The Neocortex® Goods to Robot Cell from Universal Robotics (soon to be Universal Logic — and no relation to Universal Robots) is now working in its fourth real-world application. The Neocortex Goods to Robot Cell (Neocortex G2R for short) now automates the normally manual task of unloading and restocking airline beverage carts after flights are done and the carts (loaded with everything from half-full cans to still-unopened cans to stray napkins and the like) return to airline catering kitchens.
More specifically, the Neocortex G2R flexibly sorts and replenishes myriad 12-ounce beverage cans for payback on retrofits or new installations in less than a year. It typically fills a prescribed assortment at 30 drawers per hour – saving 25% versus human labor.
The Neocortex G2R includes both hardware and software — a Yaskawa Motoman MH12 six-axis robot and Universal Logic’s Neocortex artificial intelligence module — plus the automation setup, conveyors, racking for beverages, safety barriers, installation, onsite testing and operator training, and ongoing remote diagnostics and software upgrades.
Airline-hub catering kitchens spend copious time replenishing beverages consumed in-flight from 9.5 million U.S. flights annually. Pitching already-opened cans, sorting by brand leftover unused beverages, and then packing an assortment of new beverage cans into ATLAS trolley drawers (per carrier specifications) are part of the job. Universal is offering the Neocortex G2R for this application with airline-industry veteran NxtGen Robotics.
The Neocortex G2R Cell handles sensor connection, calibration, PLC and robot communication, path planning, obstacle avoidance, vision guidance, inspection, database management, and learning.
“The robot Cell functions as a sensor-informed learning and control system, so it excels in tasks that currently require semi-skilled labor,” explained Hob Wubbena, V.P. of Universal Logic. “Other potential applications we see include bin picking, order-fulfillment services in warehouse-distribution centers, machine tending, and part induction.”
Within the beverage-cart-restocking application, Neocortex artificial intelligence handles inbound returned cans that are upright, tilted and lying flat. It also determines cans that are opened and partially used, or unused and returned. If the can is unused, Neocortex identifies the brand by directing the robot to pick it up and read its label. It then reuses these cans for the next new drawer it assembles — supplementing with new cans as needed based on the prescribed assortment.
The Neocortex G2R Cell is the first plug-and-play robotic work cell for high-mix applications that must also handle high-volume applications scaled to a human form factor. It’s easy to deploy like collaborative robots but with the speed and strength of an industrial-robot base. Neocortex artificial intelligence provides humanlike flexibility at speeds far faster and more consistent than manual labor. So the Neocortex G2R Cell can handle cartons, bottles, tubes, bags, or cans for up to 1,000 picks per hour.
Universal Logic | universalrobotics.com
The Neocortex G2R Cell cell replenishes up to eight distinct brands of beverage. An operator puts incoming drawers on its conveyor and picks up replenished trays on an outgoing conveyor. In between, the G2R dumps opened cans and sends dirty drawers to washing, then fills clean trays from beverage pallets.