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article imageAmazon Robotics Challenge set to change logistics

By Tim Sandle     Sep 28, 2017 in Technology
Nagoya - While high-bay warehouses are often used for their efficiency, they often lead to logistical nightmares for stakeholders. The Amazon Robotics Challenge in Nagoya, Japan, came up with a solution.
Typically in in these high-bay locations, picking and detection processes cannot be easily executed automatically by robots. This has remained a big problem for warehouses looking to adopt new technologies.
At the Amazon Robotics Challenge in Nagoya, Japan, the IFL PiRo team demonstrated how future warehousing may work. This was in the form of an innovative shelf concept. The company demonstrated that instead of arranging the goods along a conventional shelf, if objects are placed in mobile boxes and horizontally around a central robot arm this makes it easier for goods to be collected. The company is a startup that came out of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.
The alternate approach means that most boxes of goods can be moved by the robot much like drawers. This provides a multistorey arrangement and permits the use of robotics, which speeds up the logistics process. At first glance, such an arrangement seems to carry a smaller load arrangement than a standard shelf system; however, the technologists demonstrated that capacity can be increased relatively easily.
The IFL PiRo robot development team at the Amazon Robotics Challenge in Nagoya  Japan  2017.
The IFL PiRo robot development team at the Amazon Robotics Challenge in Nagoya, Japan, 2017.
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.
Moreover, the researchers showed that in a future warehouse, a second robot could function as a feeder machine, working to bring the required boxes or remove those that are no longer needed.
According to to the lead designer, Kai Markert of KIT's Institute for Materials Handling and Logistics: "As today's warehouse systems have reached their technical limits, we wanted to develop a completely new system for the 21st century in order to make full use of the advantages of the robot gripper."
To select products, the robot uses a gripper or a suction pad. Selection is aided by a camera system that supplies two- and three-dimensional image information. The robot interprets this using image recognition software and neural networks. The reduced time in stock management occurs because the key steps of detection, picking, suction, dropping, can be performed with similar movement patterns from above. This leads to improved ergonomics, and for this the IFL PiRo team were awarded seventh place in the robot challenge (the winner was Cartman — a budget-priced robot from Australia).
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