Cambridge, MA 02138
Soft Robotics Inc. designs, manufactures, and markets robotic grippers and control systems that can manipulate items of various sizes, shapes, and weights.
Robotics has proven its value in manufacturing and industrial applications. Today, a new age in robotics is developing as new industries and markets look to leverage these benefits for their unique applications.
These opportunities are very different from the traditional lights-out, caged robot installations that are common in manufacturing. Robots will need to work next to and interact with humans on a regular basis, but unlike a welding fixture, humans are soft, curvy, and easily damaged.
Soft Robotics has developed a better interface with its soft, conformal, and adaptive grasping technology. The company’s novel pneumatic grippers are poised to disrupt the $40 billion industrial automation market.
Their technology allows robots to safely and adaptively interface with a wide range of objects from consumer packaged goods to fresh-cut produce. Soft Robotics does this in a way that brings new capabilities to this market, while reducing system complexity and overall systems cost.
Soft Robotics is bringing robotics to new markets such as food packaging, e-commerce order fulfillment, and collaborative applications. Today this technology is enabling companies to automate processes that previously were not accessible to robotic solutions.
Soft Robotics solves past problems for grippers
Unstructured environments are hostile to automation, given the unpredictable nature of the tasks to be performed and the wide size, shape, and weight ranges of the objects to be manipulated. This is best illustrated by the box-packing problem in e-commerce or in automated packaging of baked goods.
Traditional grasping solutions have three key limitations that Soft Robotics is addressing:
Adaptability: Automation of the packing and shipping of consumer packaged goods for e-commerce fulfillment requires a solution that can adapt to a variety of tasks with little or no changeover. The same is true of food products, which can be soft and irregularly shaped. Soft Robotics allows for a high level of adaptability to operate in these unstructured environments. The e-commerce market alone is expected to reach more $400 billion in 2017.
Complexity: In driving towards adaptability, traditional automation implementations have actually increased complexity. Adaptability has been engineered through the multiplicity of end effectors, tool changers, and costly vision systems. This approach has greatly increased the complexity and cost of deployment. Soft Robotics significantly lowers the complexity of the hardware and software necessary to automate these tasks. The company’s customers find their end effectors to be “plug and play,” allowing for rapid deployment.
Cost: Operating in unstructured environments presents inverse economies of scale. Costs escalate at a rate greater than the growth rate of the business. For this reason, existing robotics products may not be economically viable in certain markets. Soft Robotics is a disrupting the traditional cost structure. It has conducted rapid deployments and delivered short-term returns on investment in applications as diverse as industrial bakery and injection molding automation.
- Carl Vause, CEO
- Mark Chiappetta, CTO
- Ryan Knopf, director of hardware development