Will Rixon

Will Rixon

Product Design Engineering BSc

Intuitive Controls for Materials Handling

The aims of the project were to devise a more intuitive arrangement, geometry and actuation for the controls of forklift trucks, improving upon existing designs by increasing suitability for the integration of haptic elements. The project sought to prove whether a control assignment more closely related to the movement and geometry of the manipulator, the 'forks' and 'mast' upon a forklift truck, could be considered more intuitive, and furthermore, whether successes could be achieved with an ambidextrous control configuration. The project forms the basis for future developments in haptic control systems, the implementation of which may contribute to a reduction, in the notoriously high number of accidents surrounding forklift trucks. The task of the forklift truck operator is demanding on their eyesight; which is required for crucial judgement concerning the stability of the load. A haptic interface, informing the operator via tactile stimuli, aids the decision-making of the operator whilst not drawing their eyesight away from their task. Thus, the benefit of a haptic control system is to provide, to the newly trained user, information they would otherwise not be privy to and to aid the judgement of the more experienced user without disrupting their work procedure. To this end, a prototype control rig was constructed, featuring control actuation based on the corresponding motion of the manipulator and unifying controls into a single, central wheel. The rig was modified further to be capable of controlling a computer simulation of the materials handling work environment. Test participants were assessed in their completion of tasks within the simulation and their performance compared against the results of completing the test using a similar control rig, modelled after existing forklift truck control configurations. The results strongly indicated that the prototype rig was adapted to the most readily, and improved performance, proving the validity of the principle behind the design.