Danish robot equipment provider OnRobot A/S said Thursday it has acquired Purple Robotics ApS, a vendor of the "gripper" technology that allows robotic arms to grasp items for applications in materials handling, packaging, and manufacturing, and that it plans to make additional acquisitions.
Odense, Denmark-based OnRobot is a provider of end-of-arm tooling (EOAT) used in industrial robot systems. The company integrates grippers, sensors, and other collaborative robot (cobot) equipment. By acquiring Purple Robotics, OnRobot said it gains access to the firm's main product, a dual vacuum gripper that was designed specifically for cobots.
Purple Robotics' gripper gives a robot arm two "hands," allowing it to handle several items simultaneously, and to manipulate items of different dimensions, materials, shapes, and weights of up to 22 pounds. It is designed for use on a range of lightweight robots from all robot manufacturers, and Purple Robotics has signed partnership agreements for its use by 40 partners in 25 countries, according to OnRobot.
Contacted for comment, OnRobot declined to share details about the terms of the deal. However, the company said in an email that Purple will now become a part of OnRobot, and that Purple Robotics CEO Lasse Kieffer and his co-founders Henrik Tillitz Hansen and Peter Nadolny Madsen all plan to join OnRobot's research and development (R&D) department.
Together, they will pursue solutions to OnRobot's vision of meeting an industry need for efficient and flexible robot solutions that are simple and quick to commission, the firm said. "It must be easily conceivable to automate even small production batches," OnRobot CEO Enrico Krog Iversen said in a statement. "Otherwise, robot technology is not a good investment. This is why we hand pick the best and most user-friendly robot products and integrate them in OnRobot."
News of the Purple Robotics acquisition came just a day after OnRobot announced Wednesday that it had landed investment funding from the growth equity firm Summit Partners, with participation from existing investors including Vaekstfonden (The Danish Growth Fund).
In turn, that news came on the heels of Summit Partners' announcement on Tuesday that it had acquired another logistics technology firm, the transportation management system (TMS) software vendor MercuryGate International Inc.
OnRobot also declined to share details on the amount of its new funding, but said in an email that Summit would hold a minority ownership share, and that OnRobot plans to use the additional capital to fuel new acquisitions. The company's previous investment round, also of an undisclosed amount, came from The Danish Growth Fund, Mobile Industrial Robots CEO Thomas Visti, and OnRobot's current CEO Iversen, who was formerly CEO of Universal Robots, the firm said in the email.
Acquiring Purple Robotics was one stage of its expansion plan, the firm said. "We are now one step closer to our vision of offering 'one-stop-shopping' for buyers of robot accessories," Iversen said. "Purple Robotics will definitely not be our last acquisition. We have our eye on a number of other interesting companies around the world."
Following the acquisition, OnRobot will need to work on integrating Purple Robotics' new technology with its existing platform. However, that task will not provide a serious hurdle in comparison to the many complexities involved in developing robotics, said John Santagate, research director, Commercial Service Robotics at IDC Manufacturing Insights, an analyst group based in Framingham, Mass.
In order to succeed at robotics engineering, a company needs competencies across an array of engineering specialties, such as mechanical, robotic, electrical, software, and material science, he said.
"By focusing on the gripping area, Purple is able to address a number of needs without the cost and complexity of developing robotic arms, vision systems, robot control systems, etc.," Santagate said. "All of the parts do need to work together, but just like anything, innovation can come at the micro-level (gripping) but have macro-level implications."