Several of my friends attended Automatica 2014, where they saw demonstrations of the LogiMover pallet-moving system by Eisenmann. They figured I would be interested (yep!), and emailed me some details. LogiMover has an interesting design twist: It uses two independent forks (ie. two distributed robots) to lift and move pallets around a warehouse or factory floor. While not as versatile as a normal forklift (in the vertical direction), I can definitely appreciate the system's compactness and overall utility.
This system, also known as the independent fork system, is extremely compact: all drive components and the power supply are integrated into its two tines, which move in parallel but are not physically connected. As there are no protruding or mounted parts, the conveyor is highly maneuverable, saves space, and requires no dedicated infrastructure in the factory.
I have a full video down below, but here's a basic animation of how the LogiMover works:
A closeup of the forks lifting the pallet; you can see the main drive wheels turning to jack up the height.
The press release has a few more details:
Developed jointly by Eisenmann and Stuttgart University’s Institute for Mechanical Handling and Logistics (IFT), the independent fork system (patent pending) autonomously moves into position underneath a pallet. With a net weight of under 100 kilos, the conveyor is capable of transporting loads of up to a metric ton by rotating its four drive units. Equipped with optical sensors and controlled by a master computer, the twin tines are guided to their destination via a system of visual floor markings at speeds of up to one meter per second. The tines keep their movements synchronized by communicating with each other. Their drives can move in any direction, so the conveyor can turn in the tightest spaces and only needs narrow lanes on the factory floor.