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Teams Challenged to Stack a Better Pallet
February 10, 2010

Pallet-Packing Robot: This simulation shows a robot in the middle of creating a pallet of boxes of mixed sizes. NIST engineers are seeking university teams to develop such simulations for a May competition. Credit: NIST.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is seeking university teams to participate in a May 2010 Virtual Manufacturing Automation Competition to simulate an industrial robot performing a common but complex shop floor taskÔÇôstacking odd-lot boxes on a shipping pallet. The winning team will run part of their simulated task on a robot at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation 2010 in Anchorage, Alaska in May as part of a demonstration of seamless transition from simulation to real-world systems.

Building a mixed pallet is an efficient method of transporting the goods, but programming a robot for this task requires knowledge of robotics, mobility, mapping and scheduling in a manufacturing environment. Additional consideration in creating the mixed pallet are package density, pallet stability and how to know which packages need special care due to weight or fragility. The problem is familiar to anyone who has packed a variety of gifts into a larger box for shipping. A sound solution could lead to more efficient delivery of mail, food and other wholesale items.

The deadline for entering the competition is Feb. 15th and the competition is May 2nd-3rd. More information about the competition, including a simple example of a robot simulation, can be found at

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