"Stretch" can move 800 boxes per hour © Boston Dynamics
"Stretch" can move 800 boxes per hour © Boston Dynamics

Boston Dynamics unveils mobile robot for warehouses

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
30 March 2021

Boston Dynamics – the company behind the famous robotic dog – has unveiled a mobile robot designed specifically for warehouses.

Named “Stretch”, the robot features an omni-directional base with a lightweight arm and gripper that can handle a range of boxed and shrink-wrapped items.

“The multi-purpose mobile robot is designed to tackle a number of tasks where rapid box moving is required, first starting with truck unloading and later expanding into order building,” said Boston Dynamics.

“Traditional warehouse automation approaches require either installation of fixed infrastructure or mobile robots that convey goods but struggle to meet productivity requirements to be an attractive investment for warehouse operators.

“Stretch offers logistics providers an easier path to automation by working within existing warehouse spaces and operations, without requiring costly reconfiguration or investments in new fixed infrastructure.”

The company said Stretch could fit anywhere a pallet does and its seven degrees-of-freedom arm could reach cases throughout a truck or pallet.

It features the company’s computer vision technology that enables it to identify boxes easily without extensive training.

Robert Playter, CEO of Boston Dynamics, said: “Warehouses are struggling to meet rapidly increasing demand as the world relies more on just-in-time delivery of goods.

“Mobile robots enable the flexible movement of materials and improve working conditions for employees. Stretch combines Boston Dynamics’ advancements in mobility, perception and manipulation to tackle the most challenging, injury-prone case-handling tasks, and we’re excited to see it put to work.”

Michael Perry, vice president of business development at Boston Dynamics, told Reuters the robot could life a 23kg box and move up to 800 cases per hour.

“We heard pretty much universally across warehousing that truck unloading is one of the most physically difficult and unpleasant jobs, and that’s where Stretch comes into play. It’s a fast moving, highly versatile robot,” he said.

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