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Co-robots work to simplify logistics

Posted: 01 May 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Fetch Robotics? co-robot? smartphone? tablet? logistics?

It was hard to imagine people working alongside robots in factories and assembly plants without any sort of distress. Now, a start-up has turned that scenario worry-free using a pair of co-robots. Today, the co-robot, "co" meaning they can work alongside people without danger, is becoming the standard for mobile robotics.

One specialty for co-robots is fulfilment, that is, fetching items from warehouse shelves that people order online or from 800 numbers, then packaging them up for the automated machinery already in place for sealing the packages and applying the label and postage. Capitalising on this gaping need, now fulfilled with fleets of low-paid workers that are in short supply, is Fetch Robotics Inc. (San Jose, Calif.).

Called "Fetch" and "Freight," the former wirelessly accepts the orders from the on-line store, rolls over to the shelf where that item is located, fetches it with a hand-like gripper, and deposits it in the "Freight" robots bin. Freight then rolls over to the assembly line where another Fetch robot picks up the item again, and deposits on the proper moving belt that then closes and seals the box, then applies the label and postage, after which a third Fetch robot deposits the item on the pallet to be loaded by fork-lift into the delivery trucks.

Fetch and Freight

Fetch, the one-armed robot, works with Freight (below) to grab order items off shelves and deliver them to the packaging assembler that ships them to customers. (Source: Fetch Robotics).

"Our specialty is logistics for now," said CEO of Fetch Robotics Melonee Wise. "We have lots of work to do in logistics and don't plan on branching out into other markets for some time."

The company was founded just seven months ago with $3 million of seed capital (Series A) from Shasta Ventures and O'Reilly AlphaTech Ventures. It expects their customers to buy 2-3 times as many Freight robots as Fetch robots, since the Freight robots will be spending most of their time transporting items to the assembly line belt, whereas the Fetch robots will be located in zones where they can load Freight robots one after the other.

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