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Press release | Drive solutions for the warehouse of the future

Nabtesco and Balance Drive are partners in the Swiss innovation project “Intelligent Dark Warehouse”. The Swiss innovation project “Intelligent Dark Warehouse” brings together partners from diverse areas of science and industry. The goal: to develop and design sustainable warehouses on the basis of intelligent and autonomous systems. Participants in the project include the gear specialists Nabtesco and Balance Drive, because gearboxes play a key role in solving the complex drive technology challenges in the warehouse of the future.

Increased costs and scheduling pressure, the continuing shortage of qualified personnel, and the unforeseen e-commerce boom have forced the logistics industry to shift toward efficient, pioneering technologies. Robots, automated guided vehicles and automated handling systems are everywhere to be found in modern warehouses – and there is still plenty of room for new developments. The vision: Dark Warehouse. The goal is to create a fully automated warehouse in which all processes are autonomous: from delivery and storage of the goods to order-picking, disbursement, packaging and consignment. At present, the fully automated warehouse is still pie in the sky. How to make it reality is being researched by well-known partners in the Swiss innovation project “Intelligent Dark Warehouse” of the Swiss network logistics association VNL Schweiz. Participants in the project include: Nabtesco, the world’s biggest manufacturer of cycloidal gears, and Balance Drive, a specialist for custom drive solutions and Nabtesco’s distributor in Switzerland.

Gears are the key to innovative automation solutions

“The Dark Warehouse has very complex requirements for the technologies used in the project. It requires intelligent, flexible systems that integrate numerous different processes and motion sequences, and autonomously adapt to changing situations”, explains Jürg Fürst, Managing Director of Balance Drive AG. Standard solutions would not offer especially good prospects for success, due to the specific nature of the challenges. What is needed are new ideas, innovative approaches and creative concepts. Gearboxes play a key role in this process. “As torque and speed converters they are a central element in the drive train and have a substantial effect on the performance and efficiency of automation systems”, explains Daniel Obladen, Head of Sales General Industries at Nabtesco Precision Europe GmbH.

High-performance cycloidal gears for the Dark Warehouse

A broad precision portfolio, extensive robotics expertise (market share of 60 percent) and a high level of engineering competence make Nabtesco an ideal partner for the development of innovative automation solutions. The company’s cycloidal gears feature high precision and power density and have proven themselves a million times over in high-tech applications around the world. Especially for automated guided vehicles (AGV) the gear specialist with European headquarters in Düsseldorf also offers a fully integrated and decentralised drive unit with a mecanum wheel, which ensures omnidirectional manoeuvrability and therefore maximum mobility.

Cooperation between industry and science

Nabtesco’s gear expertise is supplemented in the “Intelligent Dark Warehouse” project by the engineering experience of Balance Drive. The successful Swiss company specialises in technical innovations and enjoys an excellent reputation in the design of custom-tailored, application-specific drive solutions. Other partners in the project include: ABB, Gilgen Logistics, Miebach Consulting, Rapp Industrieplaner, Westernacher Consulting, Alloga, Emmi, Ikea, the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria, Logistikum Schweiz and Munich Technical University. The allotted time frame for the project is four years.