Luka-Beverage – AI-based mobile handling assistant for beverage logistics

© Mojin Robotics, Felix Bezler
The "Luka-Beverage" project is concerned with the development of robot-based technologies for gripping beverage crates.

In short

"Luka-Beverage" is a service robot for handling bottles and heavy crates in retail stores. Using new AI methods and a 3-D navigation system, the robot knows exactly where goods are located and can move autonomously without risk of collision.

In detail

With "Luka-Beverage", the team of project partners are developing a service robot that will help to handle bottles of beverages and heavy drinks crates. Particularly in the day-to-day business of the food and beverage trade, there is plenty of scope for optimization by automating processes. After all, about 530 million drinks crates are in constant circulation throughout Europe. However, designing a suitable automation solution for this field is a challenging task. Confined spaces, dynamic and unstructured environments, such as those found in beverage warehouses, make it difficult to use service robots. High loads of up to 20 kilograms per piece are another hurdle that not all of today’s service robots can handle.

To overcome these challenges, experts at Mojin Robotics and Fraunhofer IPA are developing a suitable gripping system for the mobile "Luka" platform from Mojin Robotics, which already exists as a prototype. New AI methods for object localization are utilized, enabling the service robot to know exactly where bottles and crates are located, even in unstructured environments. As a result, the service robot can precisely plan how to pick up the heavy objects. By integrating a 3-D navigation system from Node Robotics, the robot not only finds its way around autonomously but also creates a 3-D map of the open workspace. "Luka-Beverage" can navigate and move its arm without any risk of collision, even if a sensor fails to see an obstacle.

By the end of this year, the project partners will have developed a first prototype capable of stacking mixed and empty pallets and handling bottles of beverages. The partner company Node Robotics, for example, is contributing navigation software for transport robots, which is already in use in the automotive industry. The partners Ensinger Mineral-Heilquellen and aktiv markt Manfred Gebauer are providing use cases to support the test runs. The task of "Luka-Beverage" at Ensinger will be to take bottles out of sorted crates, make up mixed crates of beverages as required, and stack them on a pallet: at Gebauer, it will be used to pick up crates full of empty bottles from the returns conveyor and stack them appropriately on pallets. The project aims to demonstrate the technical and economic feasibility of this automation solution. 

Partners involved in the Luka-Beverage project

Project partner

Role in the project

Fraunhofer IPA

Project coordination, development of object recognition technology, grasp planning, support with visual navigation, integration and user tests

NODE Robotics GmbH

Development of visual navigation technology, support with integration and user tests

Mojin Robotics GmbH

Hardware development, especially gripping system, system integration, commissioning, safety, user tests

Ensinger Mineral-Heilquellen
GmbH

End user for making up mixed crates of beverages and stacking them on pallets

aktiv markt Manfred
Gebauer GmbH 

End user for handling and palletizing empties