In an industrial environment, as material moves throughout a warehouse, it’s generally transformed. After parts come in on skids, they can be unloaded, broken down to smaller sizes, placed into kits, built back up, wrapped, and then shipped back out. Often, these tasks are dull, dirty or dangerous, causing bottlenecks in the material transport process and hindering a company from maintaining an effective workflow.
Enter Clearpath. Best known for its research division of outdoor unmanned vehicles like the Grizzly RUV and Heron USV, the Kitchener, ON-based company has now turned its robotics expertise toward the shop floor with the launch of its newest division, OTTO Motors. The division produces self-driving vehicles (SDVs) for material transportation. Cleverly named OTTO, the company’s latest SDV is designed to minimize the hazards and productivity issues associated with traditional systems.
“Consumerism is changing the way materials are manufactured and delivered,” said Simon Drexler, director, industrial systems at Clearpath. “Thought leaders in material handling began to approach Clearpath to understand how our technology could be a solution. As we learned more about the industrial landscape, we realized that we needed to start with the pallet.”
In the U.S. alone, there are over 2 billion pallets in operation; In fact, almost half of U.S. hardware lumber production goes to pallet making. It’s estimated that more than 80% of U.S. commerce is carried on pallets. So it makes sense that Clearpath would design the vehicle with similar specifications and applications.
“Material transport takes shape in many different forms within a manufacturing operation, from heavy-load pallets to light-load pre-packaged kits,” says Drexler. “We recognized the different applications within the material handling process, so we wanted to offer our customers two sizes of self-driving vehicles in order to accommodate their use cases: one is made for large material transport and one is to move smaller parts in bins and kits.”
Following two years of development, the line of industrial self-driving vehicles launched in September 2015 with the OTTO 1500, a vehicle offering an impressive 1500kg payload capacity. At approximately 47 inches wide and 72 inches long, this OTTO amply accommodates a standard 40 by 48 inch pallet. Yet at 15.7 inches high with only 0.7 inch clearance, the SDV’s wide base and low center of gravity allow for customizations including larger overlaid support structures or additional handling equipment like mechanical lifters.