Despite forecasts predicting that wages for warehouse workers will increase four times faster than they did prior to the pandemic due to continuing labor shortages, manufacturing and distribution center facilities are “still having a very hard time hiring and retaining frontline workers,” says Joe Campbell, senior manager of applications development at Universal Robots.
As a result, more companies are filling the void with robots—and collaborative robots (cobots) in particular. Highlighting how cobots are being used to handle tasks traditionally performed by humans, Universal Robots showcased an intelligent palletizing operation with its partner Mujin Corp. The mixed-case robotic de-palletizing system with intelligent buffer and re-sequencing capability (see the accompanying video) shows how intelligent robotics systems can perform challenging picking-and-packing tasks without the need for advanced programming.
These Mujin controller-powered de-palletizing systems enable the cobot to buffer and re-sequence cases without the need for upstream material handling equipment, eliminating the need for manual de-palletizing operations. Mujin says its controller combines 3D perception, real-time motion planning, and dexterous grasping and can work with any robot arm. The Mujin Machine Intelligence used in the controller reportedly enables robots to make effective decisions in real time by quickly observing an object and the surrounding environment, then determining the best course of action to complete the task.
In a demo of the Mujin system at Modex 2022, the de-palletizer featured Universal Robots’ UR16e model with a 16 kg/35.3 lbs. payload, and an integrated FXCB gripper from Schmalz.
“Robots are becoming more intelligent, and new applications such as mixed-case de-palletizing are now possible,” said Ross Diankov, co-founder and chief technology officer at Mujin. “With Mujin solutions, all warehouses need to do is send the boxes directly to the robots, and they’ll re-sequence them before placing them on the pallet.”
In the accompanying video above, Diankov explains the combined Mujin and Universal Robots intelligent de-palletizing system and the how the system’s digital twin tracks items being picked and placed as well as potential impacts in the surrounding environment.