Rethink Robotics is a Boston-based company that produces robots for research and manufacturing purposes. Since 2008, Rethink Robotics has been a pioneering force in the emerging collaborative robot, or co-bot, industry, which designs machinery that can safely work alongside human beings. Rethink has garnered more than $100 million in funding from investors like Sigma Partners, Highland Capital, and Bezos Expeditions. Rethink's robots help manufacturers remain agile by providing them with trainable, less-expensive robots that allow them to focus investment on skilled human workers. The company's first offering was a two-armed robot called Baxter, and it later went on to produce a smaller cousin, Sawyer. The one-armed Sawyer's margin of error is a mere 0.1 millimeters, allowing the co-bot to operate with startling precision and flexibility. At 42 pounds, Sawyer can do everything from circuit testing to machine tending as long as machinery is within reach of its 4.1-foot-long arm. And if a hiccup should come up during its work, the robot can use its "eyes"--a wide-view camera in its head and another in its wrist--and its patented Robot Positioning System (RPS) technology to find a solution and continue the task at hand. Since Sawyer's release in September 2015, Rethink has already struck distribution deals with companies in Japan, Latin America, and China to bring both Sawyer and Baxter to factories around the world.
The company's competitive advantage in 2016:
Sawyer's margin of error is one of the smallest in the robotics industry.
The biggest challenges standing in this company's way in 2016:
The company must convince workers that they aren't being replaced by robots, but assisted by them; hence Sawyer's (and fellow robot Baxter's) friendly "faces."
What to look out for:
We'd like to see Sawyer used more widely, especially in Asia. We'd also like to better understand all of Sawyer's abilities and applications in industrial settings.
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