Tools


Siemens Worldwide

Pictures of the Future

Contact

Contact

sts.components.contact.mr.placeholder Sebastian Webel
Mr. Sebastian Webel

Editor-in-Chief

Tel: +49 (89) 636-32221

Fax: +49 89 636-35292

Werner-von-Siemens-Straße 1
80333 Munich


sts.components.contact.mr.placeholder Arthur F. Pease
Mr. Arthur F. Pease

Executive Editor English Edition

Tel: +49 (89) 636-48824

Fax: +49 89 636-35292

Otto-Hahn-Ring 6
81739 Munich
Germany

Pictures of the Future
The Magazine for Research and Innovation
 

Digital Factory

World’s First Independently Operating Warehouse Robot

Final preparations: At the logistics-fair Logimat in Stuttgart, Germany, the start-up Magazino presents for the first time the robot Toru.

Beginning in mid-March, German logistics company Sigloch will, for the first time, use a robot that will operate independently in a warehouse. The robot was developed by Munich-based start-up Magazino, in which Siemens owns a 49.9 percent share.

After a series of test runs, a robot called Toru Cube will achieve a world first in March, when it begins to work continuously in a huge warehouse complex operated by Sigloch in Blaufelden, Germany. Sigloch is a publishing logistics company that supplies books to a variety of firms, including online giant Amazon. The main reason why Sigloch will employ the robot is to reduce the number of long, time-consuming walks that its employees have to make to reach rarely entered areas of the warehouse, where specialized literature and scientific publications are stored. Whenever such a book is ordered, “coworker” Toru Cube will be sent a message via Wi-Fi. The robot’s industrial computer, which serves as something like a brain, contains a 3D map of the warehouse. As it moves forward, Toru Cube will use laser sensors to measure the distances to walls and obstacles so that it doesn’t collide with anything. At the same time, the robot will count how many times its wheels have turned in order to know how far it has traveled and thus where it currently is within a hall. The company Magazino was founded by Frederik Brantner, Lukas Zanger, and Nikolas Engelhard in January 2014, and quickly made a name for itself within the robotics community.

 

Picking Precision: Toru identifies the right object by its dimensions.

Identifying the Right Book

As soon as Toru Cube reaches the right bookshelf it will begin using its “eyes,” which consist of a 2D camera and a crosshair laser that projects two perpendicular laser lines. Once it has found the target book, the robot’s camera will record the resulting image. Because the distance from the camera to the laser is a known quantity, Toru Cube can convert the 2D images it records into 3D data. This data is needed for two reasons. On the one hand, it will be used to compare the measurements with information contained in the Sigloch database so that the robot “knows” it has found the right book. On the other, Toru will need to know the book’s precise location so that it can grab it with its gripper arm.

Picking Precision

Toru will move through the warehouse complex at a rate of one meter per second. For safety reasons, this is somewhat slower than the average speed of a human being – about 1.4 meters per second. However, a more important consideration than speed is the fact that Toru can work three shifts nonstop without making any mistakes in picking out the right book. As long as it’s regularly recharged, it will never tire. “Besides Toru, I know of no other robot worldwide that can perform this task with comparatively small objects such as books,” says Engelhard, who is responsible for computer vision at Magazino.

Toru Cube: No other robot worldwide can perform this task with comparatively small objects such as books

Reducing Warehouse Management Costs

To date, the retrieval of e-commerce goods in warehouses has been expensive. According to the Center for Digital Technology and Management (CDTM), having human beings pick the items accounts for 55 percent of logistics companies’ warehousing costs. As a result, logistics centers are in great need of automation. Instead of equipping employees with more and more technology such as data goggles and voice-controlled systems so that they can be practically remote controlled, robots can be used to help perform hard or uncomfortable work such as identifying and retrieving an object from an upper shelf. “Magazino’s market launch of the Toru robot impressively demonstrates that the future-oriented field of autonomous robotic systems is inexorably growing. This is an important milestone for Siemens, because it demonstrates that our involvement in start-ups can pay off,” says Siegfried Russwurm, Member of the Managing Board of Siemens and the Group’s Chief Technology Officer.

Katrin Nikolaus