The robots are no longer coming; they are here. Robots and robotics are an area of digital technologies that may not enjoy a lot of media hype but are quietly transforming how industries work.
While most innovations in robotics for manufacturing are incremental, such as those by Soft Robotics and Fetch Robotics, some innovations are truly groundbreaking – such as those by Markforged and Grabit. The underlying narrative, however, is that the age of robots has dawned.
Here, we briefly discuss the top ten startups in robotics for manufacturing, identifying key ways they are impacting and reshaping the manufacturing industry.
Founded in 2015, Soft Robotics is solving end-of-arm tooling in industrial robots through smart material soft-touch grippers. As most robots lack the fine, dexterous touch and grip humans have, humans complete tasks involving delicate or irregularly-shaped items. Soft Robotics uses advanced materials in its soft-touch gripper that enable it to grip anything from fresh fruit to candy bars, with the same dexterity and finesse as a human. Soft Robotics, headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, has to date raised $25 million in venture capital.
Arevo Labs is combining advanced composite materials, intelligent lifecycle management software, and true free-motion 3D printing to create ultra-strong polymer parts that cannot be made using conventional manufacturing techniques. The robotics for manufacturing startup is exploring a new take on industrial part manufacturing with an intention to disrupt the traditional design-for-manufacturing (DFM) process, replacing it with a manufacturing-for-design (MFD) approach. Founded in 2013, Arevo Labs’ total funding to date is $19.5 million.
The Watertown, Massachusetts startup, founded in 2013, is using a proprietary 3D printing technique that utilizes advanced materials such as nylon, reinforced continuous fiber, chopped carbon fiber, and metal to create end-use composite material parts. The robotics for manufacturing startup is applying this unique approach to upend traditional 3D printing and numerous traditional manufacturing techniques, in the process delivering substantial cost, efficiency, and time savings. Markforged, currently in late-stage venture funding, has raised $136.8 million to date and has grown 12,687 percent from 2015 to 2018.
Ready Robotics is making it easy for manufacturers to deploy robots through an all-in-one robot programming terminal. The robotics for manufacturing startup’s flagship product, the Forge Station, allows any manufacturer to program robots to complete a wide array of tasks without writing a single line of code. Ready Robotics is also pioneering robots-as-a-service, a service that can configure and deploy robots to customer facilities in thirty days or less. Ready Robotics, founded in 2016, is headquartered in Columbus, Ohio and has raised $18.8 million to date.
UiPath is the Adobe for industrial process design. Building robotic process automation software, the company, founded in 2005, is using a platform approach to process design and execution. The company’s core platform, UiPath Studio, offers visual automation modeling while its complementary services, UiPath Orchestrator and UiPath Robot, provide last-mile process execution. Some of the industries the robotics automation company serves include manufacturing, finance, and banking, healthcare, telecom, among others. UiPath, currently in late-stage venture funding, has raised $448 million to date. The robotics for manufacturing company, based in New York, has offices in London, Paris, Bucharest, Tokyo, Singapore, Bengaluru, and Melbourne.
Seegrid is helping manufacturers run faster and more efficient production lines through autonomous infrastructure-free material-handling vehicles combined with a cloud fleet management system. With customers like Boeing, DHL, Whirlpool, and Zulily, Seegrid is reimagining autonomous vehicles for the factory floor. The manufacturing robotics startup, founded in 2003, has so far raised $59.5 million from Innovation Works, Giant Eagle, and other private equity investors. The robotics for manufacturing company has its headquarters in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.
Grabit is using a revolutionary electroadhesion innovation to revolutionize grasping tasks in robotics, industrial automation, and material handling. Using the same energy that causes hair to stick to a statically charged balloon, the startup is reinventing how goods are handled on linear and gravity-fed conveyor belts. By introducing better goods handling, Grabit delivers load efficiency, higher operation density, and increased speed. Grabit, founded in 2013, is based in Sunnyvale, California and has raised $21 million to date.
Veo Robotics is building intelligent collaborative robots or cobots, using advanced computer vision, 3D sensing, and artificial intelligence. The robotics for manufacturing startup, founded in 2016 and based in Waltham, Massachusetts, is bringing perception and intelligence to high-performance industrial robots. Through this innovative approach, Veo Robotics is bridging the gap between machine-only and human-only manufacturing processes. Veo Robotics has raised $28 million to date from Baidu Ventures, GV, Lux Capital, and Next47.
Brain Corp. is solving the challenge caused by fragmented robotics systems by creating a unified industry-agnostic robotics operating system. The company, founded in 2009 and supported by $125 million in funding from SoftBank, Qualcomm, and other investors, supports autonomous machine builders through its platform so they can build and deploy faster. Focusing on AI, Brain Corp. is powering intelligent machines, including industrial manufacturing robots, from the development phase through to the deployment and management phases. Brain Corp is headquartered in San Diego, California.
Fetch Robotics is combining collaborative and intelligent Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR) with a cloud-based platform to offer on-demand automation. Leapfrogging the many challenges and bottlenecks involved in introducing automation to factory and warehouse floors, Fetch Robotics can deploy AMR solutions for material handling and data collection purposes within hours. Founded in 2014 and based in San Jose, California, the robotics for manufacturing and logistics startup has to date raised $48 million in venture capital.
As the area of robotics for manufacturing becomes increasingly sophisticated, collaboration opportunities between robots and humans will abound. Where current tasks require segregated approaches with attendant inefficiencies, an increase in machine-human collaboration will unlock new levels of productivity.
As the startups in this list and others continue to pioneer the future of manufacturing, the lesson to those in the manufacturing sector is clear – learn and follow fast and be ready to embrace the robotic future of manufacturing.
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