As more warehouses and distribution centers add automation, new vendors and new technologies such as vision-guided mobile robots are joining the increasingly competitive market. Robotics developers need to be aware of relevant international safety standards. Last week, ForwardX Robotics Inc. announced that its ForwardX Max 500 robots have obtained CE mark approval for use across Europe. The Max 500 robots combine computer vision with multi-sensor input, said the Chinese company.
Qi Ou, who won the National Robot Competition, founded Smart Technology (Beijing) Co. in 2016. The company does business as ForwardX Robotics and said it has more than 160 patents pending. Out of its team of over 180 people, 120 are engineers, and 10 hold Ph.D.s. This spring, the AMR provider raised 100 million yuan ($14.6 million U.S.) in Series B+ financing.
JD.com is among the organizations using the Max 500 robots to move pallets in their warehouses. ForwardX said it expects to enter the European market early next year.
“What we’re seeing with regard to automation in Europe is no different than what we’re seeing in Asia-Pacific or North America,” stated Nicolas Chee, founder and CEO of ForwardX Robotics. “Demand for flexible automation is growing, and ForwardX is determined to make our solutions available to any business looking for a solution that delivers immediate results.”
ForwardX takes vision-first approach to AMRs
The Max 500 autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) have a maximum payload of 500 kg (1,100 lb.) and can automate a range of costly workflows within manufacturing and logistics environments, said ForwardX.
The vision-guided AMRs, or vAMRs, were designed specifically for high-payload movements, according to the company. It added that its Max line consists of models tailored to fit different customer requirements, including 200 kg and 500 kg models and available lift functionality.
ForwardX said its f(x) fleet management software enables the ForwardX Flex and Max range of vAMRs to be implemented within the same facility. They can operate as an intelligent workforce alongside human workers, with f(x) acting as a data hub and centralized command center responsible for coordinating each vehicle as part of a wider fleet.
The Max 500 vAMRs take a vision-first approach to realize a deeper understanding of the environment, said ForwardX. They can enable the automation of factory workflows such raw material delivery and work-in-progress (WIP) movement, as well as warehouse workflows like put-away and pick to pallet, claimed the company.
Max meets CE standards
In order to conform to European standards for health, safety, and environmental protection, ForwardX designed and manufactured its Max 500 vAMRs in compliance with the following directives and standards:
- Machinery Directive (2006/42/EC) covers the safety aspects of machinery and certain parts of machinery
- Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) Directive (2014/30/EU) ensures that electrical and electronic equipment does not generate, or is not affected by, electromagnetic disturbance.
- EN 61000-6-4:2007 +A1:2011, governing EMC and emissions
- EN 61000-6-2:2005, also governing EMC
- EN 1525:1998, regarding the safety of driverless and industrial trucks
- EN 1175-1:1998 +A1:2011, electrical safety requirements for industrial trucks
- EN ISO 12100:2010, general principles for design, risk assessment, and risk reduction
- EN ISO 13849-1:2015, general principles for design and safety of parts of control systems
“Our Max 500 vAMRs give warehousing and manufacturing facilities the ability to automate dangerous, time-consuming tasks,” stated Viktor Wang, senior product director at ForwardX Robotics. “While already available across Asia and North America, achieving the CE mark ensures that our Max solutions can be implemented in Europe in future, where demand for flexible automation solutions is rising quickly.”
“From speaking to our customers, a key benefit of our Max solutions is the increased safety they provide,” he added. With full-coverage 360-degree obstacle detection and avoidance, workers can collaborate with our robots worry- and accident-free. Receiving the CE certification solidifies just how safe our robots are.”
“So far, our customers have been able to achieve amazing results across a number of supply chain functions,” said Chee. “We want to continue to deliver these results across the globe to help companies stay ahead in a highly competitive market.”