What Do Software Developers for Mobile Robotics Do at KNAPP? – Part 1

Published on in Company, Working at KNAPP
04:00 minutes reading time
Article contains videos

Robotics – the final frontier. It’s 2024 and these are the voyages of KNAPP. Their mission: To explore the worlds of image processing, to seek out new artificial intelligence, to boldly go where no one has gone before. Is science fiction right up your alley? Are you eager to work on your own robot technology? At KNAPP, we don’t dream of the future, we actively shape it. So forget the starship and join our development crew!

We’ll tell you more about software development in robotics at KNAPP in this blog post. Our colleague, Thomas, will share some insights into his career, his daily work and what the future in robotics holds in store.

What’s it like working as a software developer in robotics?

Our logistics software suite, KiSoft, networks all processes, automation technologies and people in the warehouse and links all steps of the value chain. This is reflected in the range of tasks we do in software development. In robotics, our intelligent software controls shuttle systems, bots, AMRs, articulated robots, pocket sorter systems and much more.

Multiple disciplines, such as mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science, interface when it comes to developing robot technology. Our software developers plan and create software solutions for a diverse range of robotic systems. What unites all our developers? They love turning scientific findings on sensor fusion, localization and navigation, hardware control and regulation, machine learning, and tool and user interface development into solutions that are fit for industry. Their favorite part? To see their efforts bear fruit and watch them live in action for exciting projects around the globe.

Catch a glimpse of our world of technology

Watch this video to see the Open Shuttle Fork – our autonomous mobile robot for pallet transport – in action.

Watch this video to see our Open Shuttles – our intelligent, flexible and useful autonomous mobile robots – in action.

Interview with Thomas Ulz –
from RoboCup participant to divisional manager

Let us introduce you to our colleague Thomas Ulz, who is Director of Software Development at KNAPP Industry Solutions in Dobl, Austria, and shares his passion for robot technology in this interview.

Together with his team, he furthers the development of the Open Shuttles, our autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) for container transport, and the Open Shuttle Fork, our AMR for pallet transport.

Thomas Ulz, Director Software Development, KNAPP Industry Solutions, Dobl
Thomas Ulz, Director Software Development, KNAPP Industry Solutions, Dobl

How did you get to where you are now in robotics?

After graduating from the HTL Kaindorf technical school, I worked as a software developer for several years. Then I decided to study telematics and computer science at the Graz University of Technology and earned my PhD in 2019. During my studies, the university founded a robotics team that was supported by KNAPP and very successfully took part in many different competitions, such as the RoboCup, the world championship of robotics disciplines.

So participating in the RoboCup led you to KNAPP. How did you get started at the company?

First, I started as a development project lead for two new autonomous mobile robots, our Open Shuttles. After a short while, I changed to development to work as a team leader. Back then, the team was very small – it only consisted of four people – but it has continually grown over the years into a department in its own right and now, it’s a whole division comprising two departments.

What kind of education should you have for a job in robotics?

The most important thing is that you are thoroughly interested in and enthusiastic about mobile robotics and software development. Since mobile robotics covers a range of different fields, including control engineering and sensor fusion as well as machine learning and complex user interfaces, it’s not easy to pinpoint a specific qualification or previous experience.

What does an average day at work look like for you?

My day is quite varied as we are working on several products that are in different stages of development. So a typical day includes product development, product maintenance as well as customer projects. My main responsibility is to coordinate many different software solutions to ensure all functions for all our software-aided products are in place.

What is special about your division?

Software development in mobile robotics offers a huge playground where you can immerse yourself in many different specialist disciplines. The field is ever-changing too. With new technologies and methods continually emerging and hardware constantly developing, you always learn something new. Our work is also interdisciplinary: We collaborate with all teams working on AMRs, from mechatronics development, product management and sales to project management and management accounting.

Which programming languages are used?

We use C++ for the backend and Angular for frontend applications. In addition, we use Python for initial tests or proof of concepts.

How much creative freedom and freedom of action do you have? 

We have complete freedom to choose the technology and method that best suits the product. Since we work together closely with Product Management and other development departments such as Mechatronics Development, we have a lot of freedom and a lot of say regarding our products.

What’s been the highlight of your career?

The time when the first AMR – the Open Shuttle Fork – that was completely developed by KNAPP went into real operation at the pilot customer’s site. It was so nice to see how all the people involved, from Manufacturing all the way to the Management, were proud of what we had achieved.

Which three words would best describe your job?

Diverse. Fascinating. Educational.

The future of robotics is…

I think the future of robotics is very promising. It’s still a young field that has nevertheless significantly advanced in recent years. Besides the technological progress, new applications for mobile robotics are being found on a daily basis.

Our development locations in Styria

#weareknapp – 7,700 employees worldwide, with more than 2,100 people working in software. In the region of Styria, we are among the largest IT employers. Thanks to our innovative technologies, we are successful around the globe. We not only develop software at our headquarters in Hart bei Graz but also at our locations in Leoben, Dobl and Raaba/Grambach.

RoboCup and KNAPP RoboLeague –
a playful introduction to robotics

There are no barriers to who can dive into the world of robotics. However, there are two fantastic opportunities to get started: the RoboCup and the KNAPP RoboLeague.

Since 2015, we’ve been supporting the GRIPS team of the Graz University of Technology for the RoboCup. Today, five out of the eight team members work in software development for autonomous mobile robots. The team won first place at the RoboCup in the discipline “Logistics League” in 2023 and successfully participated in the German Open 2023 in Aachen and in Kassel in 2024.

KNAPP’s RoboLeague is a robotics competition for school students from Styria, Carinthia and Burgenland. More than 54 teams entered the RoboLeague competition in 2024 and used their robots to fulfill ticklish tasks. For example, they had to make robots navigate along a wall to the target position in the Follow the Wall challenge. Other challenges included Find the Rooms, Find the Bricks and Search & Rescue.

Check out this video to catch a glimpse of the KNAPP RoboLeague 2024 that took place at headquarters in Hart bei Graz.

Eager to join our robotics team?

Then kick off your career at KNAPP and shape the technologies of tomorrow. Whether you’re brand new to employment, have plenty of experience under your belt or are just switching to the field, we’re excited to receive your application as a software developer in robotics! Access our job portal here.

We are hiring:

Software Developer for Mobile Robot Systems (m/f/d)
Teamleader Software Development Robotics (m/f/d)