Stretch can shift up to 800 boxes an hour, comparable to a human
U.S. robotics company Boston Dynamics on Monday unveiled a new robot called Stretch, designed to perform one very specific warehouse job: moving boxes.
Boston Dynamics is best known for its robot dog Spot, a machine designed to work in a range of environments, from offshore oil rigs to deep underground mines. But in recent years, the company has increasingly focused attention on the logistics space, and today is unveiling a new robot with just one application in mind: moving boxes in warehouses.
The robot is called Stretch and looks relatively dull for a Boston Dynamics creation. It’s not modeled after humans or animals, and instead aims to be as practical as possible. It has a square mobile base containing a set of wheels, a “perception mast” with cameras and other sensors, and a huge robotic arm with seven degrees of freedom and a suction pad array on the end that can grab and move boxes up to 23 kilograms (50 lbs) in weight.
“We’re looking at picking up boxes around 50 pounds (23 kilograms), and our maximum rate of picking up and moving boxes can reach up to 800 cases per hour. So, it’s a fast moving, highly versatile robot,” Perry said.
What connects Stretch to other Boston Dynamics machines is a focus on mobility. Usually, when automation equipment is installed in warehouses the system is bolted down in one place with a workflow modeled around it. Stretch, by comparison, is designed to slide into any existing workplace where it could be useful loading or unloading goods.
“We heard pretty much universally across warehousing that truck unloading is one of the most physically difficult and unpleasant jobs … And that’s where Stretch comes into play,” Perry told Reuters.
Stretch has a small mobile base that allows it to move around tight spaces in existing warehouses without having to reconfigure them for automation. It is equipped with an arm and a smart-gripper with advanced sensing and computer vision cameras that can identify and handle a large variety of boxed and shrink wrapped cases.
Boston Dynamics is bringing mobility to warehouse automation. Watch Stretch – our new case handling robot – move, groove and unload trucks.— Boston Dynamics (@BostonDynamics) March 29, 2021
Read the announcement. https://t.co/5B7wDDKC38 pic.twitter.com/i3Dsoz9Tq8
Hyundai Motor Group recently agreed to buy a controlling stake in Boston Dynamics from SoftBank Group Corp in a deal that values the robot maker at $1.1 billion.
Analysts say the warehousing sector experienced an extremely strong 2020, with growth expected to continue this year. They point to the dynamics of 2020, as online shopping amid the pandemic drove the need for a massive expansion in order fulfillment services.
Boston Dynamics hasn’t released any pricing for Stretch, but said the system can be installed “without requiring costly reconfiguration or investments in new fixed infrastructure.”