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Case Study

Polishing Application with AGV

Polishing aluminium and other metals to a mirror finish is extremely labor intensive. There are several steps to the process and each requires a lot of pressure with heavy buffing equipment.  Large Polishing jobs like tanker trucks or airplanes would nearly be impossible without the assistance of an automated system. Our customer and RSI worked together to design an interface which enables operators to quickly polish a tanker by controlling the cartesian and AGV using an intuitive Pendant and Xbox controller.


Compay Name: Private

Date: Private

Website: Private





Solution Overview

Hardware Selection

The proposed solution includes a customized Robotic AGV Platform that navigates along a magnetic tape on the floor on a straight line parallel to the tanker trailer.

The custom robotic AGV has a vertical mast with custom buffer arm and tooling so it can polish both the top and bottom of the trailer.

Application Software and HMI Development

RSI designed an intuitive user interface using an Xbox controller; enabling operators to maneuver the robot tooling across the buffing surface and around obstructions. The PC based application included a semi-automatic mode where the robot would “re-trace” paths to reduce polishing time.



Services Provided by RSI

RSI will provide all necessary hardware including: Robotic AGV platform, buffer arm tooling, controls, drives, motors, cables, cable tray, IO, sensors, electrical enclosure, operator pendant, and safety equipment.

120V AC supply will be required to power the Robotic AGV platform. RSI will include a cable tray that supports and protects the supply cable along the floor.

RSI will design and develop a custom Software Application and User Interface as outlined within this proposal.

The Software application will give users manual control through a handheld teach pendant. It will also allow users to define a 4 point rectangular area and the robot will polish the area automatically.



Technical Details

End Of Arm Tooling 

  • Constant selectable normal force at contact point (~75 lbs)
  • An aluminum buffing arm w/ spindle to support 5” buffing wheel
  • Custom design changes available
  • Range Sensors in to aid alignment process

Automatic Guided Vehicle ("AGV")

  • A cartesian system mounted on AGV to achieve full reach of one side of tanker
  • Multiple possible configurations to balance cost and reach 

Pendant Controller For Control

Our customer chose to use a Teach Pendant for this application. This decision enables employees to rapidly learn how to control the robot.

System will include an ergonomic handheld pendant with integrated EStop button for teaching and manual control.

The Teach pendant has a resistive touch screen and will be hung on the front the electrical panel on a bracket so operators can pick it up easily to check status or control the robot.

Teaching and Automatic Polishing

  • The operator will move the AGV robot manually using the teach pendant to starting point 1. 
  • The operator will then move the robot along the X-axis to teach Point 2
  • The operator will adjust the Y and Z positions without adjusting X position to teach point 3
  • The operator will then move the AGV robot back along the X-axis to teach point 4.
  • The objective is to define a rectangular area to polish with 4 points. Points 1/4  and 2/3 must be in the same X plane. Points 1/2 and 3/4 must be in the same Y plane. 
    • Note: The entire area must be free of obstructions. 
  • Once complete, the operator will initiate the automatic polishing sequence. 
  • The AGV robot will start at point 1 and begin polishing toward point 2 moving only along the X-axis. 
  • Once the end of the boundary is achieved it will index out in Y and down in Z automatically and move back to the other boundary. 
  • The process repeats until the area is completed and will stop. 
  • A second and third pass could be initiated by the operator if desired without teaching new points.


Includes two 270 deg safety area scanners mounted at opposite corners of the front and back of the AGV mobile robotic platform. This provides the AGV with 360 deg understanding of nearby obstacle including human operators. When an object is within a certain distance of the AGV drive motors will be disabled and a stack light will indicate the status.

A physical barrier around pinch points of the mechanisms, with the tanker side completely open so it can polish the tankers. The barrier is mounted to the AGV.

Return on Investment

The Return on Investment varies on many factors such as: number of workers, worker wages, number of tankers polished per year, and the extent of automation features implemented. RSI estimates a two year ROI when 50 tankers are polished per year, and 1 year ROI when 100 tankers are polished per year.

Solution Technologies

  • Two Industrial Robots
  • Two X axis Robot Slides
  • Custom End of Arm Tooling
  • Wireless Xbox Controller
  • sRMP EtherCAT Motion Controller
  • RapidRobot Control Software

Customer Benefits

  • Natural interface for manipulating robot results in increase throughput.
  • Improved surface quality.
  • Reduce labor costs.
  • Easy to use graphical user interface.
  • Even polish with constant force.
  • Eliminates high physical strain labor.
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