The open transportation control system
openTCS is a vendor-independent and flexibly usable control system software for automated guided vehicle systems (AGVS) and other non-continuous conveyors like electric monorail conveyors and mobile assembly platforms. It was originally developed during a publicly funded project. Now the code base is being maintained and development continued by Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics (IML) in Dortmund, Germany.
openTCS can serve as a control system for practically arbitrary automated vehicles. Fraunhofer IML gladly offers support with the integration and development of additional required features. Contact data can be found on the contact page.
The control system software is not designed for vehicles or components of any specific vendor. Instead, the intendedly generic nature of the software allows arbitrary vehicles of different types and vendors to be used - even mixed at the same time. openTCS can thus be used as a control system in both newly-built and existing AGVSs and can potentially become the glue connecting technologies of multiple vendors.
free and open-source software (FOSS)
openTCS is free software and can be downloaded from the download page. The source code of the control system software is available under an open-source license, too. As a result, every Java developer could make changes and provide extensions for an AGVS originally installed by another developer. This effectively reduces the user’s investment risk.
The control system is completely Java-based and can thus be run on every operating system for which a Java Runtime Environment (JRE) exists. (This includes MS Windows as well as Linux, Mac OS X, BSD and other Unix derivatives.
Advantages for the plant operator
For the operator, the safety of the investment into the automated guided vehicle system is essential. Safety means - among other things - being able to make nontrivial extensions and changes to the plant in the long term. Examples for such changes are:
Customization of communication protocols when adding new automated guided vehicles with possibly different functionality/attributes than those already in use (e.g. to raise throughput or to process new transportation needs)
Customization of user interfaces for evolving operational procedures in the plant
Customization of host interfaces to attach other systems used in the company
When using proprietary AGVS control systems, in most cases, the operator cannot or does not want to put effort into making these changes himself. Often, he requires support by the system’s original vendor to make them. Systems based on openTCS, on the other hand, can be changed and customized by virtually everybody with sufficient experience in software development on the Java platform.
Advantages for the vehicle vendor
To implement transportation systems, vendors of automated guided vehicles also require a control system software that assumes the coordination of a fleet of vehicles. They either have to develop this software by themselves, which implies a considerable effort, or they have to buy expensive licenses from competitors, which limits the ability for individual changes.
openTCS offers a sensible compromise between these two variants. It allows the vehicle vendor to start on a broad existing code base, at best implementing an automated guided vehicle system without any additional development efforts. At the same time, arbitrary changes to every part of the open system are possible, e.g. to implement customer requirements.
Wikipedia article Automated guided vehicle