The future of logistics: An insight into Fraunhofer’s advanced robots

Fraunhofer Self-balancing evoBOT Logistics Robot
The evoBOT features circular, rotating grippers capable of lifting up to 65 kg and transporting loads up to 100 kg. Images courtesy Fraunhofer IML

In the realm of robotics, the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany has emerged as a significant player, especially with its latest offerings in logistics robots. These robots, the evoBOT and the O³dyn pallet jack, exemplify advanced engineering and are poised to revolutionize the logistics and warehousing industries.

The conversation around humanoid robots has been buzzing for quite some time. As Brett Adcock, CEO of Figure, highlights, their initial applications will likely be limited to basic tasks such as lifting and moving objects. However, the human-like form of these robots may not be the most efficient design for specific tasks, especially in structured environments like warehouses and factories.

In contrast, Fraunhofer’s evoBOT and O³dyn logistics robots are designed with functionality and efficiency at their core. The evoBOT, a self-balancing, two-wheeled robot, boasts impressive capabilities. With its extendable legs, it can reach speeds up to 60 km/h (37 mph), far surpassing the estimated 5-6 km/h (3-4 mph) walking pace of humanoid robots.

Additionally, the evoBOT can lift up to 65 kg (143 lb) with its self-locking arms, over three times the payload of a typical humanoid robot, and can handle up to 100 kg (220 lb) if pre-loaded.

Fraunhofer Self-balancing evoBOT Motors
The evoBOT’s high-performance motors make it extremely quick and agile.

The evoBOT’s design allows for high precision in placement tasks, such as stacking crates. Its circular grippers, while less versatile than human hands, enable it to lift objects without inverting them, facilitating access to higher shelves.

The robot’s compact size, weighing around 40 kg (88 lb), and the ability to operate for up to 8 hours on a single battery charge enhance its utility in various settings. Notably, it can navigate slopes up to 45 degrees and can quickly recover from falls, demonstrating remarkable agility and resilience.

The O³dyn robot, on the other hand, is a robust autonomous pallet jack. It utilizes omnidirectional Mecanum wheels and air suspension for versatile movement and is capable of both indoor and outdoor operation. The robot’s navigation system, incorporating LiDAR, GPS, and 3D cameras, enables precise positioning for pallet pick-up.

Fraunhofer O3dyn Pallet Jack Logistics Robot
O³dyn pallet jack wraps itself around pallets for effortless lifting and transport.

Once it secures a load, which it can do with a capacity of up to 350 kg (772 lb), the O³dyn can maneuver through tight spaces with ease. This prototype, with its aluminum frame, has the potential to be enhanced for handling loads up to 1,300 kg (2,866 lb).

The O³dyn’s design also incorporates an emergency brake system, which activates by releasing air from the suspension and using friction brake plates to halt the robot swiftly. This feature is crucial for safety, particularly in dynamic environments where unexpected obstacles may arise.

Fraunhofer O3dyn Pallet Jack Logistics Robot Mecanum Wheels
O³dyn’s Mecanum wheels and air suspension enable precise movement and easy navigation in confined areas.

Fraunhofer’s robotics innovations do not solely focus on functionality. The evoBOT, for instance, has an aesthetically pleasing design, described as “cute” in contrast to the more industrial appearance of the O³dyn. This aspect of design, while seemingly superficial, can play a significant role in the integration of these robots into human-centric environments.

While pricing information for these logistics robots is not currently available, it is clear that the evoBOT and O³dyn are positioned to make significant impacts in logistics and warehousing. Their advanced capabilities in speed, payload, agility, and precision position them as formidable alternatives to humanoid robots in specific applications.

Source: Fraunhofer IML