Fraunhofer’s high-speed logistics robots could outperform humanoids

In an era where robotics is steadily advancing, Fraunhofer’s latest innovations in logistics robots, namely the evoBOT and the O³dyn pallet jack, are set to redefine efficiency and speed in warehousing and logistics.

The landscape of robotics has been dominated by the development of humanoid robots, touted as the next big breakthrough. These robots, as predicted by experts like Brett Adcock, the CEO of Figure, are initially expected to perform basic tasks such as picking and carrying items. However, the human-like form of these robots may not be the most efficient for specific environments like warehouses, where speed and lifting capacity are crucial.

This is where Fraunhofer’s evoBOT and O³dyn robots come into the picture, offering specialized capabilities that could outperform humanoid robots in industrial settings.

evoBOT: Speed and Strength Combined

The evoBOT, a two-wheeled, self-balancing robot, is a marvel of engineering. It can reach speeds up to 60 km/h (37 mph), significantly faster than the walking pace of humanoid robots projected at 5-6 km/h (3-4 mph). In terms of lifting capacity, the evoBOT can handle up to 65 kg (143 lb) using its self-locking lifting arms, and up to 100 kg (220 lb) with external loading. This makes it more than three times as effective in lifting compared to its humanoid counterparts.

The evoBOT’s high-performance motors make it extremely quick and agile. Images courtesy Fraunhofer IML

Its design enables precision in tasks like stacking crates, thanks to its rotating, circular grippers. Although less versatile than human hands, these grippers allow the evoBOT to lift objects without inverting them, providing access to higher shelves despite its waist-high structure. Weighing approximately 40 kg (88 lb), it’s both compact and efficient, capable of running up to 8 hours on a single battery charge. The evoBOT’s ability to handle slopes up to 45 degrees and its agility, likened to a blend of the TARS robot from Interstellar and a Segway, add to its impressive functionality.

O³dyn Pallet Jack: Precision and Power

O³dyn pallet jack wraps itself around pallets for effortless lifting and transport.

The O³dyn, an autonomous pallet jack, might lack the aesthetic appeal of evoBOT but compensates with its functional prowess. Equipped with omnidirectional Mecanum wheels and air suspension, it offers remarkable maneuverability, both indoors and outdoors. The robot can travel at speeds of up to 36 km/h (22 mph), utilizing LiDAR, GPS, and 3D camera systems for navigation.

The O³dyn’s ability to precisely position itself for pallet pickup and its capability to lift loads up to 350 kg (772 lb) in its current prototype form are notable. In its final production version, it’s expected to handle loads up to 1,300 kg (2,866 lb) without needing motor upgrades.

One of the areas still under refinement is its response to sudden obstacles, for which an emergency brake system has been integrated. This system quickly halts the robot by dropping it onto friction brake plates, ensuring immediate stoppage in critical situations.

O³dyn’s Mecanum wheels and air suspension enable precise movement and easy navigation in confined areas.

Comparative Advantages and Applications

Both logistics robots have undergone testing in real-world environments, like the Munich Airport, demonstrating their potential in vast operational spaces. The evoBOT, with its speed and lifting capability, could significantly improve efficiency in tasks that require quick movement and heavy lifting. On the other hand, the O³dyn’s precision and capacity for heavy loads make it ideal for pallet transportation and maneuvering in tight spaces.

Pricing and Market Impact

As of now, specific pricing details for these logistics robots are not publicly available. However, their introduction into the market is expected to create a substantial impact, offering efficient alternatives to traditional human labor and humanoid robots in logistics and warehousing.

Conclusion

Fraunhofer’s evoBOT and O³dyn represent significant advancements in the field of industrial robotics. With their specialized capabilities, these robots are not just innovative solutions for today’s logistical challenges but also a glimpse into the future of automated warehousing and logistics. As these technologies continue to evolve, they promise to reshape how we think about efficiency and automation in industrial settings.

Source: Fraunhofer IML

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