Quebec’s construction and manufacturing equipment maker Mecfor revealed last week a revolutionary new vehicle designed for autonomously navigating the rigorous and varied conditions found in the aluminium production industry.
Mecfor’s vehicle, named AGV TEAM, is guided in an automated fashion, and built with the ability to navigate in situations unique to aluminium smelters, including heavy dust, strong magnetic fields, significant variations in temperature, and interactions with human workers and other equipment.
The vehicle is designed to carry a load of up to 34 metric tons, including objects like crucibles of molten aluminium. It is electrically powered, which reduces the user’s carbon footprint, and is fitted with non-contact sensors instead of bumpers to ensure that the vehicle comes to a complete stop before striking another object.
Éloise Harvey, president of Mecfor, lauded the accomplishment as a promising new step in producing automated equipment for the aluminium industry.
“With this technological investment, Mecfor is positioning itself for the aluminium refinery of the future while opening the door to other, similar equipment tailored for different industries in which operations are conducted in hostile environments. At the same time, we are reaffirming our position as a leader in our sector and contribute to Quebec’s position as a trailblazer in new technologies.
“The industry is ready for this new approach to logistics and transport. Our clients want this kind of innovation; they want to work with green technologies.”
To bring the concept to fruition, Mecfor partnered with U.S. automated technology specialist Amerden and the Innovative Vehicle Institute in Saint-Jerome, Quebec. In addition, the provincial government provided US$520,000 for the project.
“The Quebec government is proud to have partnered with Mecfor through a financial support of $520,000 to fund the development of this new generation of automated guided transport systems,” said André Fortin, minister of Transports, de la Mobilité durable et de l’Électrification des transports. “In addition to satisfying the principles of sustainable mobility, this vehicle is a concrete response to industry needs and demonstrates yet again that innovation is one of our core priorities.”