Carnegie Robotics, a partner organization of Carnegie Mellon University?s National Robotics Engineering Center, will move out of its space within the NREC this fall to new digs within walking distance in Pittsburgh?s Lawrenceville neighborhood.
The 30,000-square-foot building that Carnegie Robotics will occupy is part the sprawling site of the long-defunct Heppenstall Steel Company?s forging facility, which houses several other companies, including RedZone Robotics.
?As a spin-off of the university, we are in close collaboration with the school and the NREC. We really benefit by the close proximity of our new space,? said Carnegie Robotics President and CEO John Bares, who was the director of the NREC from 1997 until he left in 2010 to lead the new venture.
?We maintain a very close relationship with the NREC through our IP licensing agreements. In our new building, we can just walk across the parking lot to the NREC,? said Mr. Bares.
Mr. Bares said that Carnegie Robotics is planning to make significant improvements to the building, including constructing office space and lab areas. The building currently has two cranes and high bays.
Carnegie Robotics will initially use about a quarter of its new space, with plans to build a shop facility soon thereafter. ?We should be using half of the building fairly quickly,? Mr. Bares said.
One project he says will immediately benefit from the additional space involves strawberry production. NREC researchers have developed a plant-sorting machine that uses computer vision and machine learning to inspect and grade harvested strawberry plants and then mechanically sort them by quality, tasks that currently can only be done manually.
Mr. Bares said that Carnegie Robotics is working with undisclosed growers to commercialize that system.
Carnegie Robotics currently has about two dozen full-time employees, supplemented by a small number of part-time and contract employees. Mr. Bares expects those numbers to grow with its expanded space.
The company was spun out of CMU in May 2010 to address the issue of product transition from R&D to commercialization. Its mission is to build exceptionally reliable robotics components, sub-assemblies and complete systems in the target markets of agriculture, mining, oil & gas production and defense.
It works in partnership with the NREC, an arm of the university?s Robotics Institute that performs applied R&D for industrial and government organizations. Carnegie Robotics leverages the NREC?s intellectual property and application knowledge through a broad licensing agreement with CMU.
Mr. Bares is bullish on Carnegie Robotics future. ?We want to continue to create a production answer to a lot of the robotic development I saw. I love running and building this company,? he said.
The Heppenstall site is now owned by the Regional Industrial Development Corp. of Southwestern Pennsylvania, a private, non-profit organization that focuses on economic development and is developing it as a technology center.