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ProMat brings collectively a number of the world’s main manufacturing and provide chain gear suppliers. This yr’s present had 1,000-plus exhibitors, and as a first-time attendee, I had loads of robotic programs to find out about throughout my three days on the present.
Right here’s a recap, in no specific order, of a number of the finest robots at ProMat 2023.
Agility Robotics’ Digit
The Agility Robotics sales space was packed for a lot of the present, and for good purpose. It’s not every single day you get the chance to see a bipedal robotic in motion. In line with Agility, Digit’s demo was primarily based on an actual buyer use case, and it was operating throughout all 4 days of the present. Digit was the winner of ProMat’s Finest New Innovation Award.
Digit is the product of over 20 years of analysis and growth. Whereas the corporate could have began its journey by taking a look at numerous use instances for a bipedal robotic, something from operating into burning buildings to last-mile supply, it honed its give attention to automating a course of that must be addressed that Digit can safely and reliably carry out.
Digit at present solely works in enclosed areas away from people, and it’ll even shut down when human employees get too shut. The robotic may also help cut back employee accidents from lifting or lacerations that may occur when human employees deal with damaged totes.
Agility is gearing as much as begin manufacturing Digit at scale, including it may work at a charge of $10/hour for duties just like the one it demoed at ProMat.
Boston Dynamics’ Stretch
Boston Dynamics confirmed off its Stretch case dealing with robotic on the present. Stretch confirmed off its trailer unloading talents flawlessly, though there wasn’t a lot variability within the packing containers it was working with.
Stretch is already deployed at buyer websites and has extra prospects lined up. Boston Dynamics appears to have much more formidable plans for the robotic sooner or later. At its sales space, it ran a video the place it confirmed animated Stretch robots zipping round a warehouse, constructing pallets on high of AMRs which carry these pallets to different Stretch robots that may load the packing containers right into a truck.
The corporate is being held again by security laws proper now, which hold Stretch caged off and away from people, limiting it to only its present unloading software.
Pickle Robotic demoed an identical container unloading system. It’s constructed round a modified Kuka arm and suction grippers to choose up objects as much as 65 kilos and place them onto a conveyor. The onboard imaginative and prescient system determines which field to choose subsequent. Once more, there wasn’t a lot selection within the form and measurement of the packing containers. Right here’s a side-by-side comparability of the Pickle and Boston Dynamics options:
RightHand Robotics’s RightPick
RightHand Robotics wasn’t the one firm displaying off bin-picking robots, however its demo was some of the constant and versatile. Your entire time I used to be at its sales space, and each time I visited it all through the present, RightPick didn’t miss a single decide.
RightHand additionally confirmed a brand new autonomous suction cup swapper. Built-in within the entrance of a demo workcell, the robotic arm can select from 4 totally different suction cups. As a result of all the info RightHand has collected through the years, it is aware of which suction cup gives one of the best probability at efficiently choosing an merchandise. When the system has low confidence in a suction cup’s means to understand upcoming gadgets, it can autonomously swap out for the suction cup that gives essentially the most confidence. RightPick’s grippers use a mix of suction and three mechanical fingers to offer the system further stability in all of its picks.
Autopicker was introduced in February 2023, and it was thrilling to see it at work in individual for the primary time. Brightpick’s Autopicker strikes round warehouses, retrieving totes from shelving and robotically choosing gadgets from these totes to consolidate orders straight in aisles. This course of removes the necessity for a human picker to take gadgets out of totes, a standard a part of many comparable robotic programs.
At ProMat, Autopicker was choosing snacks for attendees. On the present, it was solely pulling totes from one aspect of the robotic. However the model that can work in buyer warehouses can pull from either side, permitting it to roll between shelving and swap between pulling totes from behind or in entrance of the robotic.
Truck unloading was a well-liked demo at ProMat, and Mujin took a extra distinctive strategy to the method. In line with the corporate, the robotic can unload as much as 1,000 instances per hour.
TruckBot’s design goals to particularly tackle the challenges that come particularly with unloading floor-loaded trailers and containers. The robotic can connect to plain telescoping conveyors, that are discovered at many loading docks, and may attain as much as 52 ft right into a trailer truck or delivery container.
At ProMat, TruckBot was working with Mujin’s palletizing robotic to kind instances onto pallets for storage.
Tuskrobots’ autonomous pallet handler
Autonomous forklifts have been one other widespread look on the present, however Tuskrobots had essentially the most distinctive strategy to shifting pallets. As an alternative of the standard automated forklift design, Tuskrobots’ autonomous pallet handler slides two prongs beneath a pallet and makes use of the tongs to raise the pallet. The remainder of the AMR then slides beneath the pallet.
As soon as the pallet is on high of the AMR, it could possibly drive to its subsequent location, the place it lifts it once more, slides out from beneath the pallet, lowers the pallet, after which slides its prongs again into the AMR. This distinctive methodology of choosing up pallets means the robotic is barely barely bigger than its payload, permitting it to function in high-density storage areas.
Verve Movement’s SafeLift Swimsuit
Verve Movement spun out of Harvard in 2020 and gives an exosuit that goals to take 40% of the pressure off of employees throughout lifting. Whereas the exosuit can enhance productiveness by serving to employees hold a constant tempo throughout their complete shift, the firm’s goal is to make workplaces safer for employees and to cut back on-the-job accidents.
After we have been on the sales space, Dwelling Depot was demoing the system, repeatedly lifting a packed tote and case of water. The retailer mentioned they’ve workers who repeatedly raise masses as much as 75 lbs from the ground onto a pallet every day.
I had the chance to check out the exosuit myself. It took simply minutes to placed on and was simple to regulate. When choosing up and placing down a heavy tote, it offers a tug throughout the again that reduces the quantity of pressure your again has to do. The swimsuit at ProMat had three settings: impartial setting, lifting solely and lifting and placing down. Customers can swap between the modes by urgent a button close to their shoulder. These settings might be custom-made in response to a buyer’s want.
Slip Robotics AMR
Slip Robotics showcased its automated trailer loading/unloading system (ATLS). The omnidirectional robotic is designed to hold as much as 8 full pallets and a complete of 6 tons. It autonomously drives right into a tractor-trailer for transport to the subsequent vacation spot. Three ATLS robots can match inside a typical tractor-trailer.
Fork truck operators don’t must enter the trailer and as an alternative load and unload pallets onto the Slip ATLS within the open loading dock. The Slip ATLS travels with the load to the vacation spot, the place it drives off the trailer, onto the dock for unloading and loading. A loaded set of ATLS robots would then drive onto the trailer for instant departure. Slip mentioned its robots use a sealed lead acid battery that isn’t topic to federal hazmat restrictions for floor transport.