ZMP Develops Autonomous 'Cart'

Jul 3, 2014
Masaya Sato, Nikkei Monozukuri
A demonstration of the motor-based assist system
A demonstration of the motor-based assist system
[Click to enlarge image]
A demonstration of the follow-up function
A demonstration of the follow-up function
[Click to enlarge image]
ZMP CEO Hisashi Taniguchi
ZMP CEO Hisashi Taniguchi
[Click to enlarge image]

ZMP Inc announced July 2, 2014, that it has developed a "logistics supporting robot" in collaboration with THK Co Ltd, Nidec-Shimpo Corp and Tokyo University of the Arts.

The robot, "CarriRo," is a cart equipped with (1) a motor-based assist system, (2) follow-up system and (3) autonomous movement function. It reduces load on a human worker carrying heavy luggage or making round trips and improves productivity by increasing the amount of luggage being carried and through automation.

The assist system enables the user to freely control CarriRo with a sensor attached to its handle. For example, when the handle is grabbed with both hands, the motors of the right and left wheels rotate in the same direction, moving the robot forward. When it is grabbed with one hand, the two motors rotate in opposite directions, turning the robot. In this way, it is possible to reduce load on the user carrying heavy luggage.

There are range sensors on the front and rear sides of the robot to measure a distance from a human or object so that it can follow a human or object or automatically apply the brakes before crashing into an obstacle. The user can freely set a distance between an object (or human) and the robot following it. The bumper of the robot is equipped with a contact sensor, and the robot automatically stops when it bumps into an object or human.

Furthermore, CarriRo has a function to autonomously move by using the range sensors. First, poles equipped with beacons are set up in an area where the robot will autonomously move. And the user pushes it through a desired route so that the robot can learn the route. Because the robot measures its position in relation to the beacons with the cameras of the range sensors, it can move through the route thereafter.

By using the follow-up function to move multiple units of CarriRo, it becomes possible to carry a large amount of luggage at a time, eliminating the need to make several round trips.

CarriRo also comes with a unique mechanism. For example, its rotary system, which transfers the turning force of the motor to the tires, was developed by using THK's and Nidec-Shimpo's technologies. With a compact structure integrating bearings, reduction gears and a drive motor, ZMP reduced the number of parts, improved rotational accuracy and realized a light weight, low cost and low power consumption (high efficiency).

Though ZMP did not announce the weight of the robot this time, the company plans to reduce it to about 10kg in the future. ZMP intends to ship CarriRo on a trial basis for field tests in the fall of 2014 and release it at a price of about ¥400,000 (approx US$3,925, or about ¥7,000 per month for a six-year lease) within fiscal 2015.