Fetch Robotics, a Silicon Valley startup that makes a matching pair of logistics robots designed to efficiently grab products off shelves in tight industrial spaces and then autonomously move them where they need to go, announced it has raised $20 million in Series A funding.
Launched in April, the company is led by Melonee Wise, one of the earliest employees of the pioneering robotics company Willow Garage, which among other things developed the PR2, the world’s first all-purpose personal robot.
Fetch’s new funding, led by Softbank’s SB Group US, with additional investment from seed investors O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures and Shasta Ventures, brings the company’s total money raised to $23 million.
The company’s buddy robots are the Fetch—which features a unique arm-and-gripper system designed to rotate a full 360 degrees, allowing it to autonomously pick most items off warehouse shelves, even in very tight aisles—and the Freight, which can then automatically carry the items wherever they are needed.
Fetch is hoping it can build a large base of industrial customers by giving them a way to cut costs and save time, since the two robots can perform many repetitive tasks that today can only be done by humans.
Both robots are designed to autonomously recharge at a docking station. Fetch has built software that operates the robots and integrates into customers’ warehouse systems.
Although the company has yet to reveal pricing, one way Fetch is hoping to keep costs down is by building both the Fetch and Freight atop the same mechanical, mobile base–giving it an economies of scale advantage. Initially, Fetch is making 20 each of the two robots.
The Fetch, which has a telescoping spine that can raise it from a height of 3.6 feet to up to 4.9 feet, can carry up to 13.2 pounds. It senses where it is with a 3-D depth sensor, and its arm can move with seven degrees of freedom. The Freight can then carry up to 150 pounds and can see up to 25 feet in front of it, even in the dark, with a 2-D laser scanner.
All of this could help companies save money over time, the company argues, because, unlike human workers, the robots can work almost continuously, with no breaks, no sick days, and with no loss due to theft. Not to mention that both the Fetch and Freight were designed to perform as much as six man-years of work before needing to be repaired.