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Amazon’s Robot Arms Break Ground in Safety and Technology

Amazon | Science, 4.6.21 – Inside an Amazon facility, employees and robots work together to ready products for customers. On one side of the building, yellow tote bins bearing partially completed orders, ride down a conveyor. At the end of the conveyor, a robot arm called a palletizer/depalletizer stacks them on a pallet as if playing a three-dimensional game of Tetris.

When an employee sees a pallet is complete, they approach the immobilized robot, slip a motorized hand truck under the pallet, and route it to shipping. From there, a truck takes it to another facility. There, a different palletizer/depalletizer places the totes on conveyors that guide them to employees who complete the order. On another side of the facility, a jumbled pile of soft mailers and boxes roll down a conveyor belt. Robin, a smaller robot arm, grabs one and rotates the parcel to scan the label. Once it knows the ZIP code, it sorts the package onto a robotic carrier for processing. If it sees any rips, tears, or illegible addresses, Robin transfers the package, via either conveyor or mobile robot, for employees to handle.

Robots are common in Amazon facilities, where more than 200,000 mobile units aid the flow of goods from inventory to shipping. Stationary robotic arms, however, are relatively new. Yet they play an important role in the company’s drive to safely deliver the right goods to the right customers at the right time.

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