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Home Robotics: Technology, News & Trends Mercedes-Benz Factory Trials Introduction of Humanoid Robots: Handling Physical Tasks, Nearly 50 Pounds Payload

Mercedes-Benz Factory Trials Introduction of Humanoid Robots: Handling Physical Tasks, Nearly 50 Pounds Payload

Mercedes Benz and apptronik

From recent trends in the tech industry, it’s evident that “bringing humanoid robots into factories” has become a new trend. Last year, Amazon experimented with the Digit robot in its distribution centers, and the recently popular Figure also reached a cooperation agreement with BMW in January this year.

Today’s story features Mercedes-Benz and the startup Apptronik, which emerged from university campuses. According to the cooperation agreement between the two companies, Apptronik’s humanoid robot “Apollo” will enter Mercedes-Benz’s car production line to perform a series of “arduous and repetitive” tasks, at a time when multinational automakers are struggling to find reliable workers.

“The New Recruits” in the Automobile Factory

Apptronik, incubated by the University of Texas at Austin’s Robot Center, released the “Apollo” robot in August last year.

According to specifications, “Apollo” stands 5 feet 8 inches tall (1.72 meters) and weighs 160 pounds (about 144 kilograms), with a theoretical payload limit of 55 pounds (nearly 50 pounds).

Source: Apptronik

As a pilot project for cooperation between the two parties, the primary purpose is to explore “what humanoid robots can do in car factories.” Currently, Apollo’s main role in the Mercedes factory is to transport car parts to the production line for assembly by workers and inspect these components. Apptronik states that Apollo is equipped with a unique control architecture that allows it to work alongside humans in the same space while performing a series of physically demanding tasks.

In automobile factories, it is common to use large mechanical arms to transport and install certain parts. However, it’s not often seen worldwide to have humanoid robots with human-like appearance working on the production line. Of course, such attempts also have logical benefits: Automakers can increase automation on existing assembly lines without costly factory renovations.

In real-world cases, BMW is striving to integrate the Figure 01 robot into its U.S. factories’ assembly lines. Meanwhile, domestically produced robots like Wallker S have also appeared in NIO’s automobile factory in Hefei, China.

Walker S

Just the Beginning of the Experiment

Mercedes-Benz’s trial with Apptronik’s humanoid robots is being conducted at a factory in Hungary for two main reasons: Firstly, there is a shortage of automotive workers in Hungary. Secondly, pushing forward with robot projects in Hungary will encounter less resistance than in Germany.

Mercedes-Benz emphasizes that the goal of using robots is to perform “physically demanding, repetitive tasks,” which are becoming increasingly difficult to find reliable workers for.

Nevertheless, automobile factories still need to carefully observe public opinion and the views of workers. Mercedes-Benz’s production manager, Jörg Burzer, emphasized to the media that “robots cannot replace all factory workers’ jobs.” Jörg added, “To produce these wonderful Mercedes-Benz cars, you need workers to control complex processes.”

Jeff Cardenas, co-founder and CEO of Apptronik, stated that Mercedes plans to use robot technology and “Apollo” to automate some low-skilled, physically challenging labor tasks. This is a typical use case, and we expect to see other organizations follow suit in the coming months and years.

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