Robotics & Automation News

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Qualcomm and Zebra invest in Third Wave Automation

Third Wave Automation, a provider of high-reach autonomous forklifts, has received strategic investments from Qualcomm Ventures and Zebra Technologies, bringing the startup’s total funding to $70 million.

Carlos Kokron, vice president, Qualcomm Technologies, and managing director, Qualcomm Ventures Americas, says: “The increasing adoption of advanced robotics, artificial intelligence and 5G connectivity is facilitating the use of autonomous solutions within the warehouse.

“Third Wave Automation’s shared autonomy approach with continuous learning capabilities delivers immediate value to the customers by easily integrating with existing workflows while enhancing labor productivity and safety. We are excited to invest in Third Wave Automation to bring next-generation autonomy to the forklifts.”

The strategic investment will enable TWA to accelerate new innovations as its first product expands its select pilot program. With the funding, TWA plans to expand its market offerings, accelerate new solutions for automating other classes of forklifts, including narrow aisle and counterbalance trucks and integrate with automation solutions, such as Fetch Robotics, which is now part of Zebra Technologies.

Tony Palcheck, managing director of Zebra Ventures at Zebra Technologies, says: “As our supply chain customers continue to battle labor shortages, they are turning to automation solutions to improve productivity.

“TWA’s autonomous, high-reach fork trucks streamline warehouse workflows, enabling operators to increase throughput and lower costs while also improving worker safety.

“TWA’s approach aligns with Zebra’s goals, and we look forward to working with Arshan and the Third Wave team to improve material handling operations.”

TWA says its Reach machine is the only forklift automation solution on the market today that offers users the flexibility to deploy their fleet in four modalities – fully autonomous, remote operation, remote assist and traditional manual operation.

The TWA Reach, which was named One of the Best Robots of CES 2023, is a fully automated reach truck solution that can operate in 10+ foot aisles up to 366 inches high in base configurations.

Because it can easily integrate into existing workflows with no costly infrastructure changes commonly required by traditional automation solutions, users can see an immediate impact with the TWA Reach solution.

In pilot deployments, TWA Reach has been instrumental in enabling users to meet their daily quota of throughput in inbound putaway, replenishment and outbound workflows.

Arshan Poursohi, TWA’s co-founder and CEO, says: “After successfully deploying our solution with key pilot customers, we are excited to expand the TWA Reach pilot program. This enables us to explore additional automation workflows and continue deploying flexible forklift automation technology.

“With the strategic investment from Qualcomm Ventures and Zebra Technologies, we look forward to scaling production of our forktrucks, deploying them with new customers in a wide variety of sites, continuing to innovate with new applications and additional materials handling vehicles, and perfecting our fleet management.”

The TWA Reach forklifts utilize TWA’s core automation technology and collaborative autonomy platform, which leverages AI and machine learning to enable remote operation and assistance, intelligent fleet management and continuous learning capabilities to provide holistic materials handling solutions that improve over time.

TWA’s fleet management system provides the visibility and tools needed to effectively manage users’ fleets of automated forklifts and respond to robot assists in a timely and effective manner.

With a focus on user experience, TWA’s operator-first approach ensures that edge cases are resolved quickly to enable a high level of performance in warehouse operations.

TWA will be demonstrating its TWA Reach automation solution in booth N6151 at ProMat 2023, taking place March 20-23 in Chicago. There, TWA also will participate and host sessions on adopting automation and what’s now possible in supply chain robotics, which includes one of its first major 3PL customers.

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