When it comes to storage solutions, few companies can match the expertise and experience of Belgian industrial racking manufacturer Stow Group. One of the company’s most innovative solutions is the Stow Atlas, a semi-automatic pallet shuttle for deep lane storage and retrieval. Guided by Vintecc, Stow’s R&D team ventured into model-based design to create the third generation of the Atlas: a feature-packed iteration poised to stand the test of time.
“The Stow pallet shuttle system consists of a self-powered carrier designed to move pallets within a racking structure to optimize storage capacity,” explains R&D manager Luc Vandemergel. “The forklift places the pallet shuttle at the front of the lane. From this position, it can perform any loading and unloading task without further human intervention. Everything is controlled remotely by the operator or forklift driver.”
From C to model-based design
The first and second edition of Stow’s pallet shuttle system were developed using traditional C-based legacy software on a platform that was developed specifically for Stow. “The main issue with this approach is that it’s very hard to update the solutions,” Luc continues. “As new technologies in logistics became more commonplace, our pallet shuttle system became increasingly outdated. Since this was a substantial investment, we really couldn’t afford to let that happen.”
Taking the leap to model-based design didn’t happen overnight, however. Luc: “Actually, we first started looking into new sensor technology to upgrade the Atlas. Through our supplier, we learned about the benefits of model-based design. They told us they could introduce us to a local company specialized in this approach, and that’s how we met Vincent and Karel from Vintecc.”
An Atlas of the future of logistics
“Clients continually come to us with requests to add new features,” explains Luc. “With the previous, customized version based on C programming, this was a very time-intensive undertaking: every line of code had to be added by hand, and the only way to test new features was ‘in the field’ with little room for error.
Model-based design has completely eliminated this issue for Stow. Luc: “Now we can easily add features within the shuttle’s virtual model. The detailed simulation immediately shows us what the impact of certain changes are before we have to build anything in real life. This means we can add new features much faster and at a lower cost. In this way, we can effectively turn Atlas into a future-proof product for smart logistics.”
Making space for innovation
Another important asset of the new approach is that the software has now become hardware independent. Luc: “We have now opted for standard, off-the-shelf components with a standard interface, which gives us a lot more freedom.”
Within three to four months after their initial meeting, Stow and Vintecc managed to create a prototype of Atlas 3.0, which was introduced successfully at the renowned LogiMAT trade fair in Stuttgart. Today, Vintecc continues to support Stow to increase the R&D team’s knowledge of model-based design, digital twin and virtual commissioning and even expand the technology to other warehousing and logistics solutions.