The Sawyer robot has seven degrees of freedom and is able to 'feel' its way around a task

Rethink Robotics releases latest collaborative robot

Rethink Robotics has released its second robot designed to work collaboratively with humans in factories.

The single-armed Sawyer robot has been designed to handle machine tending, circuit board testing and other precise tasks and was first announced in March following the company's success with its first robot, Baxter, introduced in 2012.

Sawyer's arm has seven degrees of freedom and high-resolution force-sensing embedded at each joint that enables it to 'feel' its way around a task, which allows it work on jobs that require precision down to the level of 0.1mm.

“After announcing Sawyer in March, the worldwide demand we have seen for the robot has been overwhelming,” said Scott Eckert, Rethink Robotics president and CEO.

“Manufacturers around the globe understand that Sawyer opens the door for a wealth of new applications and opportunities to improve their business and they are eager to get it onto their production floors.”

The robot will sell for a base price of $29,000 (£19,000) and at 19kg weighs less than a third of the two-armed Baxter, which was designed for less precise jobs such as loading, sorting and handling materials on a production line.

It retains the same embedded vision and Intera learning system that allows factory technicians to quickly train the robot by demonstrating tasks, rather than requiring roboticists to spend hundreds of hours programming and deploying the devices.

General Electric has been testing Sawyer over the past month and will deploy their first robot in a GE Lighting plant in Hendersonville, North Carolina, where it will join a production line positioning parts into a light fixture as a GE employee completes the assembly.

“The ability to deploy a smart, collaborative robot like 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.

Sawyer is also set to be deployed in furniture company Steelcase's Grand Rapids factory, where it will work in tandem with the company’s welding machine to pick and place parts in pairs of two, creating a completely autonomous welding process.

“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.”

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