Collaborative mobile robots are still a relatively new way of handling internal transportation tasks within factories. “What can I do with this robot?” is a popular question across the supply chain for manufacturers. Many companies are very open to automation and robotics in general, but they have usually focused on automating production. Material handling and the in-house transportation is often still done manually by humans spending valuable time just pushing carts from A to B.
However, with collaborative and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), these tasks can be automated in a simple, efficient, and cost-effective way. AMRs have an open interface, meaning they can be mounted with customized top modules for whatever the customer application demands.
Consider these five common applications for AMRs:
Shelf Units: Shelf units are often used to transport semi-finished or finished goods between productions, between production and warehouse and/or in warehouse logistics. Shelf modules are often used in semi-automated installations, where an employee summons the mobile robot via the robot’s interface, or an installed button, fills up the robot with the goods and send it on its way with just one click of a button. The shelf units can also be used with a shelf lift module, so the robot can pick up and unload entire shelves with wheels. This application shows an AMR transporting surgical instruments from production to warehouse at Argon Medical in Chicago.
Conveyor band/belts : The mobile robots can be deployed with a conveyor top module, so they can transport items between fixed conveyor band/belts. These are often seen in fully automated solutions where the mobile robots move items between production lines or from production line to delivery. The mobile robots are the adaptable link between the traditional conveyor bands and enable companies to be more efficient because they can transport items flexibly between several production lines. This slide shows a fully automated facility at Kamstrup in Denmark, where a robot picks up semi-finished items at a robotic cell and delivers them to a product line via a conveyor belt.
Automated Pallet Fork: Within logistics, some mobile robots can tow a pallet with a pallet fork. The mobile robot can locate the pallet fork and transport it to its destination autonomously. As a result, the employees only have to load and unload the pallet from the pallet fork. This saves valuable time because they do not need to do the transportation themselves.
Robotic Arms: The mobile robots add mobility to the robotic arms, and these can then be used in productions and in warehouse logistics, automating the process of repeatedly picking up products from warehouse shelves and carrying them back and forth between location points. It is also relevant for retail warehouses where the robots can pick up orders from different locations and deliver them to a shipping area. These are monotonous tasks that robots can perform, freeing up the staff for more valuable tasks. Both the AMRs and the robotic arms are collaborative and can work alongside humans without any extra safety. In this photo, a MiR100 robot with a Universal Robot (UR) 3 arm picks up items in a warehouse.
Safety units: Mobile robots can be used in large facilities such as the Hospital of Southern Jutland here to autonomously transport medicine, blood samples or anything else that needs to be locked in. Hospitals, like manufacturing plants, are usually large facilities, and therefore, the mobile safety units save employees from walking long distances with the medicine. Being able to communicate with doors and elevators lets the mobile robots transport items over long distances without requiring human workers. The safety units can also be used for transporting other confidential items in other industries. In Southern Jutland, the hospital uses a fleet of AMRs for transporting blood samples and cancer medicine. The staff sends for the robot with their phones and when the robot arrives, they load it and send it off again.