Every product has a story of its own, and so does the arculee. This article will take you back eight years to how it all started: the concept, the team, and the struggles. It will walk you through different phases of our robot’s development and show you how it evolved from an initial idea to what it is today, all through the eyes of people who were part of this journey. From the flashbacks to the future plans – here is how our autonomous mobile robot has become an integral part of Intralogistics 4.0.
As you can probably tell by now, the name arculee derives from the company name – arculus, which in Latin means a bow or curve. The true inspiration is, however, the coiled cloth that head porters back in the day would wear to carry goods, also called arculus. “It was a unique and versatile means of transport, whether for food, water, or even wood for the fire. We then realized that it was quite a good analogy for what we had in mind“, explains Fabian Rusitschka (Managing Director, arculus).
arculee, the Autonomous Mobile Robot, was initially a concept that emerged from the automotive production system in 2014. The team tested the idea via software simulations multiple times, only to confirm that it had the potential to truly make a difference in intralogistics. Fabian, the man behind this idea, was keen to shape his vision.
“I had to make a difficult call: either leaving it as a PowerPoint concept or quitting my job and finding the right people to build what I had envisioned”.Fabian Rusitschka
The Show Must Go On
Two years later, in April 2016, Fabian founded arculus together with Frank Hempel (Head of Software Technology) and Marius Leffler (Senior Robotics Engineer). The initial step was the diagnosis of the software, robotics, and physical means of transport needed to develop a robot. From there, the concept began to evolve as a product.
The idea won the support of Audi’s Technology and Innovation Management, with whom we signed our first development contract. From approving the first proof of concept to being involved in every step of building the robot, Audi was closely connected with us and was thrilled to witness Modular Production come to life.
To accomplish this, the team decided to build the brain (control system that manages the behaviour), install it inside a robot sourced from other vendors, and control it with fleet management software. Despite successful demos, the robots soon started encountering integration problems. “When you would tell the robot to go straight, it would steer to the left or right”, recalls Marius.
Overcome and Adapt
After a couple of months, the founders realized that it was not the right way to go about it. Thus, the focus shifted to building the robot from scratch.
“If we could fix all the problems and issues we had with the sourced robots, we might as well build our own robot… because then we could learn a little bit more, become more flexible, time and hardware wise, and also have the full stack in hand”Marius Leffler
This was the first and most significant strategic move, according to Fabian. As we were heavily relying on other vendors, the primary motivation was to be a complete supplier of AMRs and become independent in terms of delivering quickly. The team also firmly believed that to build a vertically integrated product, it was essential to understand and influence all levels. “This helped us quite a lot over the years… that we mastered different fields from mechanical and electrical engineering to writing the embedded code. It helped us move and adapt to new situations”.
In early 2017, the plan was implemented, and we started building our first robot. Marius precisely remembers that on Valentine’s day that year, they had a prototype that moved. He recalls, “We threw in some surplus batteries. We had two motor drivers, my laptop that we threw into a chassis we had, with a couple of wheels that we formed manually…. and it was driven using an Xbox controller”. The team then built several prototypes until we had our own AMR ready in 2018. That’s when the arculee was born.