In the rapidly growing e-commerce order-fulfillment industry, human workers perform the "product picking," while the ferrying of goods (on shelves or in bins) around warehouses is increasingly being taken over by autonomous ground vehicles (AGVs). The acquisition of Kiva Systems by Amazon in 2012 brought a wider attention to this technology, and several other companies soon appeared with their own solutions.
Full automation of order fulfillment will require robotic arms (mounted onto the AGVs) to retrieve items from shelves. In order to not hinder mobility, light-weight robotic arms are needed, and the arm's reaching ability must match that of an adult human. The readily available industrial collaborative arms today are not suitable for this application, because they were designed for high-precision assembly operations and must offer very high positioning accuracy; thus they are too heavy and expensive, with insufficient reach.
In order to fill this gap in the product offering, we have developed the first low-cost, collaborative robotic arm, specifically designed for light-payload pick-and-place applications in logistics, from a mobile base. There are of course many companies offering collaborative robotics arms. So what's so special about ours? Almost all collaborative robotic arms use gear reducers from the same supplier. Gear reducers together with motors make up the actuators.
Actuators determine the arm's performance and capabilities, and drive its cost. We can offer a new type of a robotic arm with a completely unique performance, because it uses our own proprietary CFCM Actuator, with the following characteristics:
- High joint-torque
- Light weight
- Force-control for compliant control (safety)
- Low impedance (high backdrive-ability) for hand-guiding