Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Warehouse robotics still growing

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The demand for flexible, scalable warehouse robotic systems is booming, fueled by a shortage of skilled labor and the need to cut costs.

Robotics specialists, equipment makers, systems integrators, and industrial truck manufacturers are coming to LogiMAT 2023 to present their latest solutions for deploying industrial and service robots for enhanced flexibility and efficiency in intralogistics.

The demand for warehouse robotics has skyrocketed in recent years, driven by a shortage of skilled warehouse workers and the flexibility and relatively low investment costs of such systems. The trend toward industrial robots and above all autonomous mobile devices in intralogistics continues unabated.

The market segment of autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), shuttles, cobots, carrybots, and automated guided vehicles (AGVs) for warehouse logistics has reached a reliable level of sophistication that is fueling demand among customers and boosting growth among the providers.

The stability of the technology and the growing acceptance and performance of the devices in the workplace are also helping AMRs and AGVs evolve into fully autonomous transport devices capable even of retrieving items from boxes.

“Driven by the shortage of skilled labor and the need to cut costs, coupled with the flexibility and scalability of today’s systems, demand in the intralogistics industry continues trending toward non-stationary material handling technology. AMRs and AGVs interact with forklifts, other mobile robots, and people,” explains Exhibition Director Michael Ruchty of EUROEXPO Messe- und Kongress-GmbH in Munich.

The dynamic growth of warehouse robotics has inspired EUROEXPO, the organizer of LogiMAT, to devote the entire 10,500 square meters of Hall 6 to industrial and service robots, more than doubling last year’s exhibit space for this segment.
LogiMAT exhibitors in Hall 6 of the Messe Stuttgart convention center will present their latest innovations for sound investments in forward-looking warehouse robotics solutions. The products on display will include the latest stationary and mobile picking robots and cobots with AI-powered machine vision and the first fully autonomous AGVs for both indoor and outdoor applications.

“Experts see strong new market potential in transport robots for outdoor applications such as last-mile delivery,” notes Exhibition Director Ruchty. “Developments here will depend on the regulatory environment, which in most countries does not yet allow large-scale deployment of such robots.”

Two informative expert forums, part of the accompanying program of LogiMAT 2023, will address this issue. The larger issue of AMRs, AGVs, and industrial robots will also be the subject of three exhibitor-led innovation forums presented by Brightpick in Forum South (April 25 at 1:30 PM, Hall 6 and GEBHARDT Fördertechnik (April 26, 10:30 AM), and Nomagic (April 26, 12:30 PM) in Forum North, Hall 5.

AGVs for indoor and outdoor use

Movanis (Hall 6, Booth 6A80) is presenting new AGVs designed for both indoor use and outdoor applications in logistics center yards. The models developed by the Belgian manufacturer for serial warehouse transports are equipped with proprietary lithium-ion battery technology with a charge time of just 12 minutes.

The units feature automatic pallet identification and are programmed for outdoor use with special algorithms that detect worn, uneven, and sloped surfaces and align the vehicles accordingly.

ek robotics (Hall 6, Booth 6B05) is coming to LogiMAT 2023 to unveil its brand-new Robot Operation Center AGV tool and is also showcasing its award-winning VARIO MOVE transport robots and the two-in-one X MOVE transport platform for AGV and AMR systems.

DS AUTOMATION (Hall 6, Booth 6D05) is offering live presentations of new AGVs, including the modular wheel arm AGV Lucy, the medium-weight counterbalance AGV Amadeus Counter, and the platform AGV Oscar Omni with omnidirectional drive technology—all fully compatible with the VDA 5050 standard.

Grenzebach Maschinenbau (Hall 6, Booth 6F05) is coming to Stuttgart with the new generation of its L1200S AGV, featuring twice the transport speed of its predecessor with payloads up to 1,200 kg. Tarqan Robotics (Hall 6, Booth 6A09) is introducing the new Tarqan Mark 3.0 fulfillment robot.

The Dutch company MoviĜo Robotics (Hall 6, Booth 6A12) is a good example of how today’s manufacturers at LogiMAT 2023 are integrating modern sensor technology, machine vision, and artificial intelligence (AI) to continually boost the performance and extend the potential applications of warehouse robots. MoviĜo is bringing along its Ŝharko5 AGV, whose short forks are designed specifically for transporting half-EURO pallets.

The integrated vision software MoviĜo Intelligent Camera Kit (MICK) makes it possible for the AGV to manage sites, detect pallets, automatically generate missions, and even weigh pallets.

The unit can adapt to all processes and conditions. The camera kit illustrates another trend in warehouse robotics: the shift in development toward a focus on software. Most solutions have already achieved a high degree of sophistication, so many new players act as systems integrators, creating new solutions and optimizations by purchasing service robots from third parties, combining various components, and focusing on software development. Robot manufacturers and software developers are also following this approach.

SYNAOS (Hall 6, Booth 6C34) is a good example of this trend: Their Intralogistics Management Platform offers three solution scenarios: mobile robot fleet management, real-time localization, and warehouse execution, with the capability to centrally manage mobile robots using real-time data. W. Gessmann (Hall 6, Booth 6F21) is presenting its GESSbot AMR with fleet management software that lets you create as many stations as needed, define routes, and determine the direction and speed of travel. The system can connect to upstream manufacturing execution systems for integration into sophisticated production workflows.

Sevensense Robotics (Hall 6, Booth 6D09) has developed Alphasense Autonomy, a navigation system for mobile robots that combines software with camera hardware to enable AGV positioning using Visual SLAM and AI technology to plan routes and detect and navigate around objects.

Industrial robots for human-machine collaboration

Besides the warehouse robotics specialists clustered in Hall 6, visitors to LogiMAT 2023 can also visit equipment makers, systems integrators, and industrial truck manufacturers in the other exhibit halls presenting their own latest developments in warehouse robotics.

The focus there is also on the ability of flexible, scalable systems to boost performance, accelerate throughput, and extend the field of potential applications. Mobile Industrial Robots (East Entrance, Booth EO80) is presenting the MiR250 AMR in various models, including the Shelf Carrier version that can autonomously collect and transport racks, trolleys, carts, and other devices on wheels or casters and place them at their intended destination.

Still (Hall 10, Booth 10B41) is presenting new forklifts, the automated EXV iGo systems of high-lift pallet trucks, and an AMR from the ACH series that can work together to achieve a fully automated, driverless material flow. Tennant (Hall 10, Booth 10B61) plans to live-demo the T16AMR industrial robotic floor scrubber.

FM Systeme (Hall 1, Booth 1K21) is presenting a cognitive robot unlike anything of its kind in the world that supplements one of its packing stations and supports pick-and-place activities in human-machine collaboration.

The fully automated GRIPP (Gantry Robotic Intelligent Piece Picker) from the Inther Group (Hall 5, Booth 5B57), making its debut in a live demo at LogiMAT 2023, is similar, touted as capable of picking up to 1,200 individual products per hour with the support of machine vision technology and AI applications. Nomagic (Hall 1 upper level, Booth 1OG78) from Poland is exhibiting a picking system with yet another industrial picking robot.

“Hugo” is the newest member of Nomagic’s “justPick” product line and specifically designed for fully automated picking from AutoStore systems. Supported by an integrated AI vision system and Nomagic software, the stationary robot arm picks ordered items from source bins with up to eight compartments and places the optimized volume in shipping boxes.

Data processing algorithms allow the robot to process images in milliseconds and pick with precision. SSI SCHÄFER is presenting the next generation of its piece-picking application, another industrial robot for fully automated individual piece picking. The device features patented gripping point calculation, AI-assisted object recognition, 100 percent product verification, and even more features, including pick-and-place.

The international exhibitors at LogiMAT 2023, with their latest innovations in strategically placed industrial robots and intralogistics service robots, underscore the diversity of potential applications and the efficiency gains that are still attainable with intralogistics robotics.

“The rapid developments in sensor and scanner technology and software have not only made these devices more reliable and opened up more potential applications,” concludes Exhibition Director Ruchty, “it’s also made them much more affordable as components of flexible, scalable solutions that are relatively simple to implement and require no changes to the building infrastructure. This will ensure increased market penetration for the foreseeable future.“

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