January 17, 2017

RightHand Robotics shows off each-picking robot arm

RightHand Robotics shows off each-picking robot arm

Technology targeted for warehouses fulfilling e-commerce orders or delivering large SKU range for stores.

By DC Velocity Staff

Automated warehouse picking startup RightHand Robotics Inc. has launched a demonstration of its each-picking robotic arm, bringing its technology out of a stealthy development mode, the company said Sunday.

In a demo for attendees at the National Retail Federation (NRF's) annual convention in New York City, the Cambridge, Mass.-based tech startup showed off a system that used machine vision and a robotic arm with a suction-powered tip to pick a variety of single health and beauty items and to compile personalized kits in sealed polybags.

The product is targeted for supply chain hubs such as warehouses that struggle to fulfill e-commerce orders or deliver greater SKU range for stores, RightHand said. Those demands are rising as omnichannel fulfillment trends require on-demand, flexible, accurate piece-picking, and DCs need to pivot from handling cases or pallets of products to shipping individual units.

A growing number of tech firms are offering solutions to automate the painstaking and time-intensive work of picking and packing individual items, known as "eaches" to fulfillment professionals.

Future versions of RightHand's technology will offer grasping fingers in addition to the suction tool as an option for the end of the robotic arm. That flexibility allows RightHand to focus on each picking, distinguishing it from tote-based robotic picking options from companies such as Locus Robotics and Six Rivers, co-founder Yaro Tenzer said in an interview.

Another feature that could distinguish the company from other automated material handling vendors is that RightHand plans to sell the technology in a low-cost, "robotics as a service" model, offering robotic performance for warehouses based on an hourly rate, Tenzer said.

RightHand grew out of a team of researchers from the Harvard Biorobotics Laboratory, the Yale GRAB Lab, and MIT who were studying grasping systems, intelligent hardware sensors, computer vision, and applied machine learning,

Known as RightKit, the system displayed at NRF is the first in what RightHand said will be a series of auto-pick robotic systems picking individual items for e-commerce order fulfillment. Unlike traditional factory robots, the RightKit system can handle thousands of items without reconfiguration and can pick individual items from cases, totes, and other unstructured bulk inventory storage, the company said.

The systems gains its flexible characteristics from the company's GraspIntelligence software, which plans and executes grasps from 3-D vision, allowing the arm to handle categories as diverse as health and beauty products, electronics, pharmaceuticals, and grocery items, Tenzer said.

Applied in a warehouse, the RightKit work cell is mounted on a standard pallet base that can easily be moved and uses human-safe collaborative arms. It can be scaled up for greater throughput by deploying multiple systems in parallel and can be integrated with other automation solutions, such as the auto-bagger commonly used for packaging apparel shipments.

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