Boston Dynamics has landed the first customer for its Stretch case-handling robot. DHL Supply Chain is spending $15 million with Boston Dynamics to further automate warehouses in North America. Boston Dynamics will deliver a fleet of Stretch robots to multiple DHL warehouses throughout North America over the next three years.
Boston Dynamics and DHL have been working closely together the last few years to test and develop Stretch. The robot will be tasked with several box-moving tasks inside DHL warehouses. The first will be truck unloading at select DHL facilities.
“At DHL Supply Chain, we are committed to continuous innovation and digital transformation to optimize the end-to-end supply chain. Investing in warehouse automation plays an important role in increasing operational efficiency and improving service for our customers,” said Sally Miller, CIO, DHL Supply Chain North America. “We’re excited to partner with Boston Dynamics to deploy its best-in-class robotics in our warehouses. The Stretch robot addresses complex industry challenges through flexible automation, which we’ll be able to replicate and scale regionally and globally.”
Stretch is the next generation of Handle, a robot Boston Dynamics introduced in 2017 that combined wheels and legs. Stretch doesn’t have legs, but it does have an omni-directional mobile base with four independently controlled wheels, a custom 7-DoF industrial robot arm that can lift up to 50 pounds, a custom suction gripper and much more. The air system for the gripper is onboard the mobile base.
Stretch comes with an 8-hour battery life, but there will be a 16-hour battery option and the ability to plug Stretch in for continuous power. Stretch uses the Pick vision system, which Boston Dynamics acquired when it bought Kinema Systems in April 2019. Pick uses high-resolution 2D and 3D vision and machine learning algorithms for robotic depalletizing. One of the main keys to success will be Stretch’s ability to handle a variety of boxes.
“Stretch is Boston Dynamics’ newest robot, designed specifically to remedy challenges within the warehouse space,” said Robert Playter, Boston Dynamics’ CEO. “We are thrilled to be working with DHL Supply Chain to deliver a fleet of robots that will further automate warehousing and improve safety for its associates. We believe Stretch can make a measurable impact on DHL’s business operations, and we’re excited to see the robot in action at scale.”
Deployment of the first Stretch units in DHL warehouses will begin this spring, and DHL plans to gradually scale Boston Dynamics’ robots for additional tasks and across multiple facilities in phases over the next few years.
Kevin Blankespoor, VP and GM of warehouse robotics at Boston Dynamics, joined The Robot Report Podcast when the company unveiled Stretch in March 2021. Blankespoor is also keynoting our Robotics Summit & Expo, which takes place May 10-11 in Boston. On the podcast, Blankespoor described the evolution of the product design, the many system integration challenges, plans to improve the Pick vision system going forward, similarities between Atlas, Spot and Stretch, and much more. You can listen to that interview below.