Canadian Packaging

Dutch robot builders win Amazon warehouse challenge

Amazon Picking Challenge won by Dutch robotic team to promote and increase innovation in warehouse robotics.


July 7, 2016
by Canadian Packaging staff

In the second ever Amazon Picking Challenge, teams were asked to not only create a robot system that could pick a wide range of items from a shelf and place them into a container—but to also perform the reverse.

Team Delft from The Netherlands won both challenges with a robotic system that had the best combination of sensors, moving parts and yes, artificial intelligence.

The Amazon Picking Challenge 2016 was held during RoboCup 2016, an international robot competition held in Leipzig, Germany June 29 – July 3, 2016.

The challenge is divided into two separate finals: during the ‘stow task’ the robots, equipped with grippers, had to autonomously retrieve a wide range of products from a container and put them on the shelves. With the ‘pick task’, it was the other way around: the robot had to retrieve items from the shelves and put them in a container. Team Delft won the stow task finals by collecting 214 points. Second came NimbRo Picking (186 points) and the team from MIT ended third (164 points).

The pick task finals proved to be nerve wracking. Both Team Delft and the Japanese team PFN collected 105 points. What followed was a ‘photo finish’, whereby the jury analyzed the first pick of the two teams. The fastest team would win. With a difference of about half a minute, that proved to be Team Delft. NimbRo Picking finished third.

Robust
To get the job done, the robot needs to deal with unsolved problems for automation.

“The robot needs to be able to handle variety and operate in an unstructured environment. We are really happy that we have been able to develop this successful system,” says TU Delft Robotics Institute’s Carlos Hernández.
Kanter van Deurzen from Delft Robotics points out some of the key success factors of the team’s preparations.

“We built a very robust system, that hardly makes any mistakes in picking the products, thanks to our expertise in ‘bin picking’,” he says “In addition, the robot chooses the maximum of points that can be scored for each product to pick.”

The system
Team Delft was one of 16 finalists for the Amazon Picking Challenge, and is a collaboration between TU Delft Robotics Institute and the company Delft Robotics. The team built a flexible robot system based on industry standards. The system is equipped with a robot arm with seven degrees of freedom, high-quality 3D cameras and an in-house developed gripper.

To control the robot, the team integrated advanced software components based on state of the art artificial intelligent techniques and robotics. The components are developed with the Robot Operating System for industry (ROS-Industrial), and will be released as open software.

Team Delft is supported by RoboValley, the EU project Factory-in-a-Day, Yaskawa-Motoman, Imagining Development SystemsPhaerInduvac and Ikbenstil Computers.


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