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The Canvas autonomous cart can ferry goods around chaotic factory floors

The Canvas autonomous cart can ferry goods around chaotic factory floors
From TechCrunch - July 14, 2017

Most Econ 101 classes start with an explanation of fixed and marginal cost in the context of factories. The factory is the principal fixed costexpensive and permanent. Canvas wants to smash this assumption of expensive, inflexible, factories by replacing infrastructure with autonomous vehicles. The Boulder-based startup is announcing its first product this morningan autonomous cart designed to shuffle goods around chaotic and unpredictable factory floors.

Traditionally, factories install conveyor belts when they want to regularly move goods from one place to another. The problem with this is that, once belts are installed, manufacturing processes have to adapt to the physical infrastructure. An autonomous cart, on the other hand, can be reprogrammed on the fly to play a variety of rolls depending on the needs of the day.

This is really the typical cart that you would normally see in so many facilities, explained Jonathan McQueen, CEO of Canvas, in an interview. It can be used for delivering parts from inbound inventory to the manufacturing line ordelivering finished goods to a warehouse.

McQueen underscores that the problem of actually building an autonomous cart is quite a bit harder than it sounds. Its true that there are plenty of autonomous bots out there for last mile delivery (etc.), but these machines typically operate in one of two environmentslarge outdoor spaces where GPS can act as a crutch and static indoor spaces.

The Canvas cart had to be designed to operate at the edge (without connectivity) in a changing environment. A lot of engineering went into the model being released today, but two key innovations stand out that allow the Canvas cart to operate in such an environment.

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