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  • Marijan Hassan - Tech Journalist

Mercedes is testing humanoid robots to increase efficiency in manufacturing plants

Mercedes-Benz joined a growing list of automotive makers exploring the integration of humanoid robots to streamline labour-intensive tasks in manufacturing. The ultimate goal is to increase productivity, reduce costs, and create a safer and more consistent environment by automating “low-skill, physically challenging, manual labour.”

Credit - Apptronik

It was the robotics company, Apptronik, that broke the news. The company disclosed that it had entered a commercial agreement with Mercedes to test how it could integrate Apollo, its 160-pound bipedal robot into the automaker's production.

The news comes barely three months after BMW announced that it would be working with another robotics startup to introduce general-purpose humanoids to its South Carolina plant.

In the case of Mercedes, it aims to leverage Apollo's capabilities in tasks such as component inspection and delivery to human production line workers.

While specific details regarding the agreement and the extent of Apollo's partnership with Mercedes remain undisclosed, the collaboration is evidence of a growing push toward integrating robotics into manufacturing operations.

Apptronik emphasises the role of humanoid robots is not to completely take over manufacturing, but rather automate tasks traditionally characterised by physical exertion and monotony.

A key point in the robotic company’s offering is its capacity to allow car manufacturers to automate tasks without having to redesign their existing facilities.

Trusted sources suggest that Mercedes has initiated trials of Apollo robots at a factory in Hungary. The country is currently grappling with labour shortages exacerbated by migration trends toward Western Europe. 

“This is a new frontier and we want to understand the potential both for robotics and automotive manufacturing to fill labour gaps in areas such as low-skill, repetitive, and physically demanding work and to free up our highly skilled team members on the line to build the world’s most desirable cars,” said Mercedes’ production chief Jörg Burzer.

Standing at five feet, eight inches tall, Apollo boasts the capability to lift objects weighing up to 55 pounds.

While its appearance may evoke amusement with its "goofy" face, the robot represents a significant stride in humanoid robotics and bears a lot of similarities with counterparts like Tesla's Optimus and BMW's Figure 01 robots.

Other bipedal robots like Agility Robotics’ “Digit” are also being piloted in Amazon’s US warehouses.


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