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25 Aug, 2017 / BY Danielle Olivier

Is the manufacturing scared of investing in hardware start-ups?

JJS Manufacturing InsightsWe all know that Industry 4.0 is on the horizon and have heard rumours that the inevitable is going to happen... robots are going to take over. Well, not quite take over. But, it is expected that we will see a dramatic increase in the introduction of robotics and automated mechanics working alongside staff within the manufacturing industry and others.

Personally, I am REALLY excited about this. I love all types of new technology and the prospect of working alongside robotics day-to-day to ease mundane tasks is one I can't wait to become a reality.

But it seems that unless you or your company are willing to invest thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of pounds, this technology is currently limited to a select few. But, surely there must be companies offering this kind of hardware at a fraction of the price? Well now there is but they are a... start-up.

Automata are developing a desktop robotic arm which they hope to sell for a fraction of the price of today's industrial robot arms. They have had their fair share of ups and downs trying to make this become a reality including failing electronics and gearbox issues. And the fact that the technology community remains cautious about start-ups and slow to invest hasn't helped their progress either.

So why might this be? My initial thoughts are the risks. Financial risk, operational risk and potentially even safety risks. I get it, no one can afford to invest and implement new technology if the potential risks are deemed higher than the potential benefits. But if companies like Automata continue to work hard to release their innovative products to the market place, can we afford to ignore them just because they are a start-up? I mean, after all, Apple was a start-up once and they are now the most successful hardware company in the world. At what point do you back them?

Click the link below to read more about Automata and their journey so far in trying to make affordable robots in the workplace become a reality.

The eventual goal is a machine that can survive two years of operating eight hours a day. Once that’s achieved, Automata can widen its horizons: the team is already exploring novel ways of programming the arm itself, in an effort to further open up the potential of robotics to new areas, and is hoping to start incorporating some of the latest research on applying machine learning techniques to manufacturing.

Before then, simply getting the Eva out the door will be a big enough challenge, one that might have progressed a bit quicker if the technology community were more comfortable taking risks on hardware startups.

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/aug/15/eva-workplace-robot-london-startup-automata-technologies

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