Hannover Trade Fair Debut: Climbing Robots Equip Palettes with Transponders

Between 13th and 17th April the University of Bremen’s BIBA Institute of Production and Logistics will be exhibiting its “Pallette Tagging Robot”, PaTRo for short, at the  Hannover Trade Fair. PaTRo’s unique capability: It can independently climb over stacks of palettes attaching two RFID tags to each of them as it goes. The climbing robot will make its public debut on a shared stand with the German Ministry for the Economy and Energy in Hall 2, Stand C28.

So-called Europalettes are the most common returnable load carriers used in logistics. According to the European Pallet Association (EPALA), the largest palette pool operator, by 2012 there were already over 450 million in use worldwide. In order to achieve higher transparency of palette streams, Epal is planning a permanent way of identifying and tracking palettes based on RFID (Radio Frequency Identification). It has subsequently formulated guidelines for the efficient and standardized attachment of RFID transponders (RFID-Tags). The climbing robot developed by the BIBA researchers is the ideal way to carry out this task with a minimum of effort.

Conquering palette towers with the aid of a clever combination of standard components

The research team now has the opportunity to present their patented PaTRo system at the world’s most prominent industrial. It promises to be a valuable time and money saver for logistics companies and palette manufacturers. The robot processes the loaded palettes stack by stack. On its way to the top of each stack it cuts two indentations into each palette into which it places the transponders.

Mobile, light-weight and usable independent of production process

The robotic machine is used at the end of the manufacturing process and is therefore not dependent on the production pace. It does its work when the production process is over and the palettes are standing still, needing only a small space and, of course, a stack of palettes. This means that established production routines remain unaffected and there is no need for costly interventions in automated manufacturing processes.

“We deliberately tried to keep the number of components as low as possible in order to achieve maximum mobility”, says Dirk Werthmann, co-inventor and leader of the PaTRo project. He goes on to explain: “Thanks to modern modular lightweight design and clever automation technology, the mobile unit can be easily transported and therefore deployed at different locations”. By developing a simple and innovative climbing concept it was possible to construct the whole robot with standard components, resulting in low manufacturing and maintenance costs.

Prototype developed with Ministry support in the frame of SIGNO funding

The idea for the robot originated at BIBA where the system was conceived and developed in the absence of third-party funding. When it came to producing a prototype to demonstrate the machine’s feasibility, though, the German Ministry for the Economy and Energy stepped in with funding via its SIGNO program for the project manager, Forschungszentrum Jülich. This program supports promising patented ideas from the research lab on their way to commercial success. Marketing support and help when submitting the application for funding also came from InnoWi, the Bremen Patenting and Marketing Agency. InnoWi continues to accompany the lightweight climbing- and tagging-robot project with marketing support.

If you would like to receive more information on this topic, please contact:

BIBA - Bremen Institute fof Production and Logistics
Prof.Dr.-Ing. Michael Freitag
Phone: +49 421 218-500 02
e-mail: freprotect me ?!biba.uni-bremenprotect me ?!.de

Dipl.-Wi.-Ing. Dirk Werthmann
Phone: +49 421 218-50 167
e-mail: wdiprotect me ?!biba.uni-bremenprotect me ?!.de