GoPal (Photo: Robotize)

Close partnership with DTU behind launch of new transport robot

Tuesday 28 Nov 17

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Ole Ravn
Professor, Head of Group, Study Line Coordinator Automation and Robot Technology
DTU Electrical Engineering
+4545 25 35 60
DTU researchers have worked closely with the company Robotize to develop a new robotic pallet jack.

One of the first robots from the company Robotize is currently in operation at a Danish company where it is transporting pallets. The robot is called GoPal, and is meeting a completely new need which was spotted by Robotize’s founders a couple of years ago.

“The functionality of existing mobile robots for internal transport tasks is in many ways limited. They rely on having a permanent path which they can move along—but it’s not like that in real life. Therefore, we wanted to design a robot which, like a truck, can move freely around, and which can find new routes in the event that it suddenly encounters an obstruction or a person in the way. So, we’ve spent the past couple of years developing such a device,” says Anders Pjetursson, CEO at Robotize.

Unlike so many other start-ups, Robotize’s founders were not passionate inventors themselves who knew a lot about robots. On the other hand, they were fascinated and intrigued by the new technology and its possible applications. This meant that, from the outset, they were dependent on finding a partner who could contribute with the latest knowledge and skills within robot technology.

Labour and sparring
The partnership with DTU basically covers two areas. On the one hand labour, as the first four employees at Robotize were two graduate robotics engineers from DTU Electrical Engineering, as well as two students from the same faculty who were engaged to help develop the company’s new product.

In addition, a of couple of DTU’s most talented robotics researchers have acted as consultants, and who at regular weekly meetings with the company have contributed with specific knowledge about how robots are put together.

Robotize has developed its own software for the robot, and as part of this process it has been important to be able to bounce ideas off DTU’s experts. The aim here is to learn how to program a robot in practice to make it do what you want, and to be certain that the final product is unique and is based on the latest robotics know-how.

“Business collaboration is very important for DTU. In this case, we’re very proud that our research has contributed to the fact that a Danish start-up has successfully launched a new and attractive product which has the potential to create both exports and jobs,” says robotics researcher Ole Ravn at DTU Electrical Engineering.

“The partnership obviously works both ways, and has given us very valuable input for our research and for teaching the engineers of tomorrow. This is an important aspect, and requires mutual respect for each other’s way of working. Most research usually has a long-term perspective, whereas commercial enterprises want to see immediate results, so there has to be a willingness on both sides to work with both approaches,” says Ole Ravn, while Anders Pjetursson nods in agreement.

Safety is paramount
Throughout the process, safety has been an important focus area for Robotize. When a robot moves around with a total weight of 500-600 kg, it’s vital that any risk of people being injured has been completely eliminated. Once this challenge was addressed, the now 20-strong company could launch its new product onto the Danish and global market, which is deemed to be worth billions.

“We’re competing with what it costs to run a conventional pallet jack, not least the labour costs for the operators. In a Danish company, it costs EUR 47,000 (DKK 350,000) a year to employ a pallet driver, and it’s often necessary to have several shifts in a 24-hour period. In this context, our autonomous robot would pay for itself within 12-18 months,” says Anders Pjetursson.


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