German automation supplier Hahn Group GmbH has acquired the technology of Rethink Robotics Inc., the Boston maker of Sawyer collaborative robots that shut down Oct. 3.
The announcement did not specify who will manufacture the expressive-faced "cobots," but Hahn Group officials said the deal will focus on the single-armed Sawyer robots. There are no plans to continue producing Baxter, a two-armed robot that made it to the market first.
Hahn Group announced Oct. 25 that it bought all of Rethink Robotics' patents and trademarks, and its INTERA5 software program. Hahn wants to develop the Rethink cobots "with the goal of combining this technology with German engineering and know-how of industrial applications," the company said in the announcement.
Hahn Group spokeswoman Cordula Knüppel said Hahn officials are studying whether to manufacture Rethink cobots.
For the plastics injection molding sector, Hahn owns robot makers Wemo and Waldorf Technik, and robot integrator GeKu.
In its news release announcing the deal, Hahn said it intends to further develop Rethink Robotics' technology, "with the goal of combining it with German engineering and know-how of industrial applications." Hahn said it will provide its customers with robotic solutions and service.
"In addition, Hahn Group intends to make the software platform available to suitable partners through licensing or other agreements," the company said.
The news means the robots, which turn their digital screen faces toward approaching human workers and can change expressions, will live on.
Hahn Group CEO Thomas Hähn called the transaction "an important milestone" that will bring the company specialized knowledge in collaborative robots. "We are very pleased that we could convince the owners of Rethink Robotics to agree to the sale of robotic technology around the 'Cobot Sawyer' as well as the INTERA5 software," he said.
Terms were not disclosed.
Based in Rheinböllen, Germany, Hahn Group is a global automation company that makes robots, assembly and test and inspection equipment. The company employs about 1,100 people at 19 locations.
Rethink's Baxter and Sawyer cobots were easy to program but moved slowly by traditional robot standards and handled limited payloads.
Hahn Group already rents out Rethink's Baxter and Sawyer collaborative robots, as well as other cobot brands, through its Hahn RobShare business unit, which opened earlier this year. RobShare rents cobots to factories in plastics processing, metal fabrication, logistics and even, according to RobShare CEO Silvester Keijzer, for service positions like receptionists to buzz people into the plant.
The collaborative robot field is getting more crowded. Rethink Robotics faced a growing competition from Danish cobot maker Universal Robots, Germany supplier pi4 robotics GmbH and automation powerhouses Kuka AG, ABB Ltd. and Fanuc Corp.
At Fakuma 2018 earlier this month, Sepro Robotique debuted its Seprobot.
Plastics News Europe contributed to this report.