October 17, 2015      

Rethink Robotics Inc. is expanding into Latin America with plans to sell its Baxter and Sawyer collaborative robots to manufacturers globally.

Boston-based Rethink Robotics has signed channel distribution agreements with InterLatin and Nexon Automation, both of which are based in Mexico.

“The Mexican market … has one of the largest manufacturing sectors in Latin America and is continuing to see significant growth,” said Scott Eckert, president and CEO of Rethink. “We are already experiencing substantial interest from Mexican manufacturers as well as from our global customers with facilities in Mexico.”

Latin America is expected to continue moving toward more sophisticated industry, so sales of process-control systems and industrial automation in that region will be profitable, predicts market research firm Frost & Sullivan.

Nexon is an automated manufacturing integrator specializing in assembly, material handling, and tracking systems. It has offices in Northern and Central Mexico.

“Our customers have specifically asked about collaborative robots, and we are eager to begin offering Baxter and Sawyer,” said Raul Romero, CEO of Nexon Automation. “We are seeing the difference that Rethink’s robots are making for manufacturers in the U.S., and we know that companies in Mexico will be thrilled to realize the same results.”

Electronics and engineering company InterLatin has a presence in Mexico’s major manufacturing centers and will resell Rethink’s products through its test and automation divisions. Rethink presented its robots last month to more than 100 of InterLatin’s customers at its user group meeting in Guadalajara.

“The demand for efficient, cost-effective automation solutions in Mexico is rising,” said Ricardo Alejos, design and automation director at InterLatin. “Collaborative robots like Baxter and Sawyer will help Mexican manufacturers by driving flexibility, efficiency, and product quality.”

Sawyer starts to spread

Last month, Rethink announced the worldwide availability of Sawyer, its second collaborative robot, or cobot. Saywer includes a Cognex camera and Rethink’s Robot Positioning System, which is part of the proprietary Intera software.

The one-armed cobot joined two-armed Baxter and was first demonstrated publicly at RoboBusiness 2015 in San Jose, Calif, where Rethink also won a Game Changer Award.

“After announcing Sawyer in March, the worldwide demand we have seen for the robot has been overwhelming,” said Eckert. Rethink’s products are already available in Asia, Europe, and North America. Sawyer’s base price is $29,000.

General Electric is deploying Sawyer to work alongside humans assembling light fixtures at its GE Lighting plant in Hendersonville, N.C.

“Sawyer provides a significant flexibility advantage to our production team, while still meeting our world-class quality, precision, and speed standards,” said Kelley Brooks, global advanced manufacturing and engineering leader at GE Lighting. “This technology is an integral part of our Brilliant Factory initiative to connect all parts of the supply chain, from product design to engineering to the factory floor and beyond, in order to deliver customized LED solutions for our customers.”

Steelcase Inc. is also using Sawyer with its welding systems for a fully autonomous process in Grand Rapids, Mich.

“Having already deployed several Baxter robots successfully, we?ve seen the value that collaborative robots bring to the factory floor,” said Edward Vander Bilt, leader of innovation at Steelcase. “These robots are the game-changers of modern manufacturing, and Rethink Robotics is leading the evolving relationship between humans and machines that allow each to do what they do best.”

Fears of job displacement have led to more media coverage than policy, but robotics makers and users are focusing on how cobots can work with humans for greater efficiency and productivity.

Co-working robots aren’t limited to factory uses. Students at the University of Maryland have programmed a two-armed Baxter to serve as a bartender.

Rethink is one of the leaders of the growing collaborative market, according to Research and Markets, along with ABB Ltd., Kuka Robotics Corp., and Universal Robots A/S.