Wandelbots, based in Dresden, Germany, a startup dedicated to making it easier for non-programmers to “teach” industrial robots how to perform specific tasks – has raised a $ 30 million Series B funding round led by 83North, with the participation of Next47 and Microsoft’s M12 venture capital funding arm.
Wandelbots will use the funding to help accelerate the market launch of its TracePen, a hand-held, codeless device that allows human operators to quickly and easily demonstrate desired behavior for industrial robots. Programming robots to perform specific tasks typically requires huge amounts of code, as well as programmers with very specific and in-demand skills to accomplish. Wandelbots wants to make it as easy as just showing a robot what you want it to do – and then showing it a different set of behaviors if you need to reprogram it to accomplish a new task or complete a different part of the line. assembly.
The software that Wandelbots developed to make this possible was originally born out of work at the Faculty of Computer Science of the Technical University of Dresden. the startup was a finalist in our TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield competition in 2017, and raised a $ 6.8 Million Series A Round in 2018 led by Paua Ventures, EQT Ventures and others.
Wandelbots already has a few large customers, including industrial giants like Volkswagen, BMW, Infineon and others, and from June 17 it will launch its TracePen publicly for the first time. The company’s technology has the potential to save anyone who uses industrial robots many months of programming and associated costs – and could ultimately make using this type of robotics practical even for small businesses where the demands are made. budget to do so before. put it out of reach.
I emailed Wandelbots CEO and Co-Founder Christian Piechnick if their platform could overcome some of the challenges companies, including Tesla, were facing in bringing ever greater automation to their facilities. Manufacturing.
“The reversals in automation were caused by the rigidity, complexity, and cost introduced by automation with robots,” Piechnick told me via email. “People don’t usually know that 75% of the total cost of owning a robot comes from software development. The problems introduced by the robots killed the profit. This is exactly the problem we are tackling. We allow manufacturers to use robots with unprecedented flexibility and we dramatically reduce the cost of using robots. Our product makes it easy for non-programmers to teach a robot new tasks, reducing the involvement of hard-to-find and expensive programmers. “
TracePen, the companion device and platform that Wandelbots is launching this week, is actually an evolution of their original vision, which focuses more on using smart clothing to fully model human behavior in real time in order to achieve it. translate into robotic instructions. The company’s backbone to TracePen uses the same underlying software technology, but meets customers much closer to where they already are in terms of processes and operations, while providing the same benefits in reducing costs. costs and flexibility, according to Piechnick.
I asked Piechnick about COVID-19 and its impact on Wandelbots’ business, and he responded that in fact, it had increased the demand for automation and the efficiency gains that benefited the company. automation, in several key ways.
“COVID-19 has impacted thinking about global manufacturing in various ways,” he wrote. “First, there is the massive trend of relocation to reduce the risk of globally distributed supply chains. In order to increase volume, ensure quality and reduce costs, automation is a natural consequence for developed countries. With technology leading to an almost immediate return on investment and extremely short time to market, we have hit a trend. In addition, the dependence on human workers and restrictions in the workplace (for example, the distance between workers) greatly increases the demand for automation. “