Hitachi warehouse robot grabs goods with two arms

The arms are equipped with cameras and grippers to identify and move merchandise while filling e-commerce orders.

In another sign that more warehouse workers could be displaced by machines, Hitachi has created a mobile logistics robot that can use two arms to handle inventory.

Developed to meet increasing demand from online shopping orders, the machine can move around on wheels, autonomously fetching merchandise and carrying it to a shipping container.

Because its arms can hold objects of many different shapes and sizes, the robot could be used to replace human staff doing repetitive picking work in high mix, low volume warehouses, where it would not be cost-effective to use dedicated robots for each different product.

Hitachi robot Hitachi

Hitachi has developed an autonomous two-armed robot that can work in warehouses that ship goods for online retailers.

For the robot's appendages, Hitachi used two Epson ProSix C4-A901S industrial robot arms, which have six degrees of freedom of movement, and equipped them with cameras that use a computer vision system to recognize merchandise.

Hitachi, which has also worked on robots that can go inside nuclear power reactors, fitted each arm with various manipulators serving as "hands" for the robot. They include grippers and vacuum end effectors, which use suction to hold objects.

The arms are mounted on two platforms that move up and down on scissor lifts, allowing them to reach boxes at different heights on a warehouse shelf. The platforms are themselves mounted on a mobile cart.

The entire robot is somewhat bulky but can move quickly and nimbly because it requires a minimal amount of wirelessly transmitted data to operate, according to the company.

"With this technology, the robot can recognize where goods are and begin moving its lifting platforms and arms to grasp them even before it has arrived at the shelf location," a Hitachi spokeswoman said via email.

The arms can support one another in handling merchandise. They can pick up objects weighing up to about 1 kilogram, including 500-milliliter drinks bottles.

Research related to the robot is to be presented this week at the Irish Machine Vision & Image Processing conference in Dublin.

Hitachi envisions using the robot within its own group of companies in Japan over the next few years before putting them on the market in about five years. It did not confirm whether it could be released overseas as well.

The development comes amid a push to automate warehouses for online commerce. Earlier this year, California-based startup Fetch Robotics unveiled a pair of robots, one of which has an arm, that work in tandem to fill orders. Amazon.com, meanwhile, has been transforming its warehouses with intelligent machines, particularly Kiva robots, which lack arms but can transport stacks of inventory to areas where human workers unload them.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tim Hornyak

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?