Enrico Krog Iversen, former CEO of the industry-leading collaborative robot pioneer, Universal Robots, along with the Danish Growth Fund, is addressing the next challenge in automation with the merger of three innovative end-of-arm tooling companies to facilitate the ongoing growth of collaborative robotics; an industry expected to reach $8.5 billion by 2025.
The new company combines U.S.-based Perception Robotics, Hungary-based OptoForce, and Denmark-based On Robot to become OnRobot, which will drive innovation and ease-of-use for robotic end-of-arm tooling. OnRobot’s headquarters will be located in Denmark under the management of Enrico Krog Iversen, and the three entities will continue their individual operations and development as well. In addition, OnRobot’s global network of distributors will have access to local sales support, technical assistance and product training from the company’s regional offices in Germany, China, U.S., Malaysia, and Hungary. More offices to come in 2018.
“The aim is to build a world-leading organization in development and production of end-of-arm tooling. Through further acquisitions and collaborations, we expect to reach a revenue exceeding one hundred million dollars in a few years,” says Iversen and continues: “Safe, cost-effective, and versatile cobots are becoming increasingly common because they offer sophisticated and intuitive programming that enables them to be easily deployed and redeployed. Easy-to-integrate end-of-arm tooling, such as grippers and sensors, become vital elements in adapting these powerful automation tools for a wide range of applications.”
In 2015 Enrico Krog Iversen and the Danish Growth Fund sold the Danish cobot pioneer company Universal Robots to U.S.-based Teradyne for $285 million. With their new venture, the two investors now further strengthen Denmark’s global position in the robotics field.
“In recent years Denmark has successfully established itself as a global hub for robotic technologies. Universal Robots was a pioneer, and since then many more strong and innovative companies have been formed with roots in Odense, Denmark. The new OnRobot has the potential to become not only a world-leading company, but also a catalyst for further development of the Danish robotics cluster. We are pleased to promote this trend through our investments and invite both companies and investors from around the world to come join us,” says Christian Motzfeldt, CEO of the Danish Growth Fund.
Collaborative robots, which work safely alongside humans in applications such as packaging, quality testing, material handling, machine tending, assembly and welding, currently represent 3% of global robot sales, according to the International Federation of Robotics, but the share is expected to rise to 34% of a $25 billion market by 2025.
“This growth will most definitely depend on cobots being used in more applications,” Iversen added. “Their small footprint and ability to work safely alongside humans make them ideal for small and medium-sized manufacturers who need to compete globally. Cobots are also increasingly integrated into very large manufacturers such as automotive plants, where they are taking over processes that can’t be automated using traditional robotics. As the types of cobot applications expand, so does the need for new tooling that can be quickly and easily integrated into the cobot’s user interface. The new OnRobot is championing a current mega trend in the field of automation. Combining the unique capabilities of these end-of-arm technologies under one umbrella company that is led by some of the smartest minds in the robotics industry will make them even easier to implement and program. By the way, the new OnRobot is currently looking to add employees in R&D,” says Iversen.
Companies Chosen for Synergies, Ease of Integration, Vision
The three companies that will form the new OnRobot were chosen because of their synergistic end-of-arm technologies, the ability of these technologies to easily integrate to provide improved support and the long-term vision and capabilities of each company’s founders.
• On Robot, founded in 2015, provides plug-and-play electric grippers — RG2 and RG6 — that mount directly on the robot arm, are highly flexible and are simple enough to be programmed and operated from the same interface as the robot without the need of engineers.
• OptoForce, founded in 2012, provides force/torque sensors that bring the sense of touch to industrial robots so that they can automate tasks that would otherwise require the dexterity of the human hand.
• Perception Robotics, founded in 2012 and based in Los Angeles, develops bio-inspired robot grippers: 1) a gecko-inspired gripper for handling large, flat objects and 2) a tactile gripper with compliant rubber tactile sensors (“skin”) to give robots a sense of touch. Its first grippers will be available this year.
OnRobot presented its first new products at automatica 2018. The Gecko Gripper, Polyskin Tactile Gripper, RG2-FT gripper and a technical upgrade of the HEX force-torque sensor product line based on OptoForce technology will open up new applications for collaborative robotics and make implementation even easier. In this fast-growing market segment, OnRobot has positioned itself from the ground up as the innovative provider for collaborative grippers and end-of-arm tooling.
“Collaborative robots have the potential to become the comprehensive standard in industrial automation,” says Enrico Krog Iversen, CEO of OnRobot. “We want to unleash this potential by making collaborative applications even easier to implement and to carry them into completely new applications – that is the idea behind all our new products that we are presenting here at automatica.”
The Gecko Gripper, developed by Perception Robotics, was inspired by nature and uses the same adhesive system for gripping as the feet of a gecko, with millions of fine fibers that adhere to the surface of the workpiece and generate strong van der Waals forces. For the Gecko Gripper technology, OnRobot licenses a concept originally developed by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and brought it to market maturity.￼
This unique and fast-moving solution for handling large, flat objects makes vacuum grippers and their compressed air system unnecessary. In contrast to vacuum grippers, the Gecko Gripper can also handle perforated or porous workpieces such as printed circuit boards without any problems. The gripper is compatible with Universal Robots and Kawasaki robotic arms.
The Polyskin Tactile Gripper also comes from the innovation forge of Perception Robotics. The solution specializes in sensitive gripping: Both fingers can be individually aligned and have integrated tactile sensors at the fingertips. This allows the gripper to precisely measure the condition of the surface of workpieces and align its gripping processes accordingly. These properties take tactile gripping to a whole new level, especially when working with sensitive or irregular workpieces. The Polyskin Tactile Gripper is also compatible with Universal Robots and Kawasaki.
OnRobot is launching a variation of its established RG2 gripper, the RG2-FT with integrated force-torque sensors and a proximity sensor, which also accurately detects the condition of objects. The gripper detects the danger of objects slipping off even before it happens, making handling even safer – for workers as well as for the workpiece. This gripper model is particularly suitable for use in precision assembly and is compatible with lightweight robots from Universal Robots and KUKA.
The OnRobot product line for force-torque sensors based on OptoForce HEX technology has received a substantial technical upgrade, making installation and handling of the sensors even easier and faster. Mounting is now up to 30 percent faster, partly thanks to overload protection integrated in the sensor, which no longer has to be removed and mounted separately when attaching to the robot arm. Furthermore, the weight of the sensor can be reduced by 20 percent. A new, improved sealing ring also protects the HEX products better against dust or water in the environment.