Automating improvements to warehousing

kinema-robotI recently looked at a new robot developed by researchers from Lincoln University that was specifically aimed at the food manufacturing industry.

The device was built to specifically focus early on in the process and automate the food preparation part of the whole affair.

“APRIL enables much more control over recipe management and recipe control of liquid food products on an industrial scale,” they say.

Going upstream

Cool though that undoubtedly is, there are still improvements to be made in the more mundane packaging style tasks.  It’s in this area that Californian startup Kinema Systems is attempting to make headway.

They have developed a robot that’s capable of breaking down pallets of numerous sizes.  It’s the kind of task that’s a staple of most warehouses but can be an incredibly labor-intensive task.

The robot sucks up each box before then identifying the shape via an automatic calibration system that allows it to learn on the fly how best to break each box down.  It’s the kind of task that’s simple (yet very dull) for a human, but that has historically been beyond robots.

Recombining

The team hope to use the expertise they’ve honed in box management to perform similar manipulations of other unfamiliar objects that are found in warehouses and factory environments.

The robot is a valuable addition to the factory floor because it’s capable of working with objects of various sizes.  This marks a step up from existing robotics that are limited to a fairly standard box size, with detailed instructions required to allow the robot to function appropriately for each box.

It could, therefore, be a boon to logistics company in a variety of ways, with the company hoping to shrink delivery times significantly as a result.  The power of the system also incorporates a ‘shared brain’, thus allowing knowledge gleaned by one robot to be instantly shared with its peers.

By sharing such knowledge across the Kinema network of robots, it allows logistics companies to develop a smart fleet of robot helpers incredibly quickly.

With devices such as this and April coming on stream, the manufacturing and logistics industries might be getting that little bit smarter.

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