BOSTON — Rethink Robotics Inc., which made the Baxter and Sawyer collaborative robots, shut its doors today. Rethink was founded in 2008 and had raised nearly $150 million to date. Its last round of funding was an $18 million Series E in August 2017.
“I can confirm that unfortunately the news is true, Rethink Robotics closed its doors today,” he wrote. “We were pioneers and innovators in the industry and responsible for the creation of the collaborative robot category, but unfortunately, we didn’t quite achieve the market success we had intended.”
“We have been helping our team find new homes and have been overwhelmed with interest,” Eckert added. “It’s a world-class group of people [who] will continue to do great things in their next endeavors.”
Eckert later told The Boston Globe that an acquisition deal fell through. Rethink Robotics was short on cash, partly because its robots sales failed to meet performance expectations. Rethink will soon begin selling off its patent portfolio and related intellectual property.
Rethink Robotics was an important part of growing the collaborative robotics or cobot market. Rodney Brooks and Ann Whitaker founded the company in 2008, and they promoted the cobot concept so well that it has become a fast-growing segment of industrial automation.
In July 2019, Rethink Robotics, which was once known as Heartland Robotics, announced that it was adding seven distributors throughout the U.S., Europe, and Asia-Pacific. Unfortunately, those distributors didn’t have much time to sell the Rethink concept.
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Rethink introduced the two-armed Baxter in September 2011. The cobot has an animated face and is 3 ft., 1 in. (1m) tall without its mobile pedestal. It has degrees of freedom in each arm, can lift a 5 lb. (2.26kg) payload, has and maximum reach of 1,210mm (47.6 in.). It can be programmed via demonstration and has extra controls for more precision and features.
In 2015, Rethink followed up with the smaller, faster, stronger, more precise Sawyer. The one-armed cobot has a smaller footprint, seven degrees of freedom, and a slightly longer reach at 1,260mm (49.6 in.) maximum reach.
The news hit the robotics community hard, and more details will be reported as they become available.
Another Boston robotics company, Jibo, also recently shut down. The social robotics company was founded in 2012 by famed MIT roboticist Cynthia Breazeal. The company raised nearly $73 million, but Jibo was plagued by a series of delays and overpromises.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated at 2 AM EDT with information about an expected deal falling through for a company to acquire Rethink Robotics.