Rethink Robotics finally get their mojo with Sawyer

28 September 2015

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Rethink Robotics displayed their new single-armed Sawyer robot at the RoboBusiness Conference and Expo in San Jose on Wednesday. It was Sawyer’s first public outing and the crowd of over 1,600 was paying attention.

Sawyer was running a machine tending application that required opening and closing a door and snapping pieces into place – tasks electronics manufacturers regularly need in their assembly process – and it performed perfectly. With the aid of its new Cognex camera, Sawyer is able to find what it’s looking for even when the piece isn’t exactly where it is supposed to be.

The New York Times recently put Rethink Robotics on its list of 50 technology companies likely to be valued at $1bn or more in years to come. (Also included were 3D Robotics and Airware.) Funders seem to agree, having provided $113.5m in seven rounds of funding.

During my interview with Rethink’s President and CEO Scott Eckert, at the RoboBusiness show, he outlined a rosy future for Sawyer, Rethink, and the company’s other robot, the  two-armed Baxter. Eckert confirmed that, up until recently, Baxter sales were mostly in the US and a good portion were to academia (Rethink only recently passed the 1,000 sales mark). But today, after a software update in June which enhanced Baxter’s speed and precision, its sales are increasing by 40%-70% each quarter. Sales of Sawyer are already backlogged.

It’s clear that Rethink has responded to customer feedback. The new Sawyer robot has a longer reach and more precision than Baxter. The latter has also been upgraded and is now three times faster and twice as precise as the original version. Certainly, Rethnk’s main competitor, Universal Robots, now has more to contend with.

This short video shows a General Electric division, GE Lighting, using the new Sawyer robot.

Robotiq, a Canadian provider of grippers, recently compared Rethink’s Sawyer and Universal’s UR3 robots. Here are the results:


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Frank Tobe is the owner and publisher of The Robot Report, and is also a panel member for Robohub's Robotics by Invitation series.
Frank Tobe is the owner and publisher of The Robot Report, and is also a panel member for Robohub's Robotics by Invitation series.

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