FARobot, the swarm robotics pioneer for enterprise robotics automation, unveiled Swarm Autonomy, a new kind of software platform for autonomous intralogistics operation. The company claimed its platform is to become the go-to software for factories and warehouses thanks to its focus on Agile Collaboration.
FARobot, is a 2020-established joint-venture of FOXCONN, the world’s largest electronics manufacturer and ADLINK, a provider of industrial PC and edge-computing solutions. Thanks to the support of FOXCONN's manufacturing big data and ADLINK's domain insight, FARobot was able to release Swarm Autonomy solution and deploy in customers’ sites within just 2-years.
Headquartered in Taipei, Taiwan, the company aims to accelerate intralogistics automation for a large base of prominent manufacturers in the global high-tech supply chain and to expand the global outreach following product launch.
Swarm Autonomy is a solution for factories and warehouses to synchronize their shop floor equipment and robots. The expected gain is a steep reduction in material idle time, labor idle time, and inventory loss, with the final goal to improve throughput and shipment time.
The heart of Swarm Autonomy is Swarm Core, a software platform that resides on premises and embeds state-of-the-art AI-based optimization to coordinate all resources and ensure robots to be at the right place at the right time.
What kind of equipment can be integrated and controlled today?
Conveyors, robotic arms, cobots, AGV, AMR, AS/RS, palletizer, elevators, automatic doors, and many more, there are already 100 artifacts¹ and 30 robot agents² that are connected to the Swarm Core.
In addition, IT systems such as ERP and WMS can already be integrated to reach a higher level of Swarm Autonomy.
¹ Artifacts include devices that provide a service e.g. automatic doors, conveyors, PLCs, controllers, robotic arm.
² Agents are robots fully controlled by the Swarm Core, including FARobot's SMR and 3rd party mobile robots.
The Swarm Autonomy background
FARobot set out to develop Swarm Core after a number of electronic manufacturing plants manager shared their struggle in handling all resources while guaranteeing safety and efficiency, not to mention production line change and new equipment introduction.
Resource handling is an industry-wide challenge at both integration and operation stage. This is in part due to a growing dominance and variety of robotics in the field of automation and the need to make these robots more interoperable and operable to reach best OEE (Overall Equipment Efficiency).
“Our current customers and many visitors during Automation Taipei, stated that they don’t see one robotic company serving all their needs and therefore, requires of a unified platform, not only for mobile robots but also for their automation equipment at large. This need is fully aligned with their target to increase OEE to its maximum.” said Raphael Verove, Business Development Manager.
FARobot Swarm Autonomy was designed to overcome these integration and operation challenges by breaking the primary technical barriers:
Network integrity: Wi-Fi is unstable and jammed, the system may not have recovery mechanism, roaming is too slow.
Data integration: poor and customized integration makes the system difficult to deploy, maintain, and scale.
Coordination: deadlocks and accidents can happen when controlling different robot types and brands
The promise of a better integrated, more stable and more scalable system was demonstrated at the 2022 Taipei Automation Show where FARobot’s demoed what it calls Agile Collaboration and its subset Agile Integration, Agile Operation and Agile Optimization.
Agile Integration: FARobot’s self-developed integration tools are designed for Agile Integration. Any equipment can leverage the Swarm Protocol based on ROS2 DDS. The benefit of these tools includes less complexity and easier maintenance, facilitating to distinguish from system, integration software or robot issues.
During the Taipei Automation Show, a total of 5 devices were connected together.
The FARobot team previously programed a wrapper for each of them to control them through one unified communication layer, the Swarm Protocol. For some use cases customer will soon be able to use FARobot's SDK, reaching a higher level of Agile Integration.
(FARobot's Swarm Autonomy demo integrates a robotic arm for pick and place and coordination with mutiple mobile robots)
Agile Operation: With an increasing presence of robotics systems, better intralogistics means better robotics control system. During the Taipei Automation Show, Swarm Core’s user-friendly dashboard was used to show the status of all equipment and robots from one single interface. Swarm Core’s robot coordination worked out a perfect ballet between different brands and their specific safety and navigation features. FARobot emphasizes Agile Operation as the goal of its unified platform.
Agile Optimization: Intralogistics systems often feels like a process block that stops working after hitting the tiniest obstacle. To solve this problem, factories require a more elastic system with better integration between OT and IT systems. This is FARobot “Agile Optimization” promise which translates into continuous schedule update and reallocation of resources according to the production and warehousing needs.
FARobot’s live demo included several optimized steps including:
parallel task execution
automated empty rack preparation for material transfer
opportunity charging for each of the three mobile robots.
The show ran for 4 days uninterrupted, showing the value of Agile Optimization for continuous operation.
During the Taipei Automation Show, hundreds of visitors experienced the 10-minute Swarm Autonomy demonstration, and many asked in which context and industry FARobot would deliver the best value?
According to FARobot, there are at least three use cases where Swarm Autonomy guarantees good Return on Investment (ROI) for factory use cases:
1. Material replenishment: Material calls are less and less triggered by humans and more and more triggered by ERP, machines and automatic line feeders. For anyone planning material replenishment the integration of these triggers, from different software and equipment, will need to be very stable, redundant and tightly connected to the mobile robot's workflow. FARobot already delivered two systems which includes dozens of sensors integrated with Swarm Core to trigger FARobot’s SMR to move work-in-progress materials (WIP).
FARobot's demo included a rack-to-rack use case for material replenishment. The management of empty and full rack was done autonomously by the Swarm Core.
(Swarm Core synchronizing material replenishment tasks using different robot types and equipment)
2. Robotic arm and AMR coordination Whether it is palletizing or conveyor offloading application, the technical challenges remain the same:
correct use of space
reduced waiting time.
FARobot's product have been fulfilling this use case for more than a year with very high uptime. A conveyor and a robotic arm, amongst other equipment, are connected to Swarm Core and trigger a request to offload a package. The Swarm Core triggers a move to transport an empty rack to the robotic arm where a very precise docking is needed.
The rack is then picked up by FARobot's SMR 250 and its integrated lift-module, before being carried away to a stocker.
(FARobot's smart warehouse project, Swarm Core controls and coordinate the robotic arms, the conveyors and the mobile robots)
3. Buffer area and warehouse management Factories who use racks for temporary storage before kitting process or before production input, need to organize their rack very carefully to avoid inventory discrepancy and material congestion or even delivery delay. It can become very challenging, and the system often loses its advantages. FARobot provides a simple and useful interface to onboard racks and exchange position information between IT systems and Swarm Core. Challenges also come from moving the racks from place to place without damage and replacing them correctly without deviation, for that FARobot's SMR deliver best-in-class precision and smooth acceleration and braking. A large display panel factory is already using Swarm Core to manage more than a hundred rack.
(image of Swarm Core's UI - Monitoring of large warehouse comprising more than 200 cell positions and multiple connected devices)
4. Other use cases The Swarm Core is able to handle even more cases including P2G and G2P. And FARobot introduced even more ways to extend its platform beyond Swarm Core toward a WCS+. A WCS+ integrates RCS functions, WCS functions and includes smart plugins like the one developed by FARobot’s partner LinkerNetwork and TaiwanMobile.
Smart plugins are developed by FARobot’s partner in collaboration with FARobot.
LinkerNetwork developed an AI-based computer vision plugin and Taiwan Mobile a private 5G enabling plugin.
Summary of Swarm Autonomy technical and business proposal:
A new protocol and integration tools for a more tightly integrated and scalable system.
A communication technology (CT) focus platform with its decentralized architecture and integration tools.
Means of optimization spanning across the entire process with dynamic event handling and a powerful AI-engine to handle operation complexity.
A robotic core competence for smart traffic control and real-time coordination.
Business proposal: One robotic friendly platform for robotic companies, equipment provider and integrators to collaborate easily:
A unified platform adding strong value to IT vendors (WMS, ERP)
A game-changing tool for production managers looking for flexibility and reliable scalability.
Inclusive UI and functionality to manage equipment, field mapping and AMRs.
- Work with us -
FARobot is expanding its reseller and integrator network worldwide with strong competence in IT system integrations. Swarm Core can also be licensed by enterprise IT software, including ERP, WMS, and WES vendors. Lastly, FARobot aims to support innovative players with design and manufacturing services for large fleets of vehicles.
Please reach out to FARobot from FARobot’s website.
For further product information, download your free Swarm Autonomy brochure.