Robots have been used in pick-and-place operations for years now, and warehouses are beginning to see a new wave of more flexible, integrated systems. For instance, RightHand Robotics Inc. has developed the precision of its RightPick2 system, enabling the robot to work with put-wall sortation systems.
Since 2017, RightPick has tended automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS), been part of goods-to-person workflows, and inducted similarly sized items into sorters. The autonomous system combines a smart gripper, computer vision, and machine learning in what Somerville, Mass.-based RightHand calls “hand, eye, coordination.”
The company said that its autonomous system is now able to integrate new robotic skills, extending the range of applications for warehouse deployments. This building-block approach means that RightPick2 can be stationed on the decanting side of a put wall for sorting batch-picked items into discrete orders.
“Some of what led us from RightPick to RightPick2 is just an evolution of the core components: UR e-Series collaborative arms, Intel’s RealSense D415 camera, and other elements in processor boards. They keep getting better,” said Vince Martinelli, head of product and marketing at RightHand Robotics. “Plus, our own grippers are past 10 million picks now. We know every aspect of how they see and grasp things and how they hold up. They’re in the fifth generation now.”
“It’s like a car model-year change — everything was new and better under the hood this year, but we have not touched pricing. Not everybody has multimillion-dollar automation, and certainly not 3PLs,” he said, referring to third-party logistics providers.
RightHand Robotics has also worked on machine learning and adding capabilities such as bar-code scanning to RightPick2.
“Machine learning isn’t transparent to customers. We’re layering skills on top of the RightPick.AI core,” Martinelli told The Robot Report. “For the put wall, the system has lights and can reach in and pick things up.”
“The put-wall functionality came about because of customer demand. There are a lot of put walls out there,” he said. “Capacity LLC is not a giant company, but it knew how robots could drive their business.”
“With our put wall and [partner] Lightning Pick automating the back side of the wall, the front is both robot- and human-compatible,” said Martinelli. “RightPick2 can drop into existing facilities, help with labor challenges, and still do ASRS sorter induction and work with mobile robot sorters.”
“Going back to December , when we put our submission in — we all think we’re innovative, but the timing was right for RightPick2 to qualify,” said Vince Martinelli, head of product and marketing at RightHand Robotics. “We felt that bringing robotic picking capability to this manual operation could work.”
“From Jan. 2 to ProMat on April 11, we had 100 days of RightPick,” recalled Martinelli. “At the show, we had 10 robots running in different booths, not an insignificant project.”
“We wanted to show what we had achieved, so we did a demo with EuroSort. RightPick2 picked out items and put them into the put wall,” Martinelli said. “It helped with the judges that we could show videos from a customer site. It seemed to resonate with them and helped cement the idea that this was real.”
What’s next for RightHand
“The innovation award has helped draw positive attention to our offerings and capabilities,” Martinelli said. “It helps validate what we’ve been doing.”
RightPick2’s flexibility will make adoption and integration easier, he said. “If we go to the next customer and need to do something similar, we don’t have to start from scratch,” Martinelli added.
RightHand Robotics will help customers execute on their automation projects this summer as they get ready for the busy holiday shopping season, he said.
“We’re also going to spend some time on how to evaluate the ‘three Rs’ of picking: range, rate, and reliability,” said Martinelli. “Simple things like defining performance metrics and throughput might seem obvious to us, but when you get customers in a room, they’ll debate the meaning. It’s a sign of maturing products and market.”