BMW starts the race for logistics robots

On November 20, 2020, BMW announced the start of a new subsidiary in a press release: IDEALworks. Its job is to market the Smart Transport Robots (STR), which are presented as square pallet trucks, without handles. Since 2015, BMW has been developing STRs in collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute, the German analogue of the CNRS. IDEALworks was designed to market the latest version of STR, which until then was only used internally.

The STR version 2020 supports a mass of up to one ton. Driven by a simultaneous mapping and localization algorithm (SLAM), the robot creates and improves the map of its surroundings in order to localize it there. This algorithm replaces the navigation sensors currently used in the production area. The STR battery is based on the model of the 100% electric city car from the German manufacturer i3.

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IDEALworks is an extension of the BMW Group Logisitcs, which deals in particular with virtual and augmented reality. “In recent years, our logistics innovation team has worked intensively on the digitization and automation of production logistics,” explains Milan Nedeljković, production manager at the subsidiary of BMW AG, which develops autonomous cars.

“We are now becoming a provider of logistics robotics beyond this branch [ndlr : automobile] »Announces Jimmy Nassif, IDEALworks’ chief technical officer. For the German manufacturer, this is indeed a new area of ​​activity that is reinforced by the development of private 5G. By reducing network latency, 5G enables a greater number of robots that can adapt in real time with little delay. The production robot market is not just for BMW. Amazon Robotics, the British company Ocado and the French company Exotec are also investing in this sector.

The German group has 130 robots in their factories and warehouses. Since October 2020 he has formalized the work on projects with manufacturers. IDEALworks is expected to begin marketing STRs by the end of the year.

Video of a STR released by AutoMotoTV in 2018:

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