April 14, 2015      

ABB today said that it has bought Gomtec GmbH to expand its collaborative robot offerings. Both companies are on Robotics Business Reviews‘ RBR50 list of noteworthy companies worldwide.

Hannover, Germany-based ABB said its purchase will allow it to expand its development of “safe-by-design” co-robots that can operate without requiring safety cages.

“We are seeing an increasing trend of automation innovation where humans and robots work side by side in ways that weren’t possible before,” said Pekka Tiitinen, president of ABB’s Discrete Automation and Motion division, in a statement.

ABB's YuMi co-robot

ABB’s YuMi is agile and designed to work alongside humans on the production line.

Earlier this week, ABB unveiled its YuMi, a co-robot with two arms designed for small-parts assembly. It can stop its motion upon contact with an unexpected object, such as a human co-worker. This is similar to the capabilities of Rethink Robotics’ Baxter and Sawyer.

The YuMi’s arms are also padded, and their joints lack “pinch points,” the company said. In addition, the robot is designed to work with smaller objects weighing as little as 1.1 lb.

Gomtec released its Roberta one-armed robot in three different sizes last year. It is also designed to be safe for collaboration with human workers.

The one-armed Roberta robot

Gomtec’s Roberta comes in multiple sizes.

ABB declined to say how much it paid for Gomtec, which is privately held and has 25 employees. ABB Group employs about 140,000 people worldwide.