Intralogistics solution by AWL for DHL integrates 3D cameras in robotic depalletiser

Intelligent robotic vision system destacks up to 800 objects per hour

Automatic picking of parcels of different sizes and weights

Rode, the acronym for Robotic Depalletiser, is a pioneering product from AWL in the intralogistics market. The robotic solution is able to efficiently handle parcels that are randomly arranged on a pallet, which sets it apart from conventional systems. According to the German Parcel and Express Logistics Association, 4.15 billion courier, express and parcel shipments were sent in Germany alone in 2022. Annual growth to around 4.9 billion shipments by 2027 is realistic. Against this backdrop and the general shortage of personnel, there is only one solution for shipping and logistics companies to cope with this immense volume of orders: increased automation. 

Global robot integrator AWL offers Rode, an intelligent robotic depalletising solution. One of the locations where Rode adds value is for DHL eCommerce in Rotterdam. This machine uses two Ensenso 3D cameras from IDS Imaging Development Systems to provide the necessary image data. The intelligent robot-supported depalletiser, therefore, automatically destacks any packaged goods such as cartons, bags or containers from pallets and thus ensures their continuous processing, without delays or downtime. Even extra shifts at peak times can be implemented at any time. This frees up staff for more qualified tasks, such as the subsequent processing of consignments or handling customer inquiries. At the same time, it relieves employees of physically and ergonomically demanding tasks and reduces the risk of injury.

Up to 800 packages in continuous operation

At DHL eCommerce in Rotterdam, Rode processes up to 800 parcels per hour, each weighing up to 31.5 kilograms The particular difficulty here is that the robot has to pick parcels of different sizes and weights. It must independently recognise the position of the objects in three-dimensional space and decide which parcel to pick next. It then has to determine the best gripping position and avoid collisions with other parcels or the machine.
"This intelligent robotic solution integrates AI image processing and high-tech gripper technology. The system recognises products and can flip the items to ensure that the required long side is leading," explains Sander Lensen, R&D Manager at AWL. Two "Ensenso X36" 3D cameras provide the necessary image data. They are capable of providing robust 2D and 3D information on products on a pallet measuring 1200 x 1200 millimetres with a maximum height of 2400 millimetres. The integrated vision system processes this information, enabling the depalletiser to identify each package and determine the appropriate gripping position, for robust robotic order picking.

3D cameras for future-oriented robotics

Each "Ensenso X36" 3D camera system consists of a projector unit and two "GigE" cameras with either 1.6 megapixel or five megapixel CMOS sensors. AWL chose the five-megapixel variant for its solution. Mounting and adjustment brackets, three lenses and sync and patch cables for connecting the cameras to the projector unit are also included. The integrated "FlexView2" technology ensures an even better spatial resolution and a very high robustness of the system against dark or reflective surfaces. The 3D systems are supplied assembled and pre-calibrated. However, focusing and calibration are also easy to set up using the setup wizard integrated into the software. Like the Rode depalletiser, it is easy to integrate into its working environment and aims to give its users a competitive edge in the world of logistics automation.


"The intralogistics market is a growth market. The number of robot solutions required will increase rapidly in the coming years. The type of products that need to be recognised will change constantly. This will be a challenge for all components and the demands on the camera," explains Sander Lensen. However, image processing is also developing rapidly. Smart solutions that combine camera technology with artificial intelligence are on the rise. They hold great potential for tackling both increasingly demanding tasks and the worsening shortage of skilled workers. Carton by carton, parcel by parcel, pallet by pallet.