Symbotic, formerly CasePick Systems, is providing mobile robots that grab closed boxes of goods and brings them to a pallet-loading robot. Different from Kiva Systems, recently acquired by Amazon, which moves racks of open boxes to an order-picker who removes items and packs them into shipping boxes.
Vetex and Yaskawa Motoman will soon be offering a combined mobility platform and robot arm for location to location material handling.
Underneath them all are the sophisticated software packages that direct the navigation, safely and efficiently move the arms and grippers of the robots, and sense and recognize the materials being handled. Case in point: Universal Robotics (not to be confused with Danish Universal Robots) and their new Neocortex control software for 3D sensing of random objects. It integrates random 3D data, processes it and determines what it is and how it is to be handled, and then integrates that information into user systems, for example, into Yaskawa’s Motoman 2-armed robots, or to robots loading or unloading pallets or to other software providing load sequencing or similar applications.
I wrote about material handling systems at MODEX 2012 earlier this year but many new products are changing the dynamic.
BOTTOM LINE: businesses are beginning to make long-put-off capital purchases to automate their warehouses and material handling and new sensing, software and robotic companies are emerging in the process, particularly those that can make sense of and use sensor data.