Manufacturing production lines were one of the first places to start making use of the latest technology in the world of robotics. In fact, the sector was such an early adopter of robotics that new start-ups are now coming along to ‘disrupt’ the previous start-ups. Such is life. And a promising UK start-up, London-based Automota, appears to be among the most exciting around. At least investors appear to be convinced it is after the young company managed to secure over £5.5 million in investment from its very first major round.
Automata is out to replace earlier generations of production line robotics with smaller, cheaper, better and more flexible alternatives. Its first product is a ‘desktop’ robotic arm called Eva that costs around a fifth of those whose work it is out to take at $5000 compared to $25,000. It can also be programmed by owners so can be adapted to different uses or reassigned. Having to pay for very specialised updates to custom operating systems is another competitor weakness Automota hopes to take advantage of.
The companies two co-founders Suryansh Chandra and Mostafa ElSayed both come from an architectural background, having been colleagues at the prestigious Zaha Hadid firm. The original prototype for Eva was borne from a challenge they faced while working together on a major art installation project for the company, which is well known for its particular brand of ‘artistic’ architecture.
Needing to build a large number of panels for a construction, the pair found themselves wishing for a precision machine that would make their job easier and allow them to focus their efforts on the design itself:
“We realised we were spending 10 percent of our time on design, and 90 percent on solving problems around how to build that design”.
Now joint-CEOs of Automata, Chandra and ElSayed reflected that their current predicament was one regularly encountered in other architectural projects. But there weren’t robots available that could be easily programmed and reprogrammed for the needs of one-off projects and also that people that weren’t robotics experts could work with without outside help. They subsequently discovered that manufacturers were also crying out for more adaptable robots.
Eva represents three different innovations that set it apart from other robot arms on the market. They redesigned the robotic gearbox, which they learned had not been updated since the 1950s. This helped bring down costs immensely. They also built it from widely available and inexpensive components.
The next major innovation in Eva is its Choreograph OS. It’s proprietary but a Cloud-based application that allows users to control and monitor their robots from anywhere. It also allows for custom programming made easier by allowing existing designs and patterns to be imported from elsewhere.
The third cost saving Automata has made is to outsource the production of the Eva hardware to a specialist robotics manufacturer.
Robin Klein, General Partner at LocalGlobe, one of the participants in Automata’s Series A investment round commented:
“Automata is a company making fundamental changes in the robotics space. By offering an industrial quality, lightweight robot capable of being set up and operational in a matter of hours, Automata is encouraging businesses to embrace automation like never before.”