ProMat and Automate Day 2 News, Notes, and Forklifts

CHICAGO – Wow, there are a lot of robots here at the ProMat 2019 and Automate 2019 shows. Of course, there are lots of other things, like conveyor systems, pallets, racks, and forklifts (or, as those in the industry like to say, lift trucks). Continuing our coverage of the shows, here are some additional product announcements from companies that I met with.
Humatics, Vecna team up to improve navigation
Microlocation provider Humatics announced a partnership with Vecna Robotics at the show. The agreement will integrate Humatics’ KinetIQ 300 microlocation system into Vecna’s fleet of self-driving vehicles, allowing them to navigate outdoor environments and access areas of a warehouse that previously was difficult, such as loading docks.

Examples of how the microlocation platform will help self-driving vehicles in the warehouse space include:

Navigation down to the centimeter in unstructured and dynamic environments. For example, a worker using a pallet jack to move boxes in and out of a loading dock can slow robots only equipped with lidar or fiducial stickers for navigation, Humatics said. The KinetIQ 300 system can recognize these changes without confusion, with 2-cm repeatability from up to 500 meters away.
Operation indoors and outdoors and in all weather conditions. This will allow Vecna vehicles to move pallets from an outdoor loading dock to an indoor warehouse storage area, or move goods between different buildings.
Increased operational efficiency in facilities that have more than 20 automated vehicles.

“Navigation for autonomous mobile robots in the warehouse has hit limitations that can only be remedied with more precise microlocation,” said David Mindell, CEO and co-founder of Humatics. “Humatics created the KinetIQ 300 to give mobile robots of all shapes and sizes a reliable way to move freely between indoor and outdoor warehouse environments, dynamically adapting to people and things in constantly shifting spaces.”

Dan Patt, CEO of Vecna Robotics, said their vehicles already have high confidence in self-driving, but the company is always looking to innovate and improve those features. “To facilitate this, we seek to collaborate with industry experts, such as Humatics,” he said. “As we continue to grow, we look forward to working with them to ensure our self-driving vehicles work in all environments, including indoor/outdoor spaces.”
New mobile robot features from Locus
Locus Robotics announced its Spring 2019 software and hardware updates for its autonomous mobile robots at the show. New features include omnichannel support, the ability for associates to handle putaway (replenishment) duties simultaneously with picking functions, multi-order and multi-tote picking, and an accessory power port for the robot that lets users place peripherals such as a label printer onto the LocusBot.

Rick Faulk, CEO of Locus Robotics

“We’re especially excited to introduce the industry’s first, full omnichannel support that seamlessly handles all aspects of fulfillment for retail, wholesale, and e-commerce channels,” said Rick Faulk, CEO of Locus Robotics. “Together, these new features enable us to deliver even greater levels of optimization and productivity gains to our customers and continue our goal of consistently delivering results and innovation across the entire spectrum of order fulfillment.”

The omnichannel support gives companies the ability for efficient picking of complex retail shipments, while simultaneously picking orders for retail store replenishment, wholesale, and e-commerce orders on a single robot.

Other updates in the spring software release include bulk item picking, which lets associates pick larger quantities of goods for later sorting at a sortation station, real-time traffic flow management to improve picking velocity and productivity, and custom robot branding options for the robots.

In addition, the company has added gamification features to its software, allowing customers to create “fun and engaging internal competitions to motivate and reward warehouse workers for achieving high order fulfillment levels” as a way to improve the working experience for employees. The company said this feature can be valuable for companies that integrate pay-for-performance programs to help incentivize warehouse workers.
Yale shows off robotic reach lift truck
Labor shortages for forklift drivers have many warehouses looking for resources to handle storage and retrieval tasks, including robotics automation. Yale Materials Handling showed off its new Yale robotic reach truck, a dual-mode pantograph robotic lift truck that can autonomously deposit and retrieve loads from locations as high as 30 feet, and reach into double-deep storage areas.

The new Yale Materials Handling robotic reach truck.

The company said the high-lifting capability of the reach truck makes it ideal for distribution centers facing a shrinking labor pool and pressure to maximize vertical storage space due to pressures from e-commerce demand.

Through a partnership with JBT, the robotic reach truck uses a combination of sensors and 3D cameras to achieve its precision and effectiveness at higher-level storage locations, “capable of exceeding the productivity of operator-driven trucks,” Yale said.

“The robotic reach truck’s ability to go as high as 30 feet opens up a wide range of new tasks for automation, enabling operations to maximize utilization of robotic solutions and achieve return on investment faster than ever,” said Mick McCormick, vice president of robotics and automation at Yale Materials Handling.

The robotic reach truck is the first model to commercialize through Yale’s collaboration with JBT, and is now available in North America. The dual-mode feature allows human drivers to take over tasks and operate the reach truck as a regular truck lift. Other robotic lift trucks from Yale include a robotic tow tractor, end rider, and counterbalanced stacker models.
More to come!
Keep checking back on Robotics Business Review for more ProMat and Automate updates, analysis, videos, and more. For additional multimedia updates, be sure to watch our Twitter feed.

Additional ProMat / Automate coverage:

News and Notes from Day 1 at ProMat/Automate 2019
MiR Launches MiR1000 for Autonomous Transport of up to 1 Ton Loads
Robotiq Unveils New Vacuum Grippers, Sanding Kit
Epson Robots Launches New Robots, Intelligent Feeding System
IAM Robotics Redesigns, Expands Swift System for Mobile Fulfillment
Download: Mobile Robots Move Beyond Pilot Projects
ProMat and Automate Show Guide: Robot Company Showcase
Brain Corp Launches Autonomous Delivery Robot Concept
6 River to Launch Mobile Sort System at ProMat 2019
ProMat and Automate Day 2 News, Notes, and Forklifts

Bionics: Electric view in murky waters

When dealing with disasters or searching for objects, robots or drones with cameras are usually used. However, conventional cameras are of rather limited use in murky, dark water, such as in a sewage pipe or a lake that is cloudy with sediment. Zoologists have developed a special camera for such operating conditions: modeled on the African elephantnose fish (Gnathonemus petersii), it supplies ‘electric images’ with ‘electric colors’ in murky waters.
Bionics: Electric view in murky waters

News and Notes from Day 1 at ProMat/Automate 2019

CHICAGO – Plenty of robots and robotics solutions were on display for the opening day festivities at the ProMat and Automate shows, as attendees from the supply chain, logistics, and manufacturing industries aimed to learn more about how robots can help improve their businesses.

We’ve already highlighted some of the news announcements that have come out at the show, here are some additional company announcements we learned while meeting with companies:
Productive Robots show teachable cobots
Productive Robots (booth N6957) unveiled its full line of next-generation teachable collaborative robots at the event. Based in Santa Barbara, Calif., Productive has added “an enhanced human sense of vision to its teach-and-learn platform” which gives customers an additional offering for end users.

“The Productive Robotics design and engineering team started building robots for movie special effects in the 1980s,” said Zac Bogart, president and CEO of Productive Robotics. “We’ve combined that level of expertise with the latest technology to offer customers the simplest, most flexible, innovative and cost-effective lineup of next-generation collaborative robots in the market.”

The OB7 model from Productive Robotics is a 7-axis model that can provide more flexibility for cobot applications. Source: Productive Robotics

The company was showing its 7-axis OB7-Max 8 and OB7-Max 12 at the show, rounding out its line based on the success of its original OB7 cobot. The OB7-Max 8 has a payload up to 8 kg and a 1,700 mm reach, while the OB7-Max 12 can handle payloads up to 12 kg with up to 1,300 mm reach.

Productive Robotics said the OB7 models can automatically learn to recognize and pick up objects with a single push, and that by the end of the year, it will be equipped with an improved sense of touch. The additional axis gives OB7 “the flexibility and dexterity to reach around objects or obstacles where other’s can’t,” as each of the joints can rotate 360 degrees in both directions.
ROEQ debuts top roller module for MiR1000
Just minutes after MiR announced its MiR1000 mobile robot that can handle loads up to 1,000 kg (slightly more than 1 ton), ROEQ (short for “Robotic Equipment) announced its TR1000 Top Roller, a conveyor solution that can connect the MiR Robots to other conveyor systems.

The TR1000 from ROEQ provides conveyor connectivity for the MiR1000 mobile robot. Source: ROEQ.

Working in tandem with the MiR1000, the TR1000 Top Roller can support heavy internal logstics within industrial facilities by automating the load and unload operations of the MiR1000. Think of it this way – while mobile robots like the MiR1000 can move materials from Point A to Point B, once it gets to Point B, the Top Roller system can raise to the level of an existing conveyor system and then automatically transfer the materials to the belt or other location, saving humans from the lifting part of the load or unload process.

“A mobile robot without a conveyor or top module is like a robot arm without a gripper,” said Peder Grejsen, technical sales manager for ROEQ. “Production throughput can be greatly improved when mobile robots are outfitted with intelligent top modules that self-load and unload.”

The TR1000 accommodates U.S. pallets and can be delivered with a fully automated lifter functionality for pick-up and delivery of goods in heights ranging from 23.6 inches (600mm) to 29.5 inches (750mm). The Top Roller integrates seamlessly in MiR’s own user interface where all control functions are embedded; when the robot is called to deliver or pick up goods, the conveyor communicates with the pick-up and delivery stations and will automatically activate the loading or unloading upon arrival.

“By targeting the loading and unloading of mobile robots, we are addressing that missing link in the automated logistics cycle that today is handled either by fork or pallet lifters or manually by employees,” said Grejsen. “Adding the conveyor capability strengthens the employees’ work environment by taking over ergonomically unfavorable tasks or by reducing truck traffic and noise.”
Staubli shows multiple robot collaboration application
At the Stäubli booth (#7150), the company was showing its new TS2 four-axis robots to the North American market, but also showed a scenario where multiple robots worked together, along with human workers, to accomplish tasks. In addition to the SCARA robots, the company showed

“This new series of SCARA robots has been reimagined, incorporating our JCS drive technology that has greatly improved the performance and versatility of our six-axis machines,” said Sebastien Schmitt, Robotics Division Manager, Stäubli North America. “This allows for ultra-short cycle times and enormous performance gains for the new four-axis TS2.”

The new line consists of four models, the TS2-40, TS2-60, TS2-80 and TS2-100 to provide a solution for a wide range of manufacturing scenarios. With the four-axis TS2-100, Stäubli has extended the working radius of the TS series (400 to 800 millimeters) up to 1,000 millimeters.

The Staubli HelMo mobile robot provides collaborative capabilities with human workers. Source: Staubli

The company also showed its HelMo mobile robot system, designed to bring flexibility to an electrical connector assembly line. The HelMo can navigate autonomously by monitoring its environment with three integrated laser scanners, and can perform tasks either fully automatically or in collaboration with humans. “Once trained, HelMo can handle almost any manual job on a variety of assembly lines,” Stäubli said. The system can navigate to its own workspace, decelerating or stopping when humans come too close, and then continue its process when humans are farther away. Built around a six-axis standard TX2-90L robot with a payload of 15 kg and reach of 1,200 mm, the system comes with a safety package that meets the requirements of SIL3/PLe, Stäubli said.
More coverage to come!
Stay tuned for additional updates, posts and other articles from the ProMat and Automate show. For the latest updates, photos, and videos, make sure to monitor the Robotics Business Review Twitter feed. If you’re at the show, make sure you stop by the CRO Summit at ProMat (located in the North Hall near the RBR booth #6360) to hear strategies around deploying robotics at your company.

Additional ProMat / Automate coverage:

MiR Launches MiR1000 for Autonomous Transport of up to 1 Ton Loads
Robotiq Unveils New Vacuum Grippers, Sanding Kit
Epson Robots Launches New Robots, Intelligent Feeding System
IAM Robotics Redesigns, Expands Swift System for Mobile Fulfillment
Download: Mobile Robots Move Beyond Pilot Projects
ProMat and Automate Show Guide: Robot Company Showcase
Brain Corp Launches Autonomous Delivery Robot Concept
6 River to Launch Mobile Sort System at ProMat 2019
News and Notes from Day 1 at ProMat/Automate 2019

Meet Blue, the low-cost, human-friendly robot designed for AI

Researchers have created a new low-cost, human friendly robot named Blue, designed to use recent advances in artificial intelligence and deep reinforcement learning to master intricate human tasks, all while remaining affordable and safe enough that every AI researcher could have one. The team hopes Blue will accelerate the development of robotics for the home.
Meet Blue, the low-cost, human-friendly robot designed for AI

MiR Launches MiR1000 for Autonomous Transport of up to 1 Ton Loads

ODENSE, DENMARK and HOLBROOK, N.Y. – Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR) today launched its MiR1000 autonomous mobile robot, with the ability to automatically pick up, transfer, and deliver pallets and other heavy loads up to 1,000 kg (2,200 lbs). The company will demonstrate the MiR1000 and other AMRs at this week’s Automate 2019 show in Chicago.

Like the company’s MiR500, which was introduced last year, the MiR1000 is “a collaborative, safe and flexible alternative to potentially dangerous and expensive forklifts on the factory floor,” the company said. MiR also announced it was releasing artificial intelligence capability across all of its AMRs for improved navigation.

The company’s MiR100, MiR200 and MiR500 have been installed in more than 45 countries, at companies such as Airbus, Flex, Honeywell, Toyota, Visteon, and Hitachi, MiR said. Thomas Visti, MiR’s CEO, said the company built the MiR1000 in response to strong demand from customers of the smaller robots, who also wanted to transport heavier components, such as those required in the aerospace and automotive industries.

The MiR1000 features two flexible pallet lifts for the two most commonly used types of pallets – the EU pallet and the 40-inch by 48-inch pallet. Like the company’s other AMRs, the MiR1000 can be programmed via its user interface, or through the MiRFleet robot fleet management system. The company said its AMRs can also easily integrate different top modules, such as pallet lifts, conveyors, a robot arm or other options to support several applicatiosn.

“With the MiR1000, we are once again extending the possibilities for automating internal logistics, especially for those who want to transport very large materials without reconfiguring their infrastructure,” said Visti. “Manufacturers today must deal with ever-changing customer demands, which means they need flexible and easily adaptable production facilities. Conventional logistics solutions like forklifts and conveyor belts, and even traditional automated guided vehicles (AGVs) haven’t been able to support this type of production.”

More on mobile robots:

Download: Mobile Robots Move Beyond Pilot Projects
Brain Corp Launches Autonomous Delivery Robot Concept
6 River to Launch Mobile Sort System at ProMat 2019
Robots Will Be Working in 50,000 Warehouses by 2025, Report Says
ProMat Preview: What’s Really Happening With Mobile Robots

He added the company has made it easier to optimize the transportation of materials without requiring rebuilding infrastructure or extensive programming capabilities. “Customers have seen that with our other robots, and will experience the same efficiencies with the MiR1000 and much heavier loads.”
AI and mobile robot navigation
With the AI capabilities now incorporated into the company’s software, as well as strategically placed camera that function as an extended set of robot sensors, MiR said its robots can now optimize their route-planning and driving behavior. The cameras, called MiREyesight, enable the robots to “detect and recognize different moving obstacles and react accordingly.” As an example, the robots will continue driving if they detect a person not in their path, but will park if the robots detect an AGV so it can drive by. MiR said the robot can also predict blocked areas or highly trafficked areas in advance, and re-route instead of entering the blocked area and then re-routing.

The company plans to showcase all of its AMRs and software at booth #7368 at the Automate show.
About Mobile Industrial Robots
Founded in 2013 by Danish robotics industry professionals, MiR was acquired last year by Teradyne, the owner of cobot manufacturer Universal Robots. In addition to its Odense headquarters, the company has regional offices in Dortmund, Frankfurt, Shanghai, New York and San Diego. The company said its sales have risen 500% from 2015 to 2016, and 300% from 2016 to 2017, as well as from 2017 to 2018. Last year, it was awarded the EY Entrepreneur of the Year in Denmark.
MiR Launches MiR1000 for Autonomous Transport of up to 1 Ton Loads

Laying the ground for robotic strategies in environmental protection

Roboticists have developed a robot named ‘Romu’ that can autonomously drive interlocking steel sheet piles into soil. The structures that it builds could function as retaining walls or check dams for erosion control, and, according to computer simulations, the robot could be deployed in swarms to help protect threatened areas that are flooded or extremely arid more effectively.
Laying the ground for robotic strategies in environmental protection

Robotiq Unveils New Vacuum Grippers, Sanding Kit

QUEBEC CITY – Robotiq today announced the launch of three new tools and software for collaborative robots that help automate packaging, palletizing, and sanding processes. The company will showcase the new tools at this week’s Automate 2019 show in Chicago.

Robotiq’s AirPick includes options for one or two suction cups on its vacuum gripper. Source: Robotiq

The AirPick, EPick and Robotiq Sanding Kit are designed for manufacturers looking for less expensive and less complicated options for those processes, without having to build a custom-designed solution, the company said.

AirPick and EPick are customizable vacuum grippers aimed at several industrial applications, with plug-and-play features that make them easier to program and quick to install on cobots. Robotiq said the tools’ ability to handle objects of varying sizes, shapes, materials, and weights “makes them an effective solution for packaging, palletizing, pick-and-place, assembly, and machine-tending applications.” Both AirPick and EPick come with options for one or two suction cups for customers to choose from.

The EPick vacuum gripper also features one or two-suction cup options. Source: Robotiq

Robotiq said the two vacuum grippers complete the company’s lineup of grippers. They added that expanding into vacuum grippers was a natural step for the company, which is one of the leaders in the end-of-arm tools and grippers for cobots.
Sanding kit made for UR cobots
The Robotiq Sanding Kit (photo, above) is the company’s first application-based package, built as the only hardware and software sanding solution for Universal Robots. The company said the kit increases quality and productivity while saving manufacturers hours of programming. The software’s built-in path generator ensures that “consistent force is applied at each cycle, which makes it easy to automate dirty and tedious finishing tasks,” the company said.

More on grippers:

Insider Report: Market Playbook for End-of-Arm Tools
Acutronic, Robotiq Team Up on ROS-Native Grippers
Cobot Arms, Grippers Offer Manufacturers Value at IMTS
MIT, Harvard Researchers Create Soft and Strong Robot Hand

“The introduction of these solutions to the Robotiq product family is built on our expertise from supporting thousands of clients with their automation projects over the past 10 years,” said Jean-Philippe Jobin, CTO and co-founder at Robotiq. “AirPick, EPick  and the Robotiq Sanding Kit were all engineered for helping manufacturers start production faster in mind. We wanted to support them in automating their cobot applications by offering solutions that are easy to use, safe, and flexible.”

In addition to showing all three new products at Automate (at booth #7165), Robotiq said it plans to show its complete product lineup of specially designed plug-and-play grippers, force sensors, camera technology, and related software.
Robotiq Unveils New Vacuum Grippers, Sanding Kit