Application of robots for material handling

Companies wishing to move towards automation are still uncertain about the technical details of such industrial implementations, or simply wondering what exactly robotics can do to improve their production processes.

The use of robotic transport platforms is more popular, but there is still a lack of knowledge about mobile handling robots. 

Robots for material handling are a growing trend and Robotnik is one of the pioneers in the development and manufacture of these robots. 

In this article you will find 5 applications of material handling robots that you may not have thought of yet. 

What is a handling robot?

A traditional handling robot is a robotic arm installed and fixed in a specific location in a static way, for example, at a point on an assembly production conveyor to join several parts together. 

Now, handling robots are reaching new horizons thanks to mobility and Collaborative Mobile Manipulation is already a reality. 

A Collaborative Mobile Manipulator or handling robot, is a robotic arm seamlessly integrated into an autonomous mobile robotic platform. So the arm no longer has to be fixed at a single point but the arm can execute one or several handling tasks at as many locations as the company requires. 

Robotnik's experience after 20 years in the industry as a leading company in autonomous mobile handling, shows that there are a large number of tasks that no longer make sense to be performed by operators. These are risky, repetitive and time-consuming tasks that put unnecessary strain on the workers. 

In addition, many of Robotnik's customers are faced with the problem of a lack of skilled labour for these tasks. 

For these reasons, the automation of mechanical and tedious operations for humans is continuously growing.

These are Robotnik's most demanded Collaborative Mobile Manipulators for material handling: 

5 robot applications for material handling

There are as many applications that mobile manipulators are capable of executing as there are end-effectors compatible with the arm: grippers, magnetic grippers, robotic hand grippers and a host of other component options. 

Here is a list of five applications of handling robots that are common in industrial environments that you may not have known about: 

  1. Goods-to-person: This is the term used to describe the tasks of bringing parts or other units of material from a warehouse to the operator in an automated manner. Goods-to-person picking reduces unnecessary operator movements and avoids unproductive times. 
  2. Intralogistics: In production lines, it is common to find missing components required for manufacturing. A handling robot is able to supply each stage of the production line so that operators can continue with the process. 
  3. Handling of hazardous material: the precision and advanced technology of a Mobile Handler robot such as RB-KAIROS+ makes it capable of handling toxic, polluting or noxious material that poses a danger to humans. 
  4. Palletising: loading materials onto a pallet is a mechanical task that requires precision and consistency. It is one of the most automated applications in logistics environments due to the fact that the repeatability rate of a robot handler significantly exceeds that of a human operator. In the case of mobile handlers, the robot can carry out the palletising task at one point in the warehouse and when it is finished, it can move to the location of the next pallet to be loaded or stop, if it has completed its mission. Thus, it is not necessary to bring the pallets to the robotic arm, but the process is reversed: the robot goes autonomously to the pallet. 
  5. Sorting: the development of advanced software is key for the manipulator robot to carry out a sorting application accurately and with no margin for error. In fact, it is one of the tasks that has taken the longest to be automated due to its complexity, but the level of technological development has reached a point that enables and guarantees efficiency. A mobile handling robot can classify different elements following a specific order or pattern, by means of Artificial Intelligence algorithms and other identification, vision and sensorisation systems. 

Sanding, welding, polishing... The list of applications that a mobile handling robot is able to perform is endless. What is the task that your company needs to automate? Robotnik's team knows which Mobile Handling Robot best suits your needs.

What is advanced robotics?

Advanced robotics involves robotic systems capable of taking commands and reacting to them in an intelligent way. For example, a robot that is carrying out a task of transporting material within a warehouse and, upon facing an unexpected obstacle, takes the decision to redefine the optimal route to complete its mission.

In the evolution of advanced robotics, the progress of disruptive technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, or cognitive automation, among others, plays a significant role. 

These technologies are increasing the capabilities of mobile robots, which now reach higher levels of intelligence and autonomy.  

After 20 years of experience in the development of advanced robotics, Robotnik reaches new high demand levels by companies and entities looking for intelligent automation of tasks and processes. 

The company, constantly developing robotics R&D, is now seeing how these technologies are transforming the future of manufacturing and driving growth in manufacturing companies and other industries. 

Industrial processes used decades ago cannot keep pace with the current exigent, flexible and global demand. In order to adapt production to the context, these exponential technologies are a definite boost. Many factories are already incorporating advanced robotics for warehouse management. 

Growth of advanced robotics 

Advanced robotics emerged in the 1980s as a term for robots featuring sensorisation and a powerful combination of software and hardware to make intelligent decisions, in contrast to traditional machines. 

These types of robots are not limited to the manufacturing environment or Industry 4.0 - although a large part of sales are oriented towards this sector - but are also useful in different industries: construction, health or safety and rescue, for example. 

 The ability to make decisions autonomously, precision and error reduction or high mobility are some of the characteristics that make the advanced robotics market is moving at high speed, as can be seen in the following table:

Future of advanced robotics

The future of advanced industrial robotics is multi-tasking, collaborative robots, with greater autonomy and increasingly accurate sensing. 

Advanced robotics has not yet reached its high point and there are still challenges to be faced. For example, the gap in the technological training of many of the workers in the manufacturing industry or the high cost that some of these technologies represent. 

Despite the fact that technological development is constant, Robotnik has the capacity to offer innovative robotics while minimising these problems as much as possible. For example, the fact that Robotnik's AMRs already integrate 5G technology means a greater guarantee for the Artificial Intelligence, autonomy and safety of the robot.

Advanced robotics: the road to intelligent automation 

An important part of intelligent automation is robotics capable of incorporating Artificial Intelligence algorithms. Do you know some of the autonomous, collaborative and mobile robots that are  already on the market? 

Here are some examples of advanced robotics from Robotnik: 

Gear factory: The Netherlands company Hankamp Gears BV incorporates robotics to perform pick and place and handling tasks in the production line of metal gears.

Security and rescue sector: Here you can read about robots that, through high sensorization, are able to support security personnel in emergency situations. 

Logistics: Part of the result of the PILOTOS 5G project was two demonstrations in large industrial plants in which Robotnik's mobile robot RB-VOGUI has autonomously and collaboratively carried out logistics tasks in the transport and supply of materials.




What is a Pick and Place robot?

Pick and Place tasks are those that involve picking and placing in a different place or position, whether they are parts, products or other elements or loads. These are common logistical tasks in factories, warehouses and industrial environments, which a robot can handle perfectly well as they are mechanical, repetitive and tedious. This is where pick and place robots come into their own.

Traditionally, static robotic arms are referred to as pick & place robots, but Robotnik is a pioneer in autonomous mobile manipulation: it is a mobile platform that integrates a robotic arm. This means that the robot arm is no longer bound to a fixed, specific space, but can perform pick and place tasks in as many locations as required.

The advantages of Pick & Place robots for production processes are diverse, and derive, fundamentally, in two benefits: the reduction of production times and increase in the profitability of the same.

  • Increased production rate
  • Minimising errors in the production process
  • 24/7 working shifts
  • Increased production rate
  • Increased accuracy

How to choose a Pick and Place robot?

There is a wide range of picking robots on offer but not all of them are suitable for every application. The ultimate goal is to automate product manipulation and placement tasks within a production line.

Did you know that Robotnik has developed a robot specifically designed for Pick and Place tasks?

The RB-KAIROS+ mobile manipulator robot can not only perform these tasks in an optimal way, but it also does it in a collaborative way, sharing workspace with operators without risk.

Three factors should be taken into account:

  1. Do you need a fixed arm or do you prefer the arm to be able to change location? With this mobile manipulator, both options are available as it performs the task in the same or different locations. This means further optimisation of the investment in the robot.
  2. Arm reach. Robotnik’s RB-KAIROS+ is a pick and place robot that integrates a Universal Robots arm with a reach of 1,300 mm in the mobile platform.
  3. Payload. The pick and place tasks can be with very small to very large elements or parts. RB-KAIROS+ has a payload capacity of 12.5 kg on the arm and up to 250 kg on the platform.

What tasks can a Pick and Place robot perform?

They are especially useful for tasks in assembly or packaging applications (transporting or placing parts from one part of the chain to another), quality control (inspection of errors and removal of defective parts), screwdriving, metrology, assembly, polishing…

Many of Robotnik’s customers already had an arm in their business to perform these tasks, but they decided to maximise its potential by integrating it into a mobile platform. In this way, they added the ability of autonomous movement.

The RB-KAIROS+ mobile manipulator is one of the best-selling pick & place robots because of its versatility (the mobile platform is omnidirectional, allowing it to move to an infinite number of locations at a speed 1 to 5 times faster than a differential one) and because it is easy for the customer to set up.

Do you want to see an example of a Pick and Place robot operating in a real environment?