Humanoid robots to be put to work at BMW

Humanoid robots developed by California-based Figure are set to carry out tasks at BMW’s manufacturing facility in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

BMW Zentrum Visitors Center building in Greer, South Carolina
BMW Zentrum Visitors Center building in Greer, South Carolina - AdobeStock

Figure said its humanoid robots enable the automation of difficult, unsafe, or tedious tasks throughout the manufacturing process.

"Single-purpose robotics have saturated the commercial market for decades, but the potential of general-purpose robotics is completely untapped. Figure's robots will enable companies to increase productivity, reduce costs, and create a safer and more consistent environment," Brett Adcock, founder and CEO of Figure, said in a statement. "We look forward to working side-by-side with BMW Manufacturing to integrate AI and robotics into automotive production.”

Under a commercial agreement, BMW Manufacturing and Figure will pursue a milestone-based approach. In the first phase, Figure will identify initial use cases to apply the Figure robots in automotive production. Once the first phase has been completed, the Figure robots will begin staged deployment at BMW's Spartanburg plant where X3, X4, X5, X6, X7, and XM Sports Activity Vehicles and Coupes and their variants are assembled.

Beyond the deployment of humanoid robots in an automotive manufacturing environment, BMW Manufacturing and Figure said they will jointly explore advanced technology areas such as artificial intelligence, robot control, manufacturing virtualisation, and robot integration.

"The automotive industry, and with it the production of vehicles, is evolving rapidly. BMW Manufacturing is committed to integrating innovative technologies in our production systems to drive our future forward as an industry leader and innovator. The use of general purpose robot solutions has the potential to make productivity more efficient, to support the growing demands of our consumers, and to enable our team to focus on the transformation ahead of us," said Dr Robert Engelhorn, President and CEO of BMW Manufacturing.

Figure has developed Figure 01, which the company said is the world’s first commercially-viable autonomous humanoid robot. The 5’6” tall machine has a payload capability of 20kg, weighs 60kg, operates for five hours, and can move at 1.2m/s.