Robot manufacturer Universal Robots (UR) said today it will hire more than 20 employees from its former competitor Rethink Robotics, the producer of the "Baxter" and "Sawyer" collaborative robot (cobot) models that unexpectedly shut down in October.
Boston-based Rethink had landed high-profile customers such as DHL Supply Chain, which used the cobots in a pilot project for warehouse packing and packaging. However, total sales fell short, according to published reports, and the firm suddenly shut its doors last month.
Denmark-based UR, a division of industrial automation equipment vendor Teradyne Inc., will now merge its Boston office with Rethink's former headquarters in the city's Seaport district.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, and UR declined to provide further details. "We cannot comment on the financial aspect of this," a UR spokesperson said in an emailed statement. "UR is acquiring Rethink's human capital and its physical location, not its [intellectual property] or any hardware/software."
However, UR said it will offer a "future-proof roadmap" for customers of Rethink's Baxter and Sawyer models, and is ready to help those customers transition to UR cobots. UR declined to comment on whether the merger would affect its future product development, but said it did not plan to change the markets it targets.
"Rethink Robotics--along with Universal Robots--has been a pioneer in driving and developing the collaborative robotics market globally," Universal Robots' President Jürgen von Hollen said in a release. "The company was always a good competitor, which helped us drive cobot awareness worldwide, and we want to make sure its customers can continue to fulfill their collaborative automation initiatives."
UR has a history of integrating its flexible, industrial, cobot arms with equipment from other providers, such as a platform announced in April that combined a robotic arm from UR with back-end software and gripper-hand equipment from RightHand Robotics Inc. and a robotic conveyor vehicle from Vecna Robotics.
In addition to merging offices and transitioning customers, UR says it will gain industry value by hiring the former Rethink employees, including their specialties in engineering, product development, and customer applications.
"Our new colleagues from Rethink have extensive expertise, knowledge and know-how not only about the technology but indeed also about the market conditions and what the customers' pain-points are," von Hollen said. "All of this will benefit our customers and partners as we face an increase in competitors due to the huge market potential for collaborative robots."