In the News
Danish startup hopes to serve growing sector with affordable mobile robots.
Mobile robots seem like old news—after all, Amazon.com Inc. bought Kiva Systems Inc. back in 2012, so what else is new? Quite a bit, actually. Danish startup Mobile Industrial Robots ApS, or MiR, is making its entry into the U.S. market.
Amazon’s purchase of Kiva, now Amazon Robotics, brought its logistics automation in-house, prompting a host of other companies to look elsewhere for factory and warehouse robotics.
The market for warehouse robotics will expand at a compound annual growth rate of about 11 percent, according to Research and Markets. The International Federation of Robotics (IFR) predicts that the market for mobile robots will grow from 2,164 units sold in 2014 to 16,000 units in 2018, but MiR is even more optimistic.
Increasing levels of autonomy, safety, and flexibility, as well as potential cost savings, will keep this robotics sector competitive.
MiR has appointed Ed Mullen as national sales manager for North America, as its product became available in the U.S. on April 1. Robotics Business Review recently chatted with Mullen.
In addition, we visited MiR’s headquarters in Odense, Denmark, leading into this week’s RoboBusiness Europe 2016.
MiR100 rolls into logistics automation
Mobile Industrial Robots was founded in 2013 by alumni from collaborative robot company Universal Robots A/S.
MiR’s flagship product is the autonomous MiR100, so named for its 100-kg (220-lb.) payload capacity. It can also tow carts weighing 300 kg or 660 lb., and the carts don’t need modification.
After an early Lego prototype, “Version 1.0” of MiR was created in autumn of 2014, said Thomas Visti, CEO of Mobile Industrial Robots.
The mobile robot is already in use in more than 20 countries. Mullen distinguished between autonomous guided vehicles (AGVs) and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs).
“AGVs include automated forklifts and pallet lifts,” he said. “They require some kind of markers or a magnetic strip or rail embedded in the floor. An AGV knows its path and can’t skew away from it. There are some sensors to stop it if something crosses its path.”
“MiR is an autonomous mobile robot,” Mullen explained. “Its architecture allows it to import or create a set of maps, similar to GPS. Then we can teach it pickup and drop-off points and tell it where to go. MiR100 will then decide the best route, depending on obstacles.”
“MiR100 includes multiple sensory inputs,” Mullen said. “The base system is dual laser scanners, with a 360-degree read of rows in a facility.”
The AMR also includes ultrasonic sensors and 3D cameras for perception of what’s above. In addition, it includes a gyroscope, which could be useful on ramps.
All the data is fed into a custom microprocessor that runs guidance algorithms.
“This is a great fit for factories, because it can choose different routes,” Mullen said. “The robots operate on their own wireless LAN and can also connect to the company network.”
The MiR100 includes two drive wheels and four caster wheels, and its endurance depends on the payload but ranges about six to 12 hours. It moves at about 1.5 meters per second (3 mph).
The robot can autonomously return to a charging station, and its lights change in color depending on what it’s doing.
Controls and safety in numbers
Tasks are shared locally and are initiated by the supervisory system run over Wi-Fi from a tablet or laptop.