One recent trend in supply chain automation is toward larger and more capable robots. Mobile Industrial Robots ApS today launched the MiR250 Hook, which can tow loaded carts weighing up to 1,100 lb. (500 kg). The Odense, Denmark-based company said the patented MiR250 Hook builds on its fastest and most compact mobile robot to help further optimize industrial workflows.
“At workplaces worldwide, humans move thousands of carts and transport cages manually between departments, a highly repetitive and time-consuming task,” stated Søren E. Nielsen, president of Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR). “With the highly precise and powerful MiR250 Hook, towing carts and transport cages through dynamic and potentially constricted environments is now easier, more manageable, and quite economical.”
“There is no need to modify the layout of the facility or purchase new carts, since the MiR250 Hook can autonomously locate and attach to almost any type of cart via QR codes or AprilTags and deliver it to its destination without human involvement,” he added.
Mobile Industrial Robots develops and markets collaborative autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) to safely and cost-effectively manage internal logistics, freeing employees for higher-value activities. The company said that hundreds of midsized through large manufacturers and logistics centers, as well as several hospitals, have installed its robots around the world.
Acquired in 2018 by automated test equipment supplier Teradyne Inc., MiR has a distribution network in more than 60 countries.
MiR250 Hook includes upgraded parts
The MiR250 Hook is an upgrade to the MiR250, the vendor's best-selling product since it was released last March, said Matt Charles, sales director for the Midwest U.S. and Canada at MiR.
“The MiR250 with the shelf carrier has to get under carts and sometimes requires modifications to those carts,” he told Robotics 24/7. “Operations with hundreds or thousands of carts couldn't invest in modifying all of them, so the MiR250 Hook expands cart transport for those customers.”
“We've really upgraded the internals of the Hook from the MiR100 and MiR200 for the heavier payload,” Charles said. “We've changed actuators, encoders, and motors, as well as improved the brake cabling for safe stopping. We applied an immense amount of software updates to the new product, and they are extended to the entire MiR250 family.”
The MiR250 Hook can travel at speeds up to 4.5 mph (2 m/sec.). Mobile Industrial Robots said the new robot's speed, flexibility, and industrial design can increase the range of applications for its AMRs. For example, the MiR250 Hook can automate the delivery of components to human workers, who can stay in place, creating a more efficient flow on a testing or assembly line.
“These workers can then spend their time assembling products rather than collecting material and parts,” Nielsen said. “The company also saves space in the production area when carts with components are delivered just in time from stock.”
Top module also available as an add-on
In addition to the integrated MiR250 Hook, companies that already own MiR250 robots can purchase the Hook top module without having to invest in new carts.
Only a few steps are required before deploying the MiR250 Hook in a workplace, said MiR. These include attaching QR codes or AprilTags to carts and cages so the MiR250 Hook can identify them, mapping the robot to its route manually the first time or importing a map of the premises into the robot’s software, and installing an automatic charging station if it is the first AMR deployed in the facility.
“The MiR250 Hook charges twice as fast and has more than 11 hours of runtime,” said Charles. “All of MiR's robots are an open platform, and they are made to be easily adaptable.”
“We provide a few top-module solutions for the MiR250, such as the shelf carrier and now Hook,” he added. “All that's required of a customer or distribution partner is to take off four bolts, make Ethernet connections, and add a traction kit, depending on the size of the payload. The traction kit helps exert enough downward force on the robot to make it safe for stopping.”
“The software adjusts on its own,” Charles said. “The MiR250 Hook navigates differently, taking wider turns with not as much backing up. The QR codes and AprilTags include the dimensions of the cart we're pulling. We recommmend that only one cart be towed at a time, rather than multiples in a train, for safety.”
“With the launch of the MiR250, we're providing partners with commissioning and risk assessment tools,” he noted. “Robots are only as safe as their applications. We expect that the MiR250 Hook will still be used in areas with humans.”
MiR sees growing applications
The new Hook accessory will be used in automotive manufacturing, logistics, and consumer packaged goods, said Charles. “Based on our experience with the MiR100 and 200, we expect quite a bit of interest in goods-to-person logistics—picking orders for fulfillment, putting them in a cart, and taking it back to the packing and shipping area,” he said.
“Trash removal is a big application,” Charles added. “We've seen facilities where products come in, and workers need to take away plastic packing or broken-down cardboard boxes. Bins already have a bar that we could grab on to.”
“With solid mechanical solutions ranging from 100 to 1,000 kg., that covers a lot of applications,” he said of the MiR250 Hook. “Our growth moving forward will be software-related. We make continuous updates, and we're focused on our new AI cameras and ease of deployment.”
About the Author
Eugene Demaitre is editorial director of Robotics 24/7. Prior to joining Peerless Media, he was a senior editor at Robotics Business Review and The Robot Report. Demaitre has also worked for BNA (now part of Bloomberg), Computerworld, and TechTarget. He has participated in numerous robotics-related webinars, podcasts, and events worldwide.
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