September 01, 2015      

The growth of e-commerce is pressuring retailers to invest in solutions that can handle the burdens of an on-demand economy. Consumer expectations of speed and efficiency are putting significant pressure on the role of logistics and e-commerce warehouses. To address this challenge, Fetch Robotics designed and introduced a robotics system for the logistics industry.

The Fetch Robotics’ system is comprised of a mobile base (called Freight) and an advanced mobile manipulator (called Fetch). Fetch and Freight can also use a charging dock for autonomous continuous operations, allowing the robots to charge when needed and then continue on with their tasks.

Both robots are built upon the open-source robot operating system, ROS.

The robots work autonomously alongside workers, performing repetitive tasks such as warehouse delivery, pick and pack, and more. Fetch and Freight used in tandem are capable of handling the vast majority of all items in a typical warehouse.

Fetch and Freight include software to support the robots and integrate them within a warehouse environment Fetch is a self-guided mobile robotic picker that can navigate a warehouse/fulfillment center floor, identify products, and pick them off a shelf.

Fetch has a telescoping spine (giving it a grasping range all the way from the floor up to just under two meters), has a back-drivable 7 DOF manipulator arm capable of lifting 6 kg (90-95 percent of all items in a typical warehouse) with a modular gripper with an ISO standard interface, and includes a dedicated Ethernet connection so that you can swap it out for something that includes a camera for up-close vision, or any other sensor you’d find useful.

Freight provides quick transit through the warehouse, working with Fetch, or you can pair it with a worker, who can select Freight to follow him or her throughout the warehouse environment, providing a bin or shelf that is always within arm’s reach.

Navigation for both robots is aided by PrimeSense RGB 3D depth sensors from Intel and obstacle avoidance lasers from SICK; all of which aids in the autonomous routing while ensuring their ability to interact in an environment that includes people.

Once a pick list has been satisfied, Freight can autonomously return to pre-designated packing and shipping locations. A Web-based front end allows warehouse floor managers to get real-time access to location of robots, how orders are being fulfilled, and inventory status.

Fetch Robotics also provides a research version of Fetch, following in the footsteps of Willow Garage, where CEO Melonee Wise began her robotics career.