The basis of our design is to have an emphasis on safety. We wanted to take the human element out of the forklift operation, but still give them the control and ease of use remotely. Operator related accidents happen on a regular basis and this will keep the operator out of harms way as well as allowing the forklift to be compact enough to transport with ease due to its folding platform.

What it does

To account for this we redesigned the forklift, complete with remote controls to avoid operator injury. The remote control allows the operator to be able to control it from a distance and avoid blind spots that traditional forklifts have a serious problem with.This is not only safe for the operator, but anyone else that may be within its area of use.

It's design also considered the condition of portability. With it's folding mechanical arm concept it is able to fit in the underside of a trailer or in a small container that is easily transported.This allows for it to be used anywhere, and with the use of it's zero turn capabilities it can move in very tight spaces with ease.

How we built it

Keeping the build as simple as possible without sacrificing functionality we decided to use LEGO as the base building material. We all had an abundance of material and knowledge to be able to construct the forklift without the worry of using unfamiliar materials. With a combination of LEGO Technic and Arduino electronics (motors, Xbox controller adapter, Arduino Shield, and motor controllers) we were able to utilize the functionality of LEGO and the advanced programming options of Arduino.

Challenges we ran into

The original plan to implement zero turn was to have free standing wheels on the back and simply drive the front wheels similar to how a shopping cart's wheels work. The weight of the car prevented the wheels from spinning properly so we implemented power steering in the back, trying several designs before arriving at the final design.

The code we wrote implemented example code taken from Kristian Lauszus and an Xbox controller library developed by felis on GitHub. Learning how this library worked and implementing it properly took some occasional tweaking of the code.

Finally, lining up all the Legos in different planes and their accompanying gears took several attempts for every motor. Matching the necessary torque with the desired speed also took lots of trial and error.

The attempt to make the forklift arm fold back onto the machine with a motor did not work, as the motors either lacked the proper strength or Legos did not have the desired stability. Because of this we left the arm folding back on the machine as a concept, needed to be done with our hands.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

The power-steering zero turn design was something we did not plan on implementing. We planned on being pressed for time, so developing this over the course of two hours and its accompanying code, left us very satisfied.

Gear reductions were also very difficult to build, as they take several planes on mounting that all have to be rigidly locked to the chassis. The payout in torque allows our robot to move as quickly and as powerfully as it does.

What we learned

While each of us came into the Hackathon planning to utilize our different strengths (coding, building, and electronics), we were each able to learn from each other as single-handedly trying to handle any of these tasks was daunting.

What's next for our Portable Remote-Controlled Forklift Prototype

Being a prototype, the potential for actual development is very appealing. While materials like plastic limited our rigidity, real world steel construction would allow our design to be increasingly functional. Coupled with the obvious body-to-processor ratio difference between a prototype and a real model, an actual design should be even more feasible than a prototype.

Lastly, since our prototype is already driver less, there is strong potential for autonomous driving. While safety was our focus, and autonomy would have to be implemented flawlessly to preserve this, the massive payouts in production speed, safety and portability make it an ideal project for the future.

Built With

  • arduino
  • gear-reductions
  • lego-technic
  • stepper-motors
  • xbox-controller
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