IHATEC project: Research on the use of mobile robotics in rail handling

2023/10/13 at 11:18 AM
Tags: HHLAMetrans

Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG (HHLA) and the Fraunhofer Center for Maritime Logistics and Services (CML) presented the IHATEC project “Pin-Handling-mR” at a conference of the German Federal Ministry of Digital and Transport (BMDV) in Karlsruhe. The project focuses on how the previously manual repositioning of the locking pins of container wagons at terminals can be taken over by robots.

HHLA presented the initial progress of the project together with Fraunhofer CML at the specialist conference “New Technologies and Test Fields for Waterways and Ports” on 5th and 6th October 2023. At their booth, the team presented solutions to advance the automation of so-called pin handling in rail handling through mobile robotics.

The overall goal is to develop an autonomous mobile robotics system that places the various pins on container wagons according to the loading plan. Currently, these pins still need to be manually operated before trains can be loaded. The project team is therefore currently developing an autonomous prototype of a mobile robot, which, in the next step, will be tested under real conditions.

Numerous new technologies are being used in the project, for example computer vision: on the basis of images taken of different pins, the software developed by the Fraunhofer CML researchers recognises the respective pin type and determines whether it needs to be closed or opened. Other technologies take over the localisation of the robot or ensure that it is integrated into the control centre system via an interface. In this way, pin handling can run autonomously and the mission can be monitored or controlled by terminal employees.

The development is intended not only to optimise the work processes at the port and rail terminals in order to reduce transport costs, but also to improve the working environment and, especially, occupational safety for employees.

This project is particularly interesting due to the networking of many competent partners: HHLA is taking on the role of the so-called network coordinator and is accompanying the project with its subsidiaries Container Terminal Tollerort (CTT), HHLA Sky, Hamburg Port Consulting (HPC) and Metrans. Fraunhofer CML is in charge of the conception and development of the mobile robotics system. In addition, other associated partners are supporting the project.

The IHATEC project is funded by the BMDV with the aim of advancing innovations in port technologies in the field of autonomous systems and automated technologies. The expected optimisation of handling at the terminals can also lead to cost optimisation and increased occupational safety in hinterland traffic. This will further strengthen the competitiveness of rail container handling in the Port of Hamburg.

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