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by   -   September 16, 2015


When Rob Cain replaced John Dulchinos as CEO of Adept Technology in February, 2013 he was charged with restructuring the company to either make it profitable to operate or make it valuable as a take-over. The latter happened today when Japanese OMRON announced plans to acquire Adept for $200 million.

by   -   September 9, 2013

adept It was just last February that Rob Cain replaced John Dulchinos as CEO of Adept Technology. Cain had worked with Adept for a few months as advisor and representative of Hale Capital Partners and crafted a restructuring plan approved by the company and it’s financial partners. It appears that things are working according to plan.
On August 27th Adept announced their quarterly earnings which were essentially just reaching break-even, but it showed that Adept’s turnaround plan was working. The stock rallied to close up 26.9% to $4.15 on August 27 and is up again to $5.95 – another 27% for the day.
One analyst reported: While the June 2013 quarter represents a tentative improvement, it shows demand for Adept’s robots is returning and the company has a much lower cost structure than one year earlier.

by   -   January 29, 2013

Industrial Robots; Robot Arms; Cameras, Scanners and Vision Systems; Collaborative Cage-free Robots; Mobile Robots; Robot Operating Systems; Warehousing and Materials Handling; New Technologies, and Jobs

There are fewer manufacturers of industrial robots than one might imagine: only a little more than 200 worldwide. Of these, fewer than 15 account for more than 60% of the industry’s revenue. Thus, at Automate 2013, held in freezing-cold Chicago, KUKA, Fanuc, Staubli, Motoman and ABB all had huge display areas showing their uniquely-colored robots (Kuka = orange; Fanuc = bright yellow; Staubli = white and light yellow; Motoman = blue and white; and ABB = red). These industrial arms are able to carry big loads as was demonstrated by this showy barbell-pressing Fanuc robot transporting two very heavy train wheels and their axle from place to place.

by   -   January 14, 2013
CBS News Reporter Steve Kroft interviews Rodney Brooks at ReThink Robotics.
Click on the image to see the segment.

On Sunday, January 13, CBS News 60 Minutes reported on robots. Their focal point was jobs and the changing nature of work. As a backdrop to their comments they showed Tessla Motors’ robots retooling themselves, Adept’s robots stuffing boxes with packaged lettuce and also assembling Braun shavers, watched ReThink Robots slowly pick and place an item, saw Aethon’s tugs in action in hospital corridors and had a brief glimpse of InTouch Health’s RP-VITA remote presence medical robot and a more descriptive view of the VGo Communications VGo robot at school and for home care. In the process the reporter, Steve Kroft, discussed a new definition of robots and robotics in sharp disagreement from the definitions posed by the International Federation of Robots:

Steve Kroft said, “The broad universal definition is a machine that can perform the job of a human. The machine can be mobile or stationary, hardware or software.”

by   -   June 7, 2012
Robot manufacturers are beginning to shift their
attention from industrial to service robots.

The robotics industry is on the cusp of a major transformation. Today’s factory robots are solitary precision instruments, mimicking the repertoire of capabilities of skilled craftsmen while repeating a handful of tasks thousands of times over. But future factory robots will likely have to be capable of thousands of tasks, performing each only several times, and they will work in collaboration with humans.

by   -   June 7, 2012

A version of this post originally appeared on Singularity Hub, June 6, 2012.

By Frank Tobe, Editor and Publisher

The Robot Report

Robot manufacturers are beginning to shift their
attention from industrial to service robots.

The robotics industry is on the cusp of a major transformation. Today’s factory robots are solitary precision instruments, mimicking the repertoire of capabilities of skilled craftsmen while repeating a handful of tasks thousands of times over. But future factory robots will likely have to be capable of thousands of tasks, performing each only several times, and they will work in collaboration with humans.

Furthermore, interest in nonindustrial robots is emerging at an even quicker pace, and new and larger marketplaces are opening up as never before. But that means some pretty significant shifts in design from caged robots to adjacent workers, from stationary position to portable motion, from programming intensive to easily trainable, and from connected to autonomous robots. Even as they work to improve upon their current industrial offerings, robotics companies are closely watching demand for co-robots, which are the safe, flexible, vision-enabled and easily trainable robotic assistants that science fiction movies made culturally popular.

Thus the reinvention of robotics is fundamentally a transition from industrial robotics to service robotics, and one that is demanding flexibility and versatility beyond what is presently available.

Facing the Major Technological Challenges:

The big industrial robot manufacturers are reinventing themselves in an effort to accommodate these changing realities. Companies such as Yaskawa Electric (Motoman), KUKA, Adept Technologies, and Bosch are fighting against technological challenges and against the clock to be relevant players in the robotics industry 2.0. However, companies face three major technological challenges that are impeding this shift and will require significant breakthroughs to propel the industry forward into the era of service robotics:
  1. Grasping and manipulation in human-centered and open-ended environments
  2. Learning through observation of human actions
  3. Interaction and natural communication, including gestures and sounds

Examining the strategies and unique approaches of companies making this transition can lend insight into how manufacturers will overcome the technological challenges, position themselves among competitors, and bring new robots quickly to market.

Four Strategies for Transitioning from Industrial to Service and Co-Robotics:

KUKA announced a transition roadmap last year predicated on their participation in the SME Robot Project. They plan to provide lightweight arms, add mobility, and improve their grippers, as well as moving into heretofore untapped industries.

They’ve released a new lightweight and sensitive arm that can be affixed to a tabletop or workbench that is sensitive enough to safely work alongside humans. They also have plans to take their manufacturing and automation experience and enter new marketplaces, particularly entertainment (they have a ride robot), assembly and co-robotics (delta-type robots and lightweight arms working alongside humans), and healthcare and medical (cleanroom robots, lab robots).

Kuka has also developed an entirely different type of robot: the youBot.  It’s organized for the education and research marketplace and includes a mobile and also fixed 2-fingered 5 DOF plug and play robot arm selling for $31,000 and $21,000 respectively. youBots run the open source robotic operating system ROS prevalent in most major robotic learning centers and could be Kuka’s inroad to the co-robotic market.

At present, however, their proprietary operating and control system for their whole industrial robot line of products, and their robot training and simulation capabilities, are far too complex, convoluted and restrictive for the SME market.
Graphic from website.

Yaskawa is developing a line of robotic products to fill the “Robotics Human Assist Business.” The SME marketplace is included in their plan as are new market areas where robotic devices augment and assist humans. Their plan covers workers, seniors, disabled people, and early adopters of other human-assist products.

On a recent visit to Tokyo, I met with Dr. Koji Tomita, Manager, Smart Robotics Center,
Kazuo Miyazawa, General Manager, Smart Robotics Center and Shingo Ando,
Manager, RT Control Technology Team (from left to right) and they showed me SmartPal V,
a prototype for their next generation human assist robot.

Yaskawa is already marketing their two-armed Motoman multi-tasking robots and expects to begin introducing additional products and capabilities in 2015. They recently restructured their R&D by creating a new Smart Robotics Center (SRC) with the mission of accelerating R&D to enable human assist products and their 2015 target date.

Yaskawa has also embraced the use of the open source Robotic Operating System (ROS) to enable Yaskawa users — and others — to be able to better simulate and add new technologies and devices to existing robotic installations. Additionally they are strategically partnering with other companies that have specific expertise in 3D vision and adaptive grasping to augment in-house capabilities and meet the 2015 launch date.

Adept’s strategy is meshing proven business processes with new tech to form commercially ready solutions and involves (1) acquisitions to supplement and acquire capabilities it feels it needs for the future, and (2) aggressively marketing into new markets in food processing and materials handling.

One acquisition enabled Adept to add mobility to its line of products; another supplemented Adept’s food processing technology arsenal and offered a European base as well. Through it’s 2010 acquisition of MobileRobots, Adept now provides a mobile platform for a variety of purposes. One purpose is as a gofor in a hospital. They’ve teamed with Swisslog to ferry medicine from the dispensary to nurses stations and back again thereby enabling nurses to focus on patient care instead of getting things.

    Adept’s mobility goals include doing simple service tasks presently done by low-cost but hard-to-hire labor, e.g. restaurant staff, who could use mobile tables to follow, deliver and pickup.
    Adept is also building their new mobile robots as modules and selling any or all of those modules. In Swisslog’s case, they are selling a mobile platform and navigation system but they are also selling the nav system and sensors separately to other clients.

    By acquiring InMoTx, a Danish provider of food-processing technology in 2011, Adept was able to add a portfolio of flexible gripping IP (intellectual property) for inspecting, sorting, grading and hygienically packaging unwrapped food products. Hygienically gripping irregularly shaped food products has emerged as one of the biggest constraints in automating food packaging. This acquisition expands Adept’s capabilities and supplements their goal of further capturing a share of the global food processing and handling market.

    Bosch makes consumer products, appliances and auto parts. They are also an integrator for factory packaging systems and build and provide packaging robots. Many of their auto and consumer products are turning into “smart” devices and will someday become robotic. Imagine how desirable it would be to purchase a Bosch washer and dryer that also had a robotic device to feed, transfer and fold, thereby providing hamper-to-hamper service.

    Many of the parts involved in Bosch’s manufacturing process are too small for present-day factory robots. So they have a two-pronged approach: learn, buy and partner from everyone and, if necessary, build their own robots. Their new home-built APAS robot is already being field tested in their factories for intricate handling and assembly work.


    These four companies are each demonstrating the kinds of efforts required to make the transition successfully, but other companies are making moves that are noteworthy for this discussion:

    Up until late 2011 when Pres. Obama made manufacturing and robotics an issue, the US lacked public-private activity like the EU’s SME Robotics project. But there was independent venture-funded activity. Rodney Brooks, one of the founders of iRobot and a professor at MIT, started a company to develop a low-cost co-robot. Still in the development phase, but venture funded to the tune of $32 million, Heartland Robotics has more than 60 people working full-time to produce a low-cost, flexible, easily trainable, lightweight robotic assistant (co-robot). One of the more interesting aspects of Heartland’s project is providing an Apple-like app store where users can share routines and functions.
    Although the Boston Globe intimated that the Heartland robot would sell for only $5,000, be on a rolling base, be trainable without programming, and have sensors which enable it to work safely with humans, the currently rumored price for a Heartland single-armed co-robot is $15,000.

    Although Heartland hasn’t officially announced a launch date, they have reserved a large booth at next January’s Automate 2013 in Chicago. A media launch date will be earlier, but the Automate show will be a place for a lot of would-be-users and buyers to see the new bots in action.

    Meka Robotics, Willow Garage, and SRI just announced a new startup competitor: Redwood Robotics. Their website says they will be offering a new generation of robot arms that are simple to program, inexpensive (“in the $10,000 range,” says CEO Aaron Edsinger), and safe to operate alongside people. These three partners bring a lot of robotic talent to the table and are a formidable competitor for Heartland.

    The clock is ticking for this type of co-robot. The first one to market will benefit. Will it be Heartland, Redwood or somebody else?
    Foxconn assembly workers. Photo: Bobby Yip/Reuters/File
    Cynics thought Foxconn’s 2011 announcement that they intended to deploy 1 million robots in their factories in China within 3 years was a ploy, a trick, impossible, unreal. But in late 2011 they launched and built an R&D facility and a factory in Taiwan to build their own robots. And they’ve begun to hire 2,000 engineers to man this project.
    Nobody knows yet whether any other robot manufacturer will supply Foxconn. However, rumors say that ABB may be in negotiations to provide them with some of their headless two-armed FRIDA robots.
    If Foxconn succeeds they will almost double the world’s industrial robot population, throw the “steady growth” industrial robot figures to the wind, and help themselves better manage the ever increasing popularity of their contract manufacturing and assembly services.

    Bottom Line:

    Global demand for robotic solutions is increasing, thus the world of robotics must change rapidly and cultivate scientific solutions to enhance the technologies to meet those needs. Those robotic companies – like the ones presented in this article – who will succeed in this new industry, are those that can best develop applications and robots that meet those changing needs.

    Robots like C3PO of Star Wars fame are getting closer every day!

    by   -   May 28, 2012

    The above video, by Erico Guizzo and Evan Ackerman of IEEE Spectrum, and shows Patrick Rowe, of RE2 (RE-squared), the firm hired by DARPA to build the standard platform for their ARM program, putting a completed unit through its paces at ICRA.

    A small omni-roller suitable for use as one or more fingers of a robotic hand

    An autonomous robotic fish for detecting and finding the source of pollution

    MIT 6.141 Robotics Class Final Challenge for 2012

    Back to ICRA to watch an Adept mobile robot navigating the show floor

    Another Adept robot being used in research at Cornell

    And finally, Georgia Tech’s Travis doing a little dance

    by   -   February 15, 2012

    In the emerging world of service robotics, many markets are opening to robotics that were once only handled by industrial robot manufacturers. Safely unmanned, or working alongside human workers, in a show focused on handling materials in the factory and also in the warehouse, Modex 2012, held in Atlanta (after 16 years in Cleveland), displayed the wares and solutions offered by 560 vendors and covered all aspects of picking, packing, handling and transporting material. Unlike industrial robots from the past, the newer robots displayed at Modex are able to adapt, easy to use and intuitive to operate.

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