The maker of the famous Spot robot, Boston Dynamics, has unveiled a new flexible automation robot, making its entrance into warehouse automation.
Called Stretch, the robot is the first commercial robot specifically designed for warehouse facilities and distribution centers, which number in the hundreds of thousands globally.
The multi-purpose robot is mobile and can tackle several tasks where rapid box moving is required — from truck unloading to order building. The robot’s small, omni-directional mobile base allows Stretch to navigate loading docks, maneuver in tight spaces and adapt to changing facility layouts. Boston Dynamics said these features help to eliminate the need for costly fixed automation infrastructure.
The robot comes equipped with a custom-designed lightweight arm and a smart gripper with sensing and controls to handle a variety of large boxes or shrink-wrapped cases. Computer vision technology allows the robot to identify boxes, without having to train customers. The vision system works with a pick-and-place activity, enabling high pick rates, the company said.
“Warehouses are struggling to meet rapidly increasing demand as the world relies more on just-in-time delivery of goods,” said Robert Playter, CEO of Boston Dynamics. “Mobile robots enable the flexible movement of materials and improve working conditions for employees. Stretch combines Boston Dynamics’ advancements in mobility, perception and manipulation to tackle the most challenging, injury-prone case-handling tasks, and we’re excited to see it put to work.”
While traditional warehouse automation approaches require installation of fixed infrastructure or mobile robots that convey goods, instead Stretch offers an easier path to automation by being able to work in existing warehouse spaces and operations saving costs, the company said.
Boston Dynamics said it is targeting commercial deployment of Stretch in 2022.