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Ambarish Ganesh
Ambarish Ganesh • Mar 27, 2012

Robots Mobilize Like Ants, Make Way For Better Material Handling!

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics (IML) in Dortmund, Germany, are establishing robotic conveyances for moving around the goods and materials within a warehouse, with the robots assembling themselves like a swarm of insects. The autonomous Multishuttle Moves vehicles shall function in the absence of a central controller, who primarily assigns tasks and sends out instructions.[​IMG]

As soon as the warehouse accepts an order, the bots interact among themselves through a wireless internet connection and the nearest free vehicle takes over the work and completes it. Thomas Albrecht, head of IML’s Autonomous Transport Systems department, stated that the bots are locally controlled, and the intelligence rests with the bots themselves. An agent-based software employs the ant algorithms developed by Marco Dorigo (swarm robotics expert). These algorithms are founded on the model behavior of live ants in their pursuit of food.

Reportedly, the researchers are working 50 bots created with material-handling and logistics automation company Dematic in a 1,000m2 dummy warehouse containing storage shelves for 600 small-part carriers and eight picking stations. The vehicles travel around the warehouse sans any outside instructions, employing a hybrid sensor concept founded on radio signals, distance and acceleration sensors, plus laser scanners to determine the shortest route from one position to another, while also steering clear of accidents/collisions.

This autonomous system is appreciably pliable and scalable than most of the traditional material-handling technology, as it can be employed to cover both large and small workplaces as per the differences in demand. The researchers are now trying quite hard to show how this technology shall be economically favorable to the industry, aiding in their productivity.

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