Sensors and gripper arms can simply be attached and removed as needed. You dont even have to be a specialist to quickly and easily replace a defective part, which makes the robots extremely flexible and economical to operate.
Evan Ackerman for IEEE Spectrum: As sensors, computers, actuators, and batteries decrease in size and increase in efficiency, it becomes possible to make robots much smaller without sacrificing a whole lot of capability. There’s a lower limit on usefulness, however, if you’re making a robot that needs to interact with humans or human-scale objects. You can continue to leverage shrinking components if you make robots that are modular: in other words, big robots that are made up of lots of little robots.
In some ways, it’s more complicated to do this, because if one robot is complicated, robots tend to be complicated. If you can get all of the communication and coordination figured out, though, a modular system offers tons of advantages: robots that come in any size you want, any configuration you want, and that are exceptionally easy to repair and reconfigure on the fly.
MIT’s ChainFORM is an interesting take on this idea: it’s an evolution of last year’s LineFORM multifunctional snake robot that introduces modularity to the system, letting you tear of a strip of exactly how much robot you need, and then reconfigure it to do all kinds of things. Cont'd...
Challenges on the loading dock are characteristic of greater pressures from the rise of e-commerce. Loading and unloading freight from trailers, trucks and shipping containers are arduous, repetitive tasks plagued by high turnover. Even with regularly available staff, manually unloading freight and the constant lifting and twisting results in fatigue and inconsistent, declining productivity. Robotics capable of fully automating unloading tasks bring a new paradigm to the dock. High performance and ﬂexibility push unloading from a labor-heavy, manual chore to an automated, reﬁned process. High-performing DC workers can take more desirable positions, with relief from unpleasant work conditions. Management gets to replace uncertainty and stafﬁng challenges with a reliable, automated process, with data to fuel continuous improvement.