Mecfor proudly unveiled one of its most innovative projects to date, the AGV TEAM: the first automated guided vehicle designed and made in North America and destined specifically for the worldwide primary aluminium production industry.

A remarkable achievement, the vehicle is able to manoeuvre in completely autonomous fashion within complex environments posing numerous challenges, such as strong magnetic fields, dust, wide temperature variations and constant interactions with workers and other equipment.

“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,” said Éloise Harvey, president of Mecfor. “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 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. 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,” said André Fortin, minister of Transports, de la Mobilité durable et de l’Électrification des transports.

A major step toward the greening of aluminium plants
The automated guided vehicle (AGV) prototype is designed to carry crucibles of molten metal weighing up to 34 tonnes, but can also be used to transport various loads in harsh environments.

The innovative vehicle was created in part from a need to reduce the industry’s ecological footprint, and thus represents a first step toward the ultimate goal: to help Mecfor’s customers achieve their zero-emission objectives and offer environmentally responsible ingots.

The development and innovation behind the prototype are taking automated vehicles to a new level, rethinking not only the way the vehicles maneuver but also how operations are conducted inside aluminum plants.

“The industry is ready for this new approach to logistics and transport,” said Ms. Harvey. “Our clients want this kind of innovation; they want to work with green technologies.”

The development of AGV TEAM was supported in part by the federal government through the Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) of the National Research Council Canada.

At the cutting-edge
To develop the project, Mecfor collaborated with AMERDEN, a valued and world-renowned supplier with exhaustive expertise in automated guidance technology. For the electric propulsion and batteries, the team also worked with the Innovative Vehicle Institute (IVI).

The guidance and safety components were chosen after months of testing under real conditions in order to assess their impact on the different machines.

This new, cutting-edge vehicle will help reduce the ecological footprint of hundreds of plants and provide a solution to the dire shortage of qualified labour in the industry.