Fetch Robotics Inc. has added two new offerings to its Freight line of mobile robots. The Freight500 and Freight1500 are designed to deliver heavy or bulky loads in commercial and industrial environments.
San Jose-based Fetch Robotics’ autonomous mobile robots (AMR) include onboard computers and sensors such as a 3D camera and rear lidar. Fetch’s robots can follow maps and navigate in dynamic environments.
“Our robots can very quickly see 3D obstacles, like tables, that lasers might not see,” said Melonee Wise, CEO of Fetch Robotics. “It’s not that sensors have improved, but they’ve become much less costly in 10 years.”
The Freight line of AMRs is designed to be safe to operate around people and vehicles like forklifts in busy factories or warehouses.
The current Freight AMR weighs 150 lb., has a payload capacity of 220 lb., and works with the Fetch mobile picker.
“We got feedback from customers who were hesitant to go with one robot platform and then look for another for moving bigger objects,” Wise told Robotics Business Review. “That led us toward creating new Freight robots to address their full needs for conveying everything from pieces to cases and pallets.
The new Freight500 weighs 588 lb. and can carry up to 1,100 lb.
“Not all facilities have wide alleys, and organizations still want to move large loads,” said Wise. “Making this in-between-size Freight enables customers with tightly packed facilities to move large payloads.”
Fetch’s biggest model, the Freight1500, weighs 1,034 lb. and can move up to 3,300 lb. “Freight1500 is the perfect robot for moving standard-sized pallets as well as much bulkier cargo,” said the 2017 RBR50 company.
“Clearpath has a similar robot in OTTO, but there’s nobody in the 500 kg space yet,” Wise said. “Our system is also expandable — users can add third-party accessories like robot arms.”
“Fetch supports customers with two solutions,” Wise said. “Our virtual conveyor provides point-to-point transfer.”
“It takes about three days to set up a basic system and get it running,” she added. “Our customers are pretty satisfied with the ROI [return on investment], which they’re seeing in a couple of months.”
“On the other end of the spectrum, we do data survey with two verticals — RFID in areas like warehousing, clothing, and automotive,” said Wise. “We also do image capture for grocery and retail. Our robot does the data collection, and our partner Trax does the analytics.”
“Being able to capture data is very important to our customers,” she observed. “We can give them real-time, end-to-end tracking of inventory and the velocity at which it’s moving. Some warehouses can have 3 million to 5 million articles, which can move and be completely replaced in one week.”
Software as differentiator
All of Fetch’s AMRs are 14 in. in height, can recharge quickly, and come with the Fetchcore cloud-based fleet management software.
“That’s how we make install times so quick,” Wise said. “All our robots come preinstalled with the cloud software, so customers can just put them online. All our robots have specific IDs.”
“The software we’ve developed has the ability to map very large spaces quickly,” she explained. “The algorithms can do it in near real time and update it, with no need to rely on Fetch to do post-processing or manipulation.”
“We had a customer that was piloting the system for four months and was considering it for deployment to 500 warehouses,” recalled Wise. “They did 20 warehouses and mapped it all by themselves. Being able to deploy to facilities all over the world without assistance is a huge advantage for a young company like us.”
Freight line gets ready to roll out
Freight500 and Freight1500 are in pilots for the next three to four months and will then go into full production, said Wise.
“We sell robots as capital equipment plus a subscription to our cloud service,” she said. “Customers buy the robots and then pay an annual fee per robot for cloud installation and all upgades.”
“Support is handled internally by the users, with the second and third level by us, or integrators handle the primary support,” Wise said.
The additions to the Freight line will be on display at ProMat 2017 next week in Chicago. At the collocated Automate conference, Wise plans to discuss how Fetch Robotics uses current sensor technology. She will also give a talk about warehouse optimization with mobile robots.
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Secret to staffing up
“We’re also hiring,” said Wise. “Fetch Robotics has about 45 people, and we’re looking to hire another 30. It’s between sales, marketing, and engineering — primarily navigation and vision experts and EYUX experts. Our fleet management software is very much targeted at making robots easy to use, which requires a lot of user interface designers.”
“We actually have a secret weapon for recruitment,” she acknowledged. “Fetch sells research robots, and we have a strong practice of hiring out of our internship program. We’ve probably converted 10 to 15 employees into employees.”
“Our research product creates a pipeline to us for employment,” Wise said. “Our internship program is a three-month interview and is a big opportunity for hiring.”Read More