CNC Inventory Manipulation

@pturmel, et al, do you have any knowledge, contacts, etc on any existing automated systems to manipulate inventory? I can’t find anything online except software management suites, maybe I’m searching with the wrong keywords, not sure.

I’m considering doing my master’s thesis on a system to automate fabric handling at the plant I work at. We have Lowe’s Hardware/Home Depot type shelving that contains thousands of fabric bolts (horizontally). These are all picked and placed manually from forklifts. I was thinking of designing a CNC-based solution that could remove a fabric bolt and place on a conveyor belt.

I have extensive experience with fully custom automatic storage and retrieval, with servo-driven telescoping fork mechanisms on lift/rails, an AB PLC controlling the servos, and Ignition scheduling the product traffic. (:

Application details are under an NDA. ):

But, as I normally insist, I retain ownership of my code and algorithms, and can reuse anywhere so long as my client’s IP is protected. (:


This is a huge project, so most likely, I will do research and analysis on financial, safety, and productivity aspects. Then define parameters and specifications on theoretical operation. In the end, I don’t think I will actually get to build anything, except maybe a crude proof-of-concept prototype. If it proves to be viable, who knows, maybe the company will contract the job out for implementation :slight_smile:

I may bounce an idea or two off of you every now in then if you don’t mind. I have a concept design in the back of my head that I need to get on paper, it may be total junk, not sure :crazy_face:

I’m gonna guess your forklifts have a rod instead of a normal fork, to lift from the bolt’s core. I can already picture in my mind how I’d do this, but that won’t write your thesis… :laughing:

The fabric rolls weigh up to 60 lbs each, 30 lb avg, and approx. 54" long by 14" diameter. The fabric guys actually have forklifts with wheeled buggies that rest on the forks. The lifts drive from the fork side with the driver tethered and in standing position. They slide out the bolts and stack them in the buggy until full by hand.