TÖKYÖ — Hitachi Ltd. has unveiled a prototype double-arm robot that can pick up various types of goods from shelves and pack them into boxes for the eventual automation of warehouse work.

The robot, which is equipped with wheels and elevating controls, will be used within the Hitachi group by 2017, with the goal of marketing it to outside customers from around 2020.
The Japanese electronics maker is hoping to better capitalize on increasing workload at warehouses amid growing online shopping.

The robot is designed to move about autonomously to assigned shelves and collect items that differ in size and shape. For example, it can pick up individual plastic bottles from a box and put them back in the box. It can also deftly pick up a box about 30 centimeters long, using its two arms.

The move comes as the Japanese government promotes the use of robots in warehouse and wholesale businesses in an attempt to cut costs and cope with a labor shortage.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government is aiming for a 20-fold increase in the use of robots in the non-manufacturing sector to 1.2 trillion yen (about $10 billion) in 2020 from the current level.

“The challenge for us is to miniaturize the robot while keeping it to a reasonable price,” said Hitachi researcher Nobutaka Kimura. “We also need to enhance its safety.”


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