In October 2018, Rethink Robotics, the developer behind the Baxter and Sawyer collaborative robots (cobots), unexpectedly closed its doors after a deal to acquire the company fell through.
The move came as a shock to many as Rethink had about 10 years of promising developments in industrial automation. It came as a shock to me because I once declared: "The Future of Collaborative Robots Has a Name: That Name Is Sawyer." For which I received some ridicule.
When Rethink shut down, it not only left the fate of Baxter and Sawyer in limbo, but it also meant that the 91 employees in the company's Boston office were jobless.
At the time, Scott Eckert, Rethink's chief executive, said that most of the employees would land at rival robotics firms. Today, we found out that a number of them will have a new home at Universal Robots.
Effective immediately, Universal Robots has announced that it is hiring more than 20 Rethink staff members and will be merging UR's Boston office with Rethink's former headquarters in the Seaport area in Boston.
The new hires are primarily developers and come from product management. The new hires include former Rethink COO Jim Lawton, who is joining UR as VP of Product Management & Marketing.
In the release, Universal Robots President Jürgen von Hollen says "the new colleagues from Rethink have extensive expertise, knowledge and know-how, not only about the technology, but, indeed, also about the market conditions and what the customers’ pain points are. All of this will benefit our customers and partners as we face an increase in competitors due to the huge market potential for collaborative robots."
The cobot market is forecasted to grow from $283 million last year to $3.26 billion in 2022. This move will help UR maintain and possibly expand its position as a market leader.
UR wouldn’t comment on whether or not the new hires will be specifically working on transitioning customers from Rethink to UR, however, for the companies that integrated Baxter or Sawyer into production lines, UR offers a roadmap for users to transition to the company’s line of cobots.