RIGHTHAND ROBOTICS FINDS THE “HOLY GRAIL” OF FLEXIBLE GRIPPING
RightHand Robotics, based in Somerville, Massachusetts, has created a complete solution that includes a Universal Robots (UR) robot arm, computer-vision, and machine-learning systems, as well as an innovative gripper that can pick up a wide range of objects in an unstructured environment such as a bin or tote. Co-founder Leif Jentoft refers to this flexible grasping as “the holy grail” in robotics research: piece-picking that delivers “The Three ‘R’s” – range of items, rate of picking, and reliability of the customer getting what they ordered.”
RightHand Robotics team member Nadia Cheng explains that robots have traditionally been used in manufacturing to perform the same task millions of times. In the supply chain industry, however, with millions of different items in the warehouse, the robot might be doing each task just once, but for a million different things. “It’s not reasonable for a warehouse to have 3D models of all the items in the warehouse. The real challenge is to enable robots to pick things that it’s never seen before, just as a person can.”
The RightHand Robotics system can run on any robot arm, but Cheng says that many customers prefer UR robot arms because they are collaborative and safe to work side-by-side with humans in warehouse environments. “To have collaborative arms that are as easy to work with as the UR arms give us a very accessible solution,” Cheng says. She adds, “I was blown away by how easy it was to use, and how elegant the whole process was.”
ACCUTECH PACKAGING INCREASES FULFILLMENT PRODUCTIVITY BY 8-10X
The RightHand Robotics technology has also been incorporated into multiple other logistics systems, such as the Autofulfillment™ SPrint™ System from Accutech Packaging in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The system automates the outbound bagging, labeling, sorting, and shipping of merchandise such as health and beauty aids, electronics, and office products.
Mike Keneally, vice president of Accutech Packaging, explains the advantages of automating these processes for e-commerce retailers or pharmacies. “They are manually opening bags, loading product into it, printing a packing slip, putting it in the bag, and then applying a shipping label. All of that is very time-consuming. On average, a packer can operate at 65 to 85 packages an hour. With our technology, we are able to increase the productivity of an individual packer to something like 600 packages an hour.” That’s an 8X to nearly 10X improvement in productivity, which is critical to meet consumer demands for fast product fulfillment. The RightHand Robotics system combines a fingered gripper with a suction cup along with a UR robot arm to provide a system that is reliable and fast to meet the 600 packages-per-hour goals.
Accutech’s Keneally says that the market demand for this system is phenomenal. “Everything is moving online, and so they’re looking for better ways of packaging their items, particularly when it is so difficult to find many people to work for them,” Keneally states. “Adding that robotic technology is significant to enable our customers to really fulfill their customers’ requirements.”