Pick and place are basic operations in most robotic applications, whether in industrial setups (e.g. machine tending, assembling or bin picking) or in a service robotics domain (e.g. agriculture or home). In some structured scenarios and with certain types of parts, picking and placing is a mature process. However, that is not the case when it comes to manipulating parts with high variability or in less structured environments. In this case, picking, packing and unpacking systems only exist at laboratory level, and have not reached the market due to factors like lack of efficiency, robustness and flexibility of currently avaialable manipulation and perception technologies.
In fact, the Strategic Research Agenda for Robotics in Europe document identified that the entry and exit of goods from a warehous is still a potential bottleneck to achieve efficiency of large warehouses in the logistics market, stating that “the development of human speed manipulators able to grasp and handle complex objects is still a research challenge“. At the same time, the market demands systems that allow for a reduction of costs in the supply chain, increasing the competitiveness for manufacturers and brining a cost reduction for consumers. Handling systems represent the highest impact in the short-to-midterm in warehouse-based systems (mainly at order picking and distribution centres) and in intra-logistics operations in factories and retail.
The key technology gap is the lack of flexible solutions that can handle objects of variable size, shape and weight as well as different surface properties and stifness.
In response to this challenge, PICK-PLACE proposes a multifunctional and flexible approach to variable object handling, combining human and robot capabilities to achieve a safe, flexible, dependable and efficient hybrid pick-and-package solution.
The technological objectives of PICK-PLACE are derived from the analysis of the requirements of pick-and-package scenarios in Warehouses and Distribution Centers, and answer to the technology gap that represents a market barrier.
- Flexible product handling to deal with a variety of products:
- Technological objective 1: To develop a new generation of multifunctional grippers to handle products of different morphology, weight and rigidity and that are able to reach difficult to access target positions.
- Technological objective 2: To develop reactive grasp-planning algorithm based on cognitive capabilities and allows the robot to effectively grasp different objects.
- Technological objective 3: Robust and efficient bin-picking solution based on object pose identification and fast and safe robot path planning.
- Dynamic planning to deal with outbound boxes configuration:
- Technological objective 4: Human and robot affordance aware dynamic package planning for mono and multireference configurations.
- Collaborative workspace to deal with high efficiency and high availability of the solution:
- Technological objective 5: Dynamic robot planning based on cognitive capabilities exploiting perceived monitoring and human activity.
- Technological objective 6: Reliable environment perception system and strategies for safe collaborative scenarios based on Speed and Separation Monitoring combined with Power and Force Limiting.
- Industiral objective 1: To increase the pick-and-package global performance in terms of flexibility, dependability and error reduction.
- Working conditions:
- Industrial objective 2: Improvement of the working conditions of operators by a proper layout design and task allocation between worker and robot.