Fish and Chips – TechCrunch

Actuators: Underwater, Offshore, Vertical Farming and Midwest Manufacturing

things happen in The quieter side of the robotics world this week – I honestly don’t mind. Covering the industry these days can hardly take your breath away. But even fields as super strong as robotics and automation have occasional slow weeks – late July/early August is a good time to take a step back and understand how we got here and where we’re going.

Soon, there are some macro trends I’ll be keeping an eye on in the weeks and months ahead:

  • i’ve been watching Chip and Science Act In the past few weeks, it has passed Congress and made its way to the president’s desk. Secretary Walsh was quick to bring this up in our most recent conversation, and robotics and automation companies are no doubt watching closely the impact it could ultimately have on domestic manufacturing.
  • On the less fun side, it feels like we’re sitting here waiting for another shoe to drop amid economic woes and recession fears. If you follow Actuator, you’re acutely aware that the industry isn’t immune to such activity, but it’s surprisingly resistant to a notoriously difficult-to-win category thanks to the power of pandemic-driven mega-investment. Don’t be surprised if investors and startups alike tighten their belts in the coming months.
  • Listing in 2023? Locus Robotics recently mentioned its plans for an IPO (still a rarity among robotics companies — especially via a more traditional route). Given the money and interest that has been flowing in recent years, I wouldn’t be surprised if more companies pay attention to this, but – at least – is waiting to see how some of the broader economic factors play out.
  • I’ve seen a lot of trending articles about widespread adoption of robotics in restaurants, etc., from news outlets of general interest. This means that we are in the cycle of monitoring how many places are sticking to these technologies. Often these stories are of a company seeking a little publicity shock by trying out some new technology, only to decide after things have died down that it doesn’t make much sense to roll it out at scale.

Image Source: Berkshire Grey

I would say, I think we can say that automation is not just a flash in the pan when it comes to warehouses and logistics. Many companies have had a lot of success here, and it doesn’t look like the labor shortage will be resolved anytime soon.This week, FedEx and Berkshire Gray made a great deal This found that the logistics giant purchased robotic systems worth $200 million in exchange for stock warrants. The news represents a nice uptick in BG’s share price after a very rough year following SPACs.

FedEx Vice President Rebecca Yeung said:

Our deepening partnership with Berkshire Gray in robotic automation is a direct response to the growth of e-commerce, which has accelerated the need for reliable automation solutions at all stages of the supply chain. FedEx believes that continued innovation and automation will improve the efficiency, productivity and safety of its team members as they continue to keep global supply chains moving.

Image Source: Fanuc

some positive growth news FANUC’s North American Wing, the Japanese industrial robotics giant nearly doubled its Michigan operations after it opened a campus in late 2019. Once completed, it will add 788,000 square feet to the original 461,000 square feet.

Meanwhile, Monarch announced this week that it will build autonomous tractors at Foxconn’s factory in Lordstown, Ohio. The news comes after it announced its retail expansion into India.

Erudite Robot Launches Autonomy

Image Source: learned

Kirsten got word about the launch of Polymath Robotics, a new company founded by Stefan Seltz-Axmacher of Starky. That line begins with the catchy quote “Robots suck.” I would argue for a more nuanced “bots aren’t as user friendly as they should be”, but that’s less potent, and that’s probably a big reason why I’m trying to survive in NYC on a journalist’s salary rather than launching a startup.

The company is entering the lucrative realm of user-friendly automation software. There’s a reason many people try to crack the code of hardware-agnostic, user-friendly robotics software. There’s a lot of money to be made for companies that can really stick to the landing.

delivery robot

Image Source: Ottonomy.IO

It looks like funding for last-mile delivery robots hasn’t quite dried up. Ottonomy.IO just raised a $3.3 million seed round to work on a wider deployment of its sidewalk ‘robots’. Co-founder Ritukar Vijay naturally cited labor shortages as a driver, telling TechCrunch, “One of the most important issues we’re trying to solve with these autonomous delivery robots is labor shortages.”

Image Source: spread

Earlier this week, I wrote about Spread’s massive funding round of around $30 million. The company is probably the best-known name in Japan’s growing vertical farming industry. As I pointed out, space took off around 2011, when the tsunami that caused the Fukushima nuclear disaster caused many in the country to look for agricultural alternatives. I mention this here because robotics is a big part of Spread’s automation game, along with other leaders in the field.

Meanwhile, Terabase Energy just announced $44 million Series B round co-led by Prelude Ventures and Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy. The round brings the Berkeley-based company’s total funding to $52 million. The company uses robotics to assist in the construction and operation of its photovoltaic power plants. It states in one version:

Terabase’s automated on-site factories are able to operate 24/7, significantly compressing construction schedules and reducing costs, while ensuring higher build quality. Robot-assisted workflows will also improve worker health and safety by eliminating the need to manually lift heavy panels and steel components in often harsh outdoor weather conditions.

Image Source: Nauticus Robot

Finally, NASA Details this week It developed the shape-shifting submersible system with Houston-based Nauticus Robotics. According to NASA:

The company’s signature robot, the Aquanaut, is a bright orange, all-electric, roughly the size of a sports car, driving toward its destination like a propeller-driven torpedo. At that point, its case popped open and its nose flipped up to reveal a set of cameras and other sensors, now facing forward. Two arms swing out and end with claw-shaped hands that can hold different tools.

Potential uses for the robot include inspecting underwater equipment such as wind turbines, maintaining submarine cables and monitoring fish populations.

Image Source: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Come to the bottom of the actuator garden.

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