A few months ago, we wrote about Kiva Systems and the mobile robotics systems they had created for warehouses. These robotic fulfillment systems help warehouses organize and fulfill requests quicker and more efficiently. Since Amazon purchased the company in 2012, however, Kiva fulfillment systems have been used almost exclusively in the large retailer’s warehouses.
Fortunately, for those looking for an alternative, Rethink Robotics has also developed a warehouse robotic system.
A New Manufacturing Solution
Rethink Robotics has been known for their manufacturing systems. The company focused on bringing production robots out from their specialized areas and into the workplace.
Employees no longer need to hold specialized degrees or go through lengthy training processes to use the robots. Instead, the robots are right there at the workstation. Employees work with these advanced machines, by Rethink Robotics, learning interactively as they go after a basic training period.
The idea is to create an integrated workforce that increases productivity and makes the most out of the resources available.
Rethink Robotics has mainly focused on manufacturing, but they’ve begun branching out in recent years. The Baxter Research Robot, for example, is a system designed for use in universities and research laboratories.
This system takes the tried and tested robots used in manufacturing plants, and combines them with Rethink Robotics’ open source operating system. The result is an extremely flexible system that can be used in many different types of research. Scientists are able to program the robots to do an almost unlimited number of things, which is incredibly useful in many fields.
Because these robots are run by an open source system, the system is useful in many other industries as well. For example, they could be programed to scan warehouse shelving for certain products and retrieve those products. This is similar to how the Kiva robots work, and it would take very little programming to make it happen.
The Open Source Software
At the heart of the flexibility of the system is the Intera 3 OS. This graphical user interface was designed to be very easy to understand and use. The system is programmed in such a way that users don’t have to memorize a lot of special commands or learn a new coding language. The system will even adapt to a new environment very quickly and without reprogramming it. The Intera 3 OS builds on the previous versions created by Rethink Robotics and is faster and more precise than its predecessors.
Bringing Baxter into the Warehouse
Why would a warehouse want to spend the money on Baxter?
In addition to being trained to find products on the shelves, the standard Baxter robot is designed to excel at repetitive tasks. This includes things like packing/unpacking and loading/unloading products from a conveyor belt.
For warehouses that use a conveyor system, this is a great way of making that monotonous task more efficient. The robots can also be used to move raw materials, place finished products on a pallet, and more. The system’s flexibility means that it can do almost anything.