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24 September, 2022

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Boston Dynamics’ box-shifting robot Stretch goes on sale

31 March, 2022

Boston Dynamics has announced that its autonomous box-shifting robot called Stretch is now commercially available. The robot, designed to automate loading processes in warehouses and distribution centres, is sold out for 2022, and Boston Dynamics is accepting reservations for deliveries in 2023 and 2024.

Following the unveiling of the robot a year ago, it has been pilot-tested by a group of users including DHL Supply Chain – the contract logistics arm of Deutsche Post DHL – which has placed a $15m order to equip warehouses in North America with the robots over the coming three years.

Other companies involved in the pilot testing have included Gap, H&M and the Maersk subsidiary, Performance Team, which has also signed a multi-year agreement with Boston Dynamics for warehousing and distribution applications.

Stretch is a wheeled box-moving robot that can unload packages weighing up to 50lb from trailers and containers and move them to another location where it can create stacks. With a footprint the size of a pallet, the robot can manoeuvre in any direction in and out of trucks and tight warehouse spaces. Stretch’s lightweight robot arm has seven degrees of freedom. It is equipped with adaptive vacuum grippers and a vision system that enables it to identify boxes without any pre-programming.

The robot can handle a wide range of package types and sizes. It can work autonomously in complex situations, such as disordered stacking configurations, and can recover any packages that shift or fall during the loading process. The scalable system can be installed and ready to work in a few days.

Boston Dynamics’ box-shifting robot in DHL livery

The robot does not require pre-programming of SKU numbers or information on box sizes. It makes all unloading decisions in real time, without needing explicit directions or supervision. It can work for more than a full shift on a single charge, or up to 16 hours with an optional high-capacity battery.

“Labour shortages and supply chain snags continue to create challenges in keeping the flow of goods moving,” says Boston Dynamics CEO, Robert Playter. “Stretch makes logistics operations more efficient and predictable, and it improves safety by taking on one of the most physically demanding jobs in the warehouse. Many of our early adopter customers have already committed to deploying the robot at scale, so we are excited Stretch will soon be put to work more broadly, helping retailers and logistics companies handle the continued surging demand for goods.”

DHL Supply Chain’s $15m investment in Stretch is part of an accelerated digitalisation strategy. The robots will tackle several box-moving tasks in DHL’s warehouses, starting with unloading trucks. It will then take on additional tasks to support other aspects of warehouse workflows, effectively automating the company’s warehousing operations.

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