October 19, 2016      

Danish investors have given funding to On Robot ApS and OptoForce Kft. to continue developing technologies around collaborative robots. As cobots become more dexterous and useful around people, they could increase the rate of adoption for industrial automation, especially among small and midsize enterprises.

Led by Universal Robots A/S, Danish robotics companies are working to serve the global market for collaborative robots, which Research and Markets predicts will grow by 49 percent from 2016 to 2022.

Odense, Denmark-based On Robot has received millions of Danish kroner to continue refining its RG2 gripper, which fits on Universal Robots’ cobot arms. One Danish krone equals $0.15 U.S.

At the press conference to announce the investment, a tandem RG2 gripper served a glass of champagne and a chocolate-covered marshmallow to Troels Lund Poulsen, the Danish cabinet minister for business and growth.

Although the exact amount of the initial investment was not revealed, this round could be followed by additional investment rounds.

On Robot offers easy-to-use cobot gripper

“The traditional solutions in this field often work by using compressed air, which takes up a lot of space, is energy-intensive, and is too complicated for many users,” said Bilge Jacob Christiansen, co-founder of On Robot. “With our collaborative gripper, we have developed an electronic solution that is easy to mount, is very flexible, and can be modified by an employee on the actual factory floor without the use of a programmer.”

On Robot’s gripper is 100 percent digital and electrical and can be programmed directly from the same interface as the robot itself.

Christiansen added that he expects that On Robot’s RG2 will eventually be able to interact with other collaborative robots.

Industries as diverse as manufacturing, agriculture, and pharmaceutical testing can use the gripper, because its tactile quality can handle objects as fragile as test tubes.

On Robot benefits from experienced investors

The investment in On Robot came from an experienced team with substantial knowledge of the robotics ecosystem. They included the Danish Growth Fund; Enrico Krog Iversen, former CEO of Universal Robots; and Thomas Visti, CEO of Mobile Industrial Robots ApS.

Visti has served as a mentor to the founders of On Robot, and he was the first investor to inject capital into the company in February. He has followed this initial investment with a further injection of capital.

“On Robot is one of the Danish robot companies that I truly believe will be one of the next major stars in the global robot industry because it has a good, user-friendly product at an affordable price,” Visti said. “The market for collaborative robotics has grown rapidly in recent years; we have only seen the beginning.”

“Viewed over the longer term, there will be many more manufacturers of cobots, and therefore there will be an even greater need for collaborative grippers like the RG2,” Visti said.

Another investor was Torben Ekvall, who was previously CEO of Bruel & Kjaer Vibro GmbH, a Darmstadt, Germany-based pioneer in machine-monitoring systems. Ekvall became On Robot CEO on Oct. 1.

JOrn Kildegaard, former CEO of GN Store Nord A/S, a Danish manufacturer of intelligent audio products, is On Robot’s new chairman of the board.

“Our clear objective is to become world leaders in the delivery of grippers for collaborative robots,” said Ekvall. “On Robot has developed a unique product that simplifies a complex task by being plug and play, and also very easy to modify.”

“At the same time, we have been granted access to some very strong resources from the robot industry to use in our company, one of them being Enrico Krog Iversen, who brings with him experience from Universal Robots and an exhaustive knowledge and understanding of the industry,” Ekvall added.

On Robot gripper on UR robotic arm

On Robot’s gripper is plug and play with the UR cobot arm.

Universal Robots connections

On Robot was an exhibitor at Automatica 2016, where partner UR unveiled its Universal Robots+ online showroom and +You developer program.

The Danish Growth Fund, also known as Vaekstfonden, was one of the first investors in Universal Robots, which has been a successful leader in the collaborative robotics market. North Reading, Mass.-based Teradyne Inc. bought Universal Robots last year.

On Robot currently has 40 distributors worldwide. Due to rapidly growing demand, the company is currently looking for staffers including sales managers for the American and European markets. In addition, On Robot expects to use the funding to build up its technical and production staff before year’s end.

More on Danish Robotics and Cobots:

OptoForce also gets investment

“Many tasks require the dexterity of the human hand,” said Akos Domotor, CEO of OptoForce. “We aim to give this sense of touch to the robots.”

“Industrial robots can move with 0.02mm precision now, but that is not enough for a lot of applications,” he explained. “Now robots need to feel if they are doing things right. Assembly tasks require the robots to feel if they are placing the object at the right place or if they need to turn it.”

Danish robotics investor Enrico Krog Iversen has made a substantial investment in Budapest-based OptoForce, which makes a patented sensor weighing only 160 g. Iversen currently operates EKI Management.

“I chose to invest a fair amount of capital in OptoForce because I believe that its unique technology can be of great value in the future industrial automation,” Iversen said. “The great paradigm shift happening right now is that robots are working with employees, and this places very different demands on robot technology.”

Day One Capital and Finext Startup, have continued their support of OptoForce from the time it spun out of a university lab and created its first market-ready product.

The early investors said they remain committed to the company and that they agree with bringing in additional “smart money” investors.

“We went global from Day One, and we expect to at least double our revenues each year, which means that we will be growing much faster than the industry,” Domotor said of OptoForce’s prospects. “In fact, as we see it, force control generally will grow much faster than robotics or industrial automation in general. And that makes total sense — a lot of tasks have already been automated and those left require new technical development.”

“We are at a very sweet spot now,” he said.