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Title:
AN AUTOMATED STORAGE SYSTEM AS WELL AS COMPONENTS AND METHODS OF PRODUCING THE SAME
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2021/198564
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
According to an example aspect of the present disclosure, there is provided a module (100) for constructing at least a part of an enclosure (10) of an automated storage system (1). The module (100) has a first end element (110A), a second end element (110B) disposed at a distance from the first end element (110A), and a shell (150) which connects the first end element (110A) and the second end element (110B) along a first dimension (X) and defines an inner volume. The shell (150) comprises a sandwich structure built onto and between the first end element (110A) and the second end element (110B).

Inventors:
HUHTALA YKÄ (FI)
SALONEN KIMMO (FI)
Application Number:
PCT/FI2021/050231
Publication Date:
October 07, 2021
Filing Date:
March 30, 2021
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
SHIPMYPACKET OY (FI)
International Classes:
B65D90/02; B65G1/02; G07F11/00
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
LAINE IP OY (FI)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS:

1. A module (100) for constructing at least a part of an enclosure (10) of an automated storage system (1), the module (100) comprising:

- a first end element (110 A);

- a second end element (110B) disposed at a distance from the first end element (110A), and

- a shell (150), which connects the first end element (110A) and the second end element (110B) along a first dimension (X) and defines an inner volume, wherein the shell (150) comprises a sandwich structure built onto and between the first end element (110A) and the second end element (110B), characterized in that:

- the shell (150) is formed solely or at least in part by a plurality of wall components (121, 122) each comprising said sandwich structure,

- the components are successively attached to each other to form a closed perimeter matching that of the end element (110),

- each of the plurality of the wall components (121, 122) extend between respective wall strips (111) of the end element (110), and in that

- each of the plurality of the wall components (121, 122) comprise at least one longitudinal frame member (126) which extends between respective wall strips (111) of the end element (110) for forming a frame as a welding jig for a core (125) and wall panels (124) of the shell (150).

2. The module (100) according to claim 1, wherein the sandwich structure comprises:

- a first wall plate (124A);

- a second wall plate (124B) disposed at a distance from the first wall plate (124 A) in a second dimension (Y), which is orthogonal to the first dimension (X), and

- a core (125) being fixed between the first wall plate (124A) and the second wall plate (124B).

3. The module (100) according to claim 2, wherein the core (125) is welded to and between the first wall plate (124 A) and the second wall plate (124B).

4. The module (100) according to claim 2 or 3, wherein the core (125) comprises a plurality of profiles extending in the first dimension (X).

5. The module (100) according to claim 2, 3, or 4, wherein the core (125) comprises a meandering cross-sectional shape in respect to the first dimension (X). 6. The module (100) according to any one of the preceding claims 2 to 5, wherein the profiles of the core (125) comprise:

- mutually opposing butt sections aligned with and welded to the respective opposing wall plates (124) of the shell (150) and

- web sections connecting the butt sections across the second dimension (Y). 7. The module (100) according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein the first end element (110A) and the second end element (11 OB) both define a closed perimeter.

8. The module (100) according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein the module (100) comprises an alignment mechanism, wherein: - the alignment mechanism comprises a male counterpart provided to the first end element (110 A);

- the alignment mechanism comprises a female counterpart provided to the second end element (110B), and wherein

- the male counterpart of the alignment mechanism of one module (100A) is configured to engage a female counterpart of the alignment mechanism of another such module (100B) during assembly for aligning the superposed modules into alignment along the first dimension (X).

9. The module (100) according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein the end element (110) is formed solely or at least by a plurality of strips (111, 112) successively attached to each other to form a closed perimeter.

10. The module (100) according to claim 9, wherein the plurality of strips (111, 112) comprise a plurality of wall strips (111) and a plurality of comer strips (112) assembled in alternating fashion to form the closed perimeter.

11. The module (100) according to claim 9 or 10, wherein: - the end element (110) comprises an attachment mechanism, which comprises: o a first counterpart shape (113) provided at each end of each wall strip (111) and o a second counterpart (114) shape provided at each end of each comer strip (112), and wherein

- the counterpart shapes are formed as mutually engaging form- fitting shapes.

12. The module (100) according to claim 9, 10, or 11, wherein the strips (111, 112) comprise fill holes for introducing into the sandwich structure.

13. The module (100) according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein:

- the shell (150) is formed further by a plurality of comer components (123), and wherein

- the components (121, 122, 123) are successively attached to each other to form a closed perimeter matching that of the end element (110).

14. The module (100) according to claim 13, wherein:

- each of the plurality of the comer components (123) of the shell (150) extend between respective wall strips (111) of the end element (110) and wherein

- each of the plurality of the comer components (123) of the shell (150) extend between respective comer strips (112) of the end element (110).

15. The module (100) according to claim 13 or 14, wherein each of the comer components (123) comprise at least one longitudinal frame member (126) which extends between respective wall strips (111) of the end element (110) for forming a frame as a welding jig for the core (125) and wall panels (124).

16. The module (100) according to any one of the preceding claims 13 to 15, wherein each of the comer components (123) comprise:

- two longitudinal frame members (126), which: o extend between respective comer strips (112) of the end element (110); o extend at a non-straight angle in respect to each other, and which o are provided to respective lateral ends of adjacent wall components (121, 122); - a first comer plate (128A) extending between the two comer strips (112) on an inside of the comer component (123), and

- a second comer plate (128B) extending between the two comer strips (112) on an outside of the comer component (123).

17. The module (100) according to any one of the preceding claims 13 to 16, wherein the mutually engaging ends of the wall components (121, 122) and the comer components (123) comprise positively locking shapes that provide for a nesting fit between the wall components (121, 122) and the comer components (123).

18. The module (100) according to any one of the preceding claims 13 to 17, wherein the comer components (123) comprise cross-sectional shape with a relieved section (129), such as a chamfer, on the outside.

19. A method of producing a module for constructing at least a part of an enclosure of an automated storage system, the method comprising:

- fabricating a plurality of wall components (121, 122) by: o providing a first wall strip (111) and a second wall strip (111), wherein the wall strips (111) extend along a first dimension (X) and are at a distance from one another along a second dimension (Y); o providing at least one longitudinal frame member (126) between the wall strips (111); o forming a welding jig by attaching the at least one longitudinal frame member (126) to the wall strips (111); o providing a first wall plate (124 A) between the two wall strips (111) on one side of the welding jig along a third dimension (Z); o providing a plurality of profiles onto the first wall plate (124A) for forming a core (125) of a sandwich stmcture; o providing a second wall plate (124B) onto the plurality of profiles and between the two wall strips (111) for closing the sandwich stmcture on a second side of the welding jig along the third dimension (Z), and o welding the first wall plate (124), the core (125), and the second wall plate (124B) together, and

- assembling the plurality of wall components (121, 122) into a module which defines a closed perimeter.

20. The method according to claim 19, wherein the method comprises:

- fabricating a plurality of comer components (123) by: o providing a first comer strip (112) and a second comer strip (112), wherein the comer strips (112) are at a distance from one another along the second dimension (Y); o providing at least one longitudinal frame member (126) between the comer strips (112); o forming a welding jig by attaching the at least one longitudinal frame member (126) to the comer strips (112); o providing a first comer plate (128 A) between the two comer strips (112) on an inside of the comer component (123); o providing a second comer plate (128B) between the two comer strips (112) on an outside of the comer component (123) for closing the sandwich stmcture, and o welding the first comer plate (128A), the core (125), and the second comer plate (128B) together

- assembling the plurality of wall components (121, 122) and comer elements (123) into a module which defines a closed perimeter.

21. The method according to claim 20, wherein in fabricating the plurality of comer components (123):

- providing at least one profile between the first comer plate (128 A) and second comer plate (128B) for a core (125) of a sandwich stmcture and

- welding the first comer plate (128A), the core (125), and the second comer plate (128B) together.

22. The method according to any one of the preceding claims 19 to 21, wherein the method comprises filling the sandwich stmcture with a fire-retardant substance through holes (115) provided to the strips (111, 112).

23. An enclosure (10) for an automated storage system (1), characterized by a plurality of modules (100) according to any one of the preceding claims 1 to 18 mutually superposed in the first dimension (X) and successively attached to each other into a tower assembly.

24. The enclosure (10) according to claim 23, wherein:

- the plurality of modules (100) are that as defined by claim 18 and wherein

- the modules (100) are fixed to each other with affixers rigidly connecting the respective relieved sections (129) of the stacked modules (100). 25. A method of producing an enclosure for an automated storage system (1), the method comprising:

- providing a first module (100A) according to any one of the preceding claims 1 to 18;

- providing a second module (100B) according to any one of the preceding claims 1 to 18;

- stacking the second module (100B) on top of the first module (100A), and

- attaching the second module (100B) to the first module (100 A) into a tower assembly.

26. An automated storage system (1), characterized by an enclosure according to claims 23 or 24.

27. The automated storage system (1) according to claim 26, wherein the automated storage system (1) is configured to receive, store, and dispense items upon request through an interface (30).

Description:
AN AUTOMATED STORAGE SYSTEM AS WELL AS COMPONENTS AND METHODS OF PRODUCING THE SAME

FIELD

[0001] The present disclosure relates to devices for receiving, storing, and dispensing items as well as to methods for producing such devices or components thereof In particular, the present disclosure relates to automated systems for storing articles, individually or in orderly arrangement, in warehouses or magazines.

BACKGROUND

[0002] With commerce moving ever more deeply and broadly online, the parcelled delivery of goods to the consumer has become the subject of great development. Typically, the item purchased online is delivered to the residence or place of employment of the consumer according to the order details. There are, however, problems associated with timing the receipt and delivery of the purchased item between the courier and the consumer. It is very common that the consumer is not available for receipt upon feasible delivery time or vice versa. The same problem is prevalent also in inter-consumer transactions. Several solutions have therefore been developed for storing the items in decentralized automated magazines that the items are delivered to and where item may be retrieved by the recipient at a convenient point in time. Such automated magazines are commonly provided with sophisticated user interfaces and backend systems that ensure that the person retrieving the parcel is duly notified of the availability of the parcel and that the person is entitled to access the parcel.

[0003] Known storage systems typically feature rather conventional enclosure structures for storing the parcels and the equipment for handling the parcels. Enclosures designed for outside use are typically made of stainless steel or an alloy comprising aluminium with a protective layer of some sort to shield the enclosure against the elements. While some enclosures are designed to be assembled on site upon installation, conventional enclosures must be transported as a single piece. To avoid special transportation arrangements it would be beneficial to further improve the enclosure of automated storage systems to be more suitable for in situ assembly. Alternatively or additionally, it would be ideal to provide for a construction which not only enables assembly during installation to the site but also one that is feasible to produce using conventional manufacturing techniques.

SUMMARY

[0004] The invention is defined by the features of the independent claims. Some specific embodiments are defined in the dependent claims.

[0005] According to a first aspect of the present disclosure, there is provided a module for constructing at least a part of an enclosure of an automated storage system. The module has a first end element, a second end element disposed at a distance from the first end element, and a shell which connects the first end element and the second end element along a first dimension and defines an inner volume. The shell comprises a sandwich structure built onto and between the first end element and the second end element. The shell is formed solely or at least in part by a plurality of wall components each comprising said sandwich structure. The components are successively attached to each other to form a closed perimeter matching that of the end element. Each of the plurality of the wall components extend between respective wall strips of the end element. Each of the plurality of the wall components has at least one longitudinal frame member which extends between respective wall strips of the end element for forming a frame as a welding jig for a core and wall panels of the shell.

[0006] According to a second aspect of the present disclosure, there is provided a method of producing a module for constructing at least a part of an enclosure of an automated storage system. In the method a plurality of wall components is fabricated by providing a first wall strip and a second wall strip, wherein the wall strips extend along a first dimension and are at a distance from one another along a second dimension, providing at least one longitudinal frame member between the wall strips, forming a welding jig by attaching the at least one longitudinal frame member to the wall strips, providing a first wall plate between the two wall strips on one side of the welding jig along a third dimension, providing a plurality of profiles onto the first wall plate for forming a core of a sandwich structure, providing a second wall plate onto the plurality of profiles and between the two wall strips for closing the sandwich structure on a second side of the welding jig along the third dimension, and welding the first wall plate, the core, and the second wall plate together. In the method the plurality of wall components are assembled into a module which defines a closed perimeter.

[0007] According to a third aspect of the present disclosure, there is provided an enclosure for an automated storage system with a plurality of modules as described above being mutually superposed in the first dimension and successively attached to each other into a tower assembly.

[0008] According to a fourth aspect of the present disclosure, there is provided a method of producing an enclosure for an automated storage system, in which method a first module as described above is provided, a second module as described above is provided, the second module is stacked on top of the first module, and the second module is attached to the first module into a tower assembly.

[0009] According to a fifth aspect of the present disclosure, there is provided an automated storage system with an enclosure as described above.

[0010] Various embodiments of the first, second, third, fourth, or fifth aspect may comprise one or more features from the following itemized list:

- the sandwich structure comprises a first wall plate, a second wall plate disposed at a distance from the first wall plate in a second dimension, which is orthogonal to the first dimension, and a core being fixed between the first wall plate and the second wall plate;

- the core is welded to and between the first wall plate and the second wall plate;

- the core comprises a plurality of profiles extending in the first dimension;

- the core comprises a meandering cross-sectional shape in respect to the first dimension;

- the profiles of the core comprise mutually opposing butt sections aligned with and welded to the respective opposing wall plates of the shell and web sections connecting the butt sections across the second dimension;

- the first end element and the second end element both define a closed perimeter;

- the module comprises an alignment mechanism, wherein the alignment mechanism comprises a male counterpart provided to the first end element and a female counterpart provided to the second end element, wherein the male counterpart of the alignment mechanism of one module is configured to engage a female counterpart of the alignment mechanism of another such module during assembly for aligning the superposed modules into alignment along the first dimension;

- the end element is formed solely or at least by a plurality of strips successively attached to each other to form a closed perimeter;

- the plurality of strips comprise a plurality of wall strips and a plurality of comer strips assembled in alternating fashion to form the closed perimeter;

- the end element comprises an attachment mechanism, which comprises a first counterpart shape provided at each end of each wall strip and a second counterpart shape provided at each end of each comer strip, wherein the counterpart shapes are formed as mutually engaging form- fitting shapes;

- the strips comprise fill holes for introducing into the sandwich stmcture;

- the shell is formed solely or at least by a plurality of wall components each comprising said sandwich stmcture and by a plurality of comer components;

- the components are successively attached to each other to form a closed perimeter matching that of the end element;

- each of the plurality of the wall components of the shell extend between respective wall strips of the end element;

- each of the plurality of the comer components of the shell extend between respective comer strips of the end element;

- each of the comer components comprise at least one longitudinal frame member which extends between respective wall strips of the end element for forming a frame as a welding jig for the core and wall panels;

- each of the comer components comprise two longitudinal frame members, which extend between respective comer strips of the end element, extend at a non-straight angle in respect to each other, and which are provided to respective lateral ends of adjacent wall components;

- each of the comer components comprise a first comer plate extending between the two comer strips on an inside of the comer component;

- each of the comer components comprise a second comer plate extending between the two comer strips on an outside of the comer component;

- the mutually engaging ends of the wall components and the comer components comprise positively locking shapes that provide for a nesting fit between the wall components and the comer components; - the comer components comprise cross-sectional shape with a relieved section, such as a chamfer, on the outside;

- in fabricating the plurality of comer components at least one profile is provided between the first comer plate and second comer plate for a core of a sandwich structure,

- in fabricating the plurality of comer components the first comer plate, the core, and the second comer plate are welded together.

[0011] Considerable benefits are gained with aid of the novel construction of the module. By using end elements at opposing ends of a sandwich structure, the end elements may be used as aiding in the welding of the elements together. That way a strong enclosure may be assembled from prefabricated modules that have the dimensional accuracy required for the assembly. Such dimensional accuracy is particularly beneficial in applications in which the system features elements, such as robotic components, inside the enclosure that extend from one module to another. An example of such elements include running guides for a manipulator that are assembled from several sections attached to the inner surface of respective modules making up the enclosure.

[0012] Further benefits are gained with particular embodiments which are described in greater detail here after.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS [0013] In the following certain exemplary embodiments are described with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIGURE 1 illustrates a perspective view of an automated storage system in accordance with at least some embodiments;

FIGURE 2 illustrates a perspective view of the enclosure of the automated storage system of FIGURE 1;

FIGURE 3 illustrates a perspective view of a module of the enclosure of FIGURE 2;

FIGURE 4 illustrates an explosion view of the module of FIGURE 3;

FIGURE 5 a illustrates a partially sectioned side elevation view of a wall component of the module of FIGURE 4 in isolation; FIGURE 5b illustrates a cross-sectional view of the wall component of FIGURE 5a across line A-A;

FIGURE 6 illustrates a cross-sectional view of the wall component of FIGURE 4, and FIGURE 7 illustrates a top elevation view of the module of FIGURE 3. EMBODIMENTS

[0014] In the present context, the various pieces of an exemplary automated storage system are discussed with reference to three Cartesian dimension, namely a first Cartesian dimension X, a second Cartesian dimension Y, and a third Cartesian dimension Z. In layman terms, the first dimension X may be understood as the width of a given piece, i.e. the extension of the piece between lateral sides. The second dimension Y may be understood as the height of the piece. The third dimension Z may be understood as the depth of the piece. These expressions are used interchangeably throughout this specification.

[0015] FIGURE 1 illustrates an automated storage system 1 in accordance with at least some embodiments of the present invention. The storage system 1 is a stand-alone apparatus that is constructed to receive and dispense parcels based on inputs from a user through a user interface 30 and to store the parcels inside an enclosure 10. The user interface 30 includes a selectively openable opening for the deposit and retrieval of items and a human-machine-interface, such as a touch-pad, or a machine-machine-interface, such as a data channel, e.g. NFC, Bluetooth, etc., for communication with a terminal device of the user. The enclosure 10 is generally prismatic and clad with a fafade 20. The fagadc 20 may take the form a layer of protective substance, such as paint or a rubber-based sealant, or constructional elements, such as panels. In the example of FIGURE 1 the fafade 20 includes a host of profiles attached to the enclosure 10. The profiles have an undulating outer surface for improved strength. The profiles are preferably made from a weather- resistant material such as aluminium or an alloy including aluminium, particularly anodized aluminium. The automated storage system 1 may also host other componentry, such as displays 40, antennas (not illustrated in the drawings), public service announcement equipment (not illustrated in the drawings), etc. [0016] FIGURE 2 illustrates the enclosure 10 without the fafade 20. FIGURE 2 reveals that the enclosure 10 includes two modules, namely a first module 100 A and a second module 100B, assembled in a stacked configuration. The tower assembly stands between two end plates 11. The first module 100A on the bottom has an opening extending through the module for facilitating the user interface 30. The second module 200A on the top has openings extending only partly into the module for facilitating the displays 40. As shown in FIGURE 2, the enclosure 10 has a generally quadrilateral cross-sectional shape with relieved comers, particularly chamfered comers. The relieved comers serve the purpose of attaching the modules 100A, 100B to each other. The modules 100A, 100B may be connected with a bracket which extends across the seam between the modules 100A, 100B and which bolts onto the outer surface of the modules 100A, 100B. As shown in FIGURE 1, the fafade 20 covering the relieved comers of the enclosure 10 are rounded, whereby a space is created between the relieved comers of the enclosure 10 and the overlying fagadc 20 for receiving various auxiliary components, such as cables.

[0017] Although not shown in the FIGURES, the enclosure 10 may include more than two modules in the superposed configuration, i.e. in the tower assembly. One or more than one of the modules may be entirely blind with no openings extending partly into or entirely through the wall of the module. Similarly not visible from the FIGURES showing an exemplary embodiment, a variant is also foreseen with enclosures being chained together laterally to form a larger system from several stacked tower assemblies.

[0018] Turning now to FIGURE 3 which shows a module 100 in isolation. When assembled from various components, the module 100 may be seen as including three major elements, namely from a first end element 110A, a second end element 110B, and a shell 150. The shell 150 extends between the end elements 110A, 110B thus forming an inner volume of the module 100 for housing the necessary equipment, such as storage holding units, manipulators, etc. The end elements 110A, 110B define a closed perimeter which, in the illustration of FIGURE 3, takes a chamfered quadrangular shape. Naturally, also other shapes are foreseeable, such as hexagonal, octagonal, circular, oval, racetrack-shaped, etc., with straight or curved sides and/or with relieved or sharp comers and all possible combinations of the above. As will later transpire, the end elements 110A, 110B may form the perimeter as a single piece or they may be formed by an assembly of components, namely strips that are part of larger sub-assemblies. [0019] FIGURE 4 shows an illustration of such sub-assemblies, namely wall components 121, 122 and comer components 123. The three major elements of the module 100 are made up by pieces assembled into the sub-assemblies 121, 122, 133 that, when assembled, form the end elements 110 and shell 150. Let us first turn to the sub-assemblies that form the sides of the module 100. The wall components include two blind wall components 121 with no openings that oppose one another. The wall components also include two access wall components 122 that include openings for accessing the module from the outside. These openings may be utilized for receiving the user interface 30 or for providing a service hatch (not illustrated in the FIGURES).

[0020] The wall components 121, 122 include the same basic structure that is illustrated in greater detail in FIGURES 5A and 5B. The wall components 121, 122 include strips 111 at opposing ends, namely top and bottom end, of the wall component 121, 122 that form part of the perimeter of the respective end element 110. The strips 111 may be sheets cut out form a larger piece of metal or comparable material or cast or made otherwise using an additive manufacturing technique. The strips 111 are generally elongated pieces that define the vertical ends of the wall elements of the module. In addition, the strips 111 form part of a jig used to weld the wall component 121, 122 together. The wall element 121, 122 also includes one or more longitudinal frame members 126. In the illustrated example the wall element 121, 122 include two longitudinal frame members 126 disposed at opposing lateral ends of the wall element 121, 122. The longitudinal frame members 126 have an elongated shape that defines the height of the wall components 126. In the illustrated example the longitudinal frame members 126 take the form of a profile with a quadrilateral cross-sectional shape. The strips 111 preferably include openings for receiving respective ends of the longitudinal frame members 126. Even more preferably, the longitudinal frame members 126 include a slight reduction in cross-section at the end which is inserted into the similarly shaped opening in the strips 111. That way the insertion depth is set by the shoulder between the full and reduced cross- section in the profile of the longitudinal frame member 126. When the strips 111 and the longitudinal frame members 126 are assembled into a frame, the frame forms a welding jig for receiving and positioning the rest of the pieces making up the wall component 121, 122. The built-in welding jig is particularly useful for pursuing strict dimensional accuracy.

[0021] FIGURES 5A and 5B also show sandwich structure of a sub-assembly of the module, namely that of a wall component 121. The sandwich structure is made up by two wall plates, namely an inner wall plate 124A and an outer wall plate 124B, and a core 125 there between. The wall plates 124 may be conventional steel plates or plates made of a comparable material. The wall plates 124 populate the span length between the strips 111. The width of the strips 111 and that of the longitudinal frame members 126 are preferably designed such that there is a recess between the outer edge of the strip 111 and the outer surface of the longitudinal frame member 126 matching the thickness of the wall plate 124. Accordingly the wall plate 124 is preferably embedded into the recess for flush installation with respect to the strips 111.

[0022] To promote positive engagement of the wall components 121, 122 and comer components 123, the wall plates 124 preferably extend laterally beyond the longitudinal frame members 126 and/or the strips 111 as shown in FIGURE 5B. Such a lateral end shape of the wall component 121, 122 forms a receptive female counterpart in the interface between the components of the module 100. The respective lateral end of the comer component 123 is shaped as a corresponding male counterpart, which will be discussed in greater detail here after in connection with the comer component 123.

[0023] To facilitate introduction of a fire retardant substance into the inner volume of the sandwich stmcture, the strips 111 or at least one strip is/are preferably provided with holes 115. Examples of suitable fire retardant substances include but are not limited to polyurethane, preferably in foam form, sand, rock wool, glass wool, etc.

[0024] The lateral ends of the inter-engaging strips 111 of the end element 110 are preferably provided with counterpart shapes for attaching the strips successively to each other. For this purpose the strips 111 of the wall components 121, 122 feature a first such counterpart shape 113. According to the illustrated embodiment the first counterpart shape 113 of the attachment mechanism assumes a positively fitting female shape. The second counterpart shape of the attachment mechanism is introduced here after in connection with the comer component 123.

[0025] The core 125, on the other hand, is formed by a plurality of profiles extending in parallel to each other between the longitudinal frame members 126 and between the wall plates 124A, 124B. In the example of FIGURES 5A and 5B there are five such profiles provided in mutually parallel fashion. The sides of the outermost profiles are butted against the longitudinal frame members 126 that position the profiles laterally into place. On the other hand, the top and bottom ends of the profiles are butted against the strips 111 that position the profiles vertically into place. In other words, the strips 111 and the longitudinal frame members 126 act as a jig. The depth of the longitudinal frame members 126 and that of the profiles preferably match each other. The profile may take many foreseeable shapes. In the exemplary embodiment of the FIGURES the profile exhibits a cross-section shape with two mutually opposing butt sections which are welded to the first wall plate 124 A, an intermediate butt section welded to the second wall plate 124B, and diagonally extending web sections connecting the butt sections across the depth of the wall component 121. The profiles in other words exhibit a generally M shaped cross- section. The butt sections may be spot welded to the wall plates 124, as illustrated, or they may be attached through an alternative joint.

[0026] As shown in FIGURE 4, the wall component 121 may be constructed as a blind wall, i.e. with no openings, or as an access wall component 122, i.e. with one or more openings. The openings may be constructed by providing the inside of the sandwich structure of the wall component with transversal frame members 127 that extend between the longitudinal frame members 126. The transversal frame members 127 may take a similar profile form to the longitudinal frame members 126. The transversal frame members 127 may be attached to the longitudinal frame members 126 by welding, brackets, or any suitable attachment method. The transversal frame members 127 may serve the purpose of providing for a sealed periphery around an opening or for supporting auxiliary componentry, such as cabinets for power units, controllers, etc., or hinges, stoppers, or other fixtures for doors, hatches, etc. as shown in FIGURE 4. Should the vertical extension of the access wall component 122 be disturbed by the transversal frame member 127, the core 125 of the sandwich structure may be divided into a bottom and top part by providing a shorter profile section below and above the opening. Accordingly, the transversal frame member 127 may form part of the welding jig by positioning the profiles into place.

[0027] The construction of the comer component 123 resembles that of the wall component 126 in that it features a sandwich structure extending across two strips 112. FIGURE 6 shows the cross-section of the comer component 123. The strip 112 corresponds to that of the wall component 121 with the difference that the strip 112 exhibits a 90 degree angle with a sharp inner comer and a relieved outer comer. In the example of FIGURE 6 the relief is a chamfer but naturally other shapes are foreseeable, such as rounded, staggered, etc. The strip 112 also includes holes for the introduction of a fire retardant substance. To facilitate connection to adjacent strips 111 in the end element 110 assembly, the strip 112 features a male counterpart shape 114 matching the corresponding female counterpart shape 113 found on the strip 111 of the wall component 121, 122. The orientation of the counterpart shapes may also be reversed.

[0028] FIGURE 7 shows the closed perimeter formed by the strips 111, 112 through the interface 113/114 there between. As can be seen, the perimeter is formed by alternating wall strips 111 and comer strips 112.

[0029] Similarly to the wall component 121, 122, the shell 150 of the comer component 123 features plates, namely a first comer plate 128A on the inside and a second comer plate 128B on the outside, and a core 125 there between to form a sandwich structure. The core 125 features one or more profiles to strengthen the shell 150. In the illustrated example the core 125 features two profiles. Both profiles exhibit two butt sections spot welded to opposing comer plates and a web section connecting the butt sections. The profiles in other words exhibit a generally Z shaped cross-section. The first comer plate 128 A and the second comer plate 128B exhibit a sharp inner comer and a relieved outer comer, respectively, to match the shape of the strip 112. It is preferred that the comer plates 128 A, 128B terminate laterally to the longitudinal frame members 126, for example, at the approximate middle section of the longitudinal frame member 126, whereby the lateral end of the comer section 123 may be inserted to the receptive female counterpart on the lateral side of the wall component 121, 122 in the interface between the components of the module 100.

[0030] The orientation of the counterpart shapes in the interface may alternatively be reversed by extending the comer plates past the longitudinal frame members and by respectively retreating the wall plates of the wall components, wherein the comer component forms the female counterpart and the wall component forms the male counterpart (not illustrated in the FIGURES).

[0031] The construction of the module 100 may include an alignment mechanism (not visible in the drawings) for aligning two modules to each other. The alignment mechanism may include a male counterpart arranged to the top end of the module and a respective female counterpart provided to the bottom end of the module. The orientation of the counterparts may be reversed. The counterparts of the alignment mechanism may engage each other during stacking. The engagement surfaces of the alignment mechanism are preferably slanted to promote self-guiding of the modules into alignment.

[0032] The construction of the components, modules, and enclosure herein described is designed to facilitate industrial scale manufacturing with tight dimensional accuracy standards required to assemble the enclosure on site. It is particularly beneficial to provide for a module that maintains its shape and size for the sake of installing manipulators inside the enclosure with tracks extending across seams between modules. As the tracks need to be carefully aligned, the modules are required to match each other as precisely as possible. Accordingly, the construction of the modules facilitates accurate manufacturing of the modules and convenient assembly of the enclosure.

[0033] The description of the manufacturing method is divided into three parts; the manufacturing of the components of the modules, the manufacturing of the modules from the components, and the manufacturing of the enclosure from the modules.

[0034] The manufacturing of the components of the modules begins with the fabrication of a welding jig. Strips 111, 112 and longitudinal frame members 126 and possible transversal frame members 127 are provided for the wall components 121, 122 and for the comer components 123. The strips 111, 112 and frame members 126, 127 may be cut from a sheet or profile of metal, respectively. A welding jig is formed by attaching the frame members 126 to the strips 111, 112. The strips 111, 112 preferably include receptive openings for this purpose. The pieces of the welding jig may themselves be welded together or joined in other ways, e.g. by using adhesives, affixers, or through thermal shrink fits.

[0035] With the welding jig complete, the first wall plate 124A or first comer plate 128 A is brought to the jig between the strips 111, 112 and onto the longitudinal frame members 126. The wall or comer plates 124A, 128A may be welded to the jig at this stage by spot welding, for example. Next, the core 125 is installed by positioning the profiles between the opposing longitudinal frame members 126 and strips 111, 112. Finally, the second plate 124B or second comer plate 128B is brought to the jig between the strips 111, 112 and onto the longitudinal frame members 126 for closing the sandwich structure. The wall or comer plates 124A, 128 A may be welded to the jig and core 125 by spot welding, for example. [0036] In manufacturing an access wall component 122, the above method is supplemented with the introduction and attachment of transversal frame members 127 into the welding jig in the jig assembly stage.

[0037] With the components 121, 122, 123, i.e. sub-assemblies, of the modules 100 complete, the modules 100 are assembled by mating the respective lateral ends of the wall components 121, 122 and comer components 123 to establish a closed perimeter shown in FIGURE 7. Depending on the layer being made, one or several of the wall components may be an access wall component 122. The fit between the components 121, 122, 123 is preferably facilitated by the cooperating shapes 113, 114 on the strips 111, 112 and by the cooperating shapes of the lateral ends of the wall components 121, 122 and the comer components 123. The fit between the components 121, 122, 123 is further facilitated by the dimensional accuracy provided by the built-in welding jig. With the module 100 assembled, the components are attached to each other by welding, e.g. by spot welding, the lateral extensions of the wall plates 124A, 124B to the respective longitudinal frame members 126 on the comer components 123.

[0038] Leading up to installation on site, the fit between cooperating modules is preferably ensured by stacking the modules into a tower assembly and then fixing the modules to each other by drilling aligned holes on both sides of a seam between the respective relieved sections 129 of the superposed modules 100 and attaching a bracket across the seams through the use of the holes. Such a test fitting will ensure that the modules will match each other during actual installation.

[0039] After disassembly of the modules, the modules may be fitted with auxiliary componentry, such as the interface, support structures for containers, manipulator equipment, power units, control circuitry, etc. The modules are preferably provided with a fire retardant substance through the holes on the strips 111, 112. The partially or completely pre-equipped modules are transported to the site and re-assembled into a tower assembly by stacking the modules onto each other and by attaching them to one another through the use of brackets connecting the respective relieved sections 129 of the superposed modules 100. With the enclosure 100 assembled, the automated storage system 1 is completed by connecting the operative components of the system to each other, by cladding the enclosure 10 with the fafade 20, and by connecting the system to the available infrastructure through electricity, data, and other connections. [0040] Above a construction and manufacturing process is described for end elements 110 A, 110B that are made up by successively attached strips 111, 112 belonging to similarly assembled wall and comer components 121, 122, 123. As mentioned, the end elements 110A, 110B may alternatively be constructed from a single piece. According to an alternative embodiment, therefore, the manufacturing process involves cutting two such end elements from a sheet metal and constructing the shell between the peripheral end elements. The process is somewhat the same compared to the strip assembly approach. Longitudinal frame elements are provided between the end elements to form a peripheral welding jig. Wall and comer plates as well as a core are installed to the welding jig and welded into an assembly.

[0041] It is to be understood that the embodiments of the invention disclosed are not limited to the particular stmctures, process steps, or materials disclosed herein, but are extended to equivalents thereof as would be recognized by those ordinarily skilled in the relevant arts. It should also be understood that terminology employed herein is used for the purpose of describing particular embodiments only and is not intended to be limiting.

[0042] Reference throughout this specification to “one embodiment” or “an embodiment” means that a particular feature, stmcture, or characteristic described in connection with the embodiment is included in at least one embodiment of the present invention. Thus, appearances of the phrases “in one embodiment” or “in an embodiment” in various places throughout this specification are not necessarily all referring to the same embodiment.

[0043] As used herein, a plurality of items, structural elements, compositional elements, and/or materials may be presented in a common list for convenience. However, these lists should be construed as though each member of the list is individually identified as a separate and unique member. Thus, no individual member of such list should be construed as a de facto equivalent of any other member of the same list solely based on their presentation in a common group without indications to the contrary. In addition, various embodiments and example of the present invention may be referred to herein along with alternatives for the various components thereof. It is understood that such embodiments, examples, and alternatives are not to be construed as de facto equivalents of one another, but are to be considered as separate and autonomous representations of the present invention. [0044] Furthermore, the described features, structures, or characteristics may be combined in any suitable manner in one or more embodiments. In the following description, numerous specific details are provided, such as examples of lengths, widths, shapes, etc., to provide a thorough understanding of embodiments of the invention. One skilled in the relevant art will recognize, however, that the invention can be practiced without one or more of the specific details, or with other methods, components, materials, etc. In other instances, well-known structures, materials, or operations are not shown or described in detail to avoid obscuring aspects of the invention.

[0045] While the forgoing examples are illustrative of the principles of the present invention in one or more particular applications, it will be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art that numerous modifications in form, usage and details of implementation can be made without the exercise of inventive faculty, and without departing from the principles and concepts of the invention. Accordingly, it is not intended that the invention be limited, except as by the claims set forth below. [0046] The verbs “to comprise” and “to include” are used in this document as open limitations that neither exclude nor require the existence of also un-recited features. The features recited in depending claims are mutually freely combinable unless otherwise explicitly stated. Furthermore, it is to be understood that the use of "a" or "an", i.e. a singular form, throughout this document does not exclude a plurality.

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