Boston Dynamics has secured its first customer for its Stretch robot. Boston Dynamics is best known as a manufacturer of four-legged robots and dancing humanoid robots with two legs, but beyond that, the company is working on commercial applications. Boston Dynamics will provide a fleet of Stretch robots to all DHL logistics warehouses across North America over the next three years.
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DHL Supply Chain Corporation will provide $15 million to automate the warehouses further.
Both the manufacturer and the customer have been actively involved in the testing and development of Stretch over the past several years. The robot will be tasked with several box-handling tasks in DHL warehouses. The first task will be unloading trucks at individual sites.
The transportation and logistics company is committed to continuous innovation and digital transformation to optimize end-to-end delivery. Funding for warehouse automation plays a significant role in increasing operational efficiency and improving customer service. The Stretch robot can solve complex industry challenges through flexible automation that can be replicated and expanded not only regionally but also globally.
Stretch is the latest development from Boston Dynamics, explicitly designed to solve complex tasks in warehouse environments. It will further automate warehouse operations and improve employee safety.
This robot is the next generation of the Handle arm, introduced by Boston Dynamics in 2017, which combines wheels and legs. Stretch has no legs, but it does have an omnidirectional four-wheeled mobile base, a unique industrial arm that lifts to 50 pounds, a vacuum gripper, and many other elements.
The Stretch runs autonomously on an 8-hour battery, but a 16-hour battery option and continuous mains operation will be available. Stretch has a Pick vision system that provides high-resolution 2D and 3D vision and uses machine learning algorithms for robotic depalletizing processes.
Stretch builds on existing robotic technology
Boston Dynamics said Stretch draws on their extensive experience developing robots that work in unstructured or hard-to-reach places, such as construction sites or warehouses.
One of the main components of its success is Stretch's ability to handle boxes of different sizes and shapes.
The rollout of the first Stretch unit in DHL's warehouse space is scheduled to begin this spring. DHL plans to gradually scale the use of Boston Dynamics robots to address new challenges and implement them at several sites in phases over the next few years.
DHL said the investment is part of its strategic focus on developing and scaling cutting-edge technologies and innovative solutions. This includes the accelerated digitalization of end-to-end supply chains.
The conclusion of the agreement symbolizes the first commercial acquisition of a robot.
Stretch will initially handle truck unloading in specific warehouses and later perform complex tasks to support other workflow steps throughout the company's warehouses.
Implementation is expected to be phased over the next few years, with the first robots scheduled to arrive in the spring.
DHL also works with mobile robot suppliers such as Locus Robotics Corp. and autonomous truck development specialists.