Biologisation of Technology.


Image of the automatically guided vehicle (Scooty).
© Universität Stuttgart / Uli Regenscheit

Kai Przybysz-Herz




Technology Inspired by Ant Colonies

ANTS4.0 analyzes the transfer of the organizational capability of ant colonies to the internal transport of goods in manufacturing companies and demonstrates the possibilities using a real factory environment.

About the Project

Due to ever faster changing customer requirements, intralogistics must become much more flexible. Current solutions are often complex and lack flexibility. For this reason, we develop a changeable, automated and easily adaptable solution with AGVs. 

Developing Adaptive Intralogistics with Low-Cost Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGV) through the Implementation of Ant Colony Algorithms  

The ANTS 4.0 research project is dedicated to the development of a new type of logistics concept through which flexible responses can be made to changes in production.   

To provide a solution of this, different actors collaborate in the project: NAiSE Traffic-Control, the intelligent path planning algorithm from the Institute of Industrial Engineering and Technology Management at the University of Stuttgart, the low-cost AGV (Scooty) from the Institute of Materials Handling and Logistics (IFT) at the University of Stuttgart, and the Intelligent Floor from Bosch Rexroth.

The aim is to develop an innovative and efficient logistics concept from these components. For this purpose, the transport orders are first collected in the order management system. After the AI algorithm has calculated the optimal route, the route is transmitted to the intelligent floor. This shows the route sections in color using the integrated LED strips. The Scooty uses a camera to orient itself to the illuminated LED strips and thus transports the goods to their destination. If NAiSE's indoor localization system or the Intelligent Floor detects an obstacle on the route, it is recalculated. Thus, there are no unnecessary waiting times on the transport route.  

The system will be set up on a 200 m² demonstrator area in the ARENA2036. Additionally, the Sonthofen Technology Transfer Center is carrying out a simulation that will transfer the system to a much larger area and thus evaluate its benefits in real production halls.

Motivation and Goals

The funding initiative "Biologization of Technology" of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) aims to use processes from nature as models for production processes.

In the ANTS 4.0 research project, the behavior of a swarm of ants forms the basis for the behavior of Scooty vehicles on the Intelligent Floor. The goal of ANTS 4.0 is to use the ants' organizational ability as a model for the production environment and to model a self-organizing logistics system.

The production environment will be completely transformable, as workstations will be powered without contact. The traffic control system will flexibly adapt to the respective new environment at any time and adapt the route planning.

With the help of the results from the project, employees in intralogistics will be relieved of monotonous and physically demanding work and can focus on value-adding activities. At the same time, cost savings can be realized for AGVs by having the floor take over important control tasks. We check how high the savings will be with the help of simulations in which we compare the two systems.  

By combining changeable manufacturing, low-cost vehicles and dynamic route planning in real time, a novel concept for intralogistics is demonstrated, with the goal of increasing efficiency and saving space.   

Project Structure

We are working together in a consortium consisting of the IAT and IFT of the University of Stuttgart, the start-up NAiSE, the Technology Transfer Center Sonthofen and Bosch Rexroth AG. Our goal is to jointly build a demonstrator in ARENA2036 on which we can demonstrate and evaluate our novel system.

The Transport Vehicle

Scooty is a concept study by IFT for low-cost and small-scale AGVs with area-mobile chassis. In the low-cost segment for KLT transport (600 x 400 mm), such chassis with superior maneuverability are as yet not very common. The vehicle body uses very compact ride-steer modules that can be variably combined in number and footprint and therefore ideally matched to the Intelligent Floor.

© Universität Stuttgart / Uli Regenscheit
© Universität Stuttgart / Uli Regenscheit
Der intelligente Fußboden der Bosch Factory of the Future in Ulm.

The Intelligent Floor

The Intelligent Floor is a development from the Bosch Rexroth program "Factory of the Future". In the vision of the factory of the future, only the walls and ceilings are fixed. Everything else is movable. The Intelligent Floor is a flexible system that can adapt to production at any time. Power for machines is transmitted contactlessly, piezoelectric sensors detect people and vehicles and relay the information to traffic control. LED strip lights show adaptable driving and walking paths at any time.