The evolution of robotics, from merely being an element of fiction to literally transforming industries, has been game changing in a plethora of ways. This was made possible through technological advancements aided by human curiosity and ambition along with the drive to make the world a better place.
The robotics industry and the associated market exhibit immense potential for both established and emerging players. Companies across the world are striving to cater to the ever-increasing demand for products and solutions and deliver only the best of their innovation capabilities.
One prominent name among these companies is Smart Robotics, a Dutch company that is growing to become the leading supplier of intelligent robot products for packaging and logistics applications in eCommerce, Parcel, Pharma and FMCG.
In brief, Smart Robotics develops intelligent software for the fast and flexible deployment of robots and collaborative robots (cobots) in various logistics and production processes all over the globe.
The company’s software platform delivers unique value for any picking application and is the most advanced integrated robot and cobots control system in the market. It leverages the trend that hardware is commoditizing, and competitive advantage is reached through advanced software. With their AI software, they develop smart pick-and-place robot solutions that are easy to deploy, flexible and user-friendly.
Talking about what led to Smart Robotics’ inception, Heico Sandee, the Co-founder and CTO says, “Most common robot applications are created in a project-specific setting with lots of hard-coded behavior resulting in high costs per installation and limited functionality. Smart Robotics was founded to develop a platform for robot picking applications, such that very advanced tasks can be delivered through configuring a set of building blocks that are fully worked out and tested.”
Heico founded the company together with Mark Menting in 2015. He has over 20 years of experience in robotics development and technology management. From 2010 to 2013 Heico was Program Manager, Robotics at the Eindhoven University of Technology. In his personal life, Heico develops music entertainment robots in the group TeamDARE, that he founded with friends in 2001.
In his advice to aspiring entrepreneurs aiming to enter the robotics space, Heico says “There are many possibilities to enter the market with robotic solutions. Great results are available from academia and research institutions waiting to get commercialized. Above this, there are many different markets suffering from shortage of skilled labor, waiting for automation solutions. Don’t hesitate, but get started, and get yourself funded by VC to go faster to the market before somebody else gets to your customers first.”
A Benchmark of Quality
For any company, the kind of value that their offerings deliver is what establishes that company’s identity in the market. For Smart Robotics, this has been evidently true.
Intelligent robot picking software handling millions of different items and tasks is the company’s core business. With its AI-driven software, Smart Robotics currently develops three pick-and-place cobot solutions, as follows:
- The Smart Item Picker is a compact single item picking solution for the flexible and efficient picking and placing of a large variety of items. Without the need for item specific training, the Smart Item Picker handles millions of different items in order picking, sorting, and packing processes.
Smart Robotics supplies this solution to various markets, including – retail, consumer goods, mass merchandise, fashion, consumer packaged goods (CPG), e-commerce, and health & beauty. Through its generic interfaces, the company connects seamlessly to external systems, custom user interfaces or existing WMS and Scada systems.
- The Smart Parcel Picker is developed for the picking of parcels (boxes, bags, and envelopes) at a high throughput. During the pick, the software determines how and where the parcel should be positioned, based on a deep learned network. Through a set of 3D cameras, it is able to pick from pallets, roller cages or boxed pallets, while the robot carefully avoids collisions with load carriers.
- The Smart Palletizer is a compact end-of-line cobot solution for the flexible palletizing of products. It serves customers in various markets, including food, pharma and FMCG, who face increasing consumer demand and variation in product series.
The Smart Palletizer can handle a large variety of products and stacking patterns and is easy to use by any untrained operator. It is up-and-running within two hours and can easily adjust itself to a new assignment and product variation. It autonomously starts or continues its operation from any state, without the need for time-consuming manual procedures. In addition, as it is a cobot solution, it cooperates safely with human employees. There is no need for a safety fence, and it integrates seamlessly with existing production facilities.
Smart Robotics achieves its competitive advantage through its software platform, integrating state-of-the-art algorithms on perception, task planning and motion planning. “Complex behavior is automatically generated by the robot, based on the boundary conditions that we train for each application. For each sub task, our motion planner plans highly optimized and fluent motions, independent of the robot brand chosen. Our perception library determines the best possible grasping pose for any item, while avoiding obstacles in the environment. Our unique power lies in the tight integration of these, turning optimized hand-eye coordination into the highest possible productivity in our applications. With our digital twin, we continuously monitor, analyze, and update our cobots and robots and use this data to further enhance our software and thus our robots,” says the team at Smart Robotics.
Talking about the challenges Smart Robotics had come across, Heico says, “The first years of our company were dedicated to finding the right focus. We started with a broad focus of robots for building construction, product assembly and logistics applications, and have now converged to a full focus on logistics. The handling of items in logistics by robots is in its infancy, with robotics technology just starting to get capable of dealing with the huge variety of items to handle. Through our advanced robot control software, logistics is the perfect challenge to focus on.”
When it comes to having a vision for the future, Heico asserts, “Since our start in 2015, we have reached to a team of 80 professionals in 5 years’ time, the majority of which work within R&D. Our plan is to continue this growth, as well as intensify our sales and operations, to bring more of our products to the market globally.”