm. Intelligent fleet management for transport systems in operation, and a lightweight construction designed right from the start allows for smaller motors, sleeker structures and smaller energy storage units to be used. Despite the individualised approach, the modular design allows vehicles to be offered in different size and performance classes. An online configurator on the website provides initial insight into the available design options, serving as the basis for an individual planning meeting.

About EMM! solutions GmbH

The international team at EMM! solutions GmbH develops driverless transport systems for intralogistics, helping design the future of automated transport. The company's driverless transport systems are always custom-tailored and individually adapted to the specific usage environment and production tasks.