Afridi receives University Research Program Award from Toyota

Toyota Material Handling North America (TMHNA) selected ECE Associate Professor Khurram Afridi’s proposal, Dynamic Capacitive Wireless Charging System for Autonomous Material Handling Vehicles, to receive funding through the TMHNA University Research Program.

The award was announced at MODEX 2020, a supply chain logistics conference organized by the Material Handling Institute (MHI) and held in Atlanta, Georgia this month. This year, a record number of applicants from 30 leading universities submitted proposals for the research grant funding program, now in its fourth year. Afridi’s was one of two proposals chosen, and concerns cost effective wireless charging of autonomous material handing vehicles (AMHVs).

Warehouses and factories are being transformed by electrically powered AMHVs, which swiftly pick and carry material from one place to another, dynamically navigating obstacles and human co-workers, and dramatically increasing productivity. 

Currently, these vehicles are taken offline and plugged in for recharging, or their drained batteries are swapped with pre-charged ones. Both approaches impose substantial additional costs and require additional space due to the need for spare vehicles or batteries. 

Khurram AfridiAfridi’s team proposes an alternative approach: charging AMHVs wirelessly from the floor while they are performing their tasks, including when they are in motion, i.e., dynamic wireless charging. This substantially increases productivity and reduces the need for on-board batteries, decreasing costs. 

“This award will enable our research to achieve major improvements in power transfer capability, size, efficiency, range and safety of dynamic wireless charging systems for AMHVs,” Afridi said. “Our goal is to help accelerate the adoption of autonomous AMHVs by making them less expensive, truly autonomous, and more productive. The research this award will fund has the potential to revolutionize warehouse and factory automation.”

The TMHNA University Research Program was created to drive the next generation of technology for the material handling industry. The mission is to encourage professors and researchers to apply their knowledge of engineering and technical fields, drawing synergies and collaboration between collegiate research and Toyota Material Handling North America.

“Our University Research Program is reflective of Toyota’s mission to solve challenges creatively,” said Brett Wood, TMHNA president and CEO. “In partnering with leading universities, we seek to foster industry-led innovation by combining our resources and guidance with the fresh and new ideas coming out of academia. Together in the spirit of collaboration, we hope to build a better, safer, more efficient future for the material handling industry.”

Selected proposals receive financial support of up to $500,000 per year for significant, innovative research contributing to a better, more efficient workplace and more productive workforce in the material handling industry.

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