(Photo by Stephen Babcock)
About 18 months after spinning out of Johns Hopkins, Ready Robotics inked the first distribution deal that will enable its platform to reach more manufacturing floors.
The City Garage–based startup reached an agreement with a new automation division of Baltimore-based Arnold Packaging that allows the latter company to become an official distributor of the system, which is known as the TaskMate, said Ready Robotics CEO Benjamin Gibbs. Under the deal, Arnold Automation can sell or lease the TaskMate.
The startup’s goal is to help small-and-medium-sized companies deploy robots “quickly and efficiently,” Gibbs said. Ready Robotics develops hardware – such as grippers and tooling – for robotic arms that allows customization for specific jobs. The company also develops software that’s designed so you don’t have to be a computer programmer to implement it, Gibbs said. Additionally, the robots are on wheels instead of in a fixed position, making them easier to move around the premises.
“There are a tremendous number of applications where our system could be very valuable,” Gibbs said.
— READY Robotics (@ReadyRobotics) June 14, 2017
At an event held for Maryland Manufacturing Day last Friday at Martin’s West, a robot was stacking soup cans as a demonstration. In a manufacturing environment, Arnold President Mick Arnold pointed to uses for pick-and-place and palletizing items, as well as a role in machine shops. The company is also set offer the robots on short-term rentals, which Arnold said is unique in the industry.
“What Ready has done has opened the door for customers who never thought robotics would be a part of their life,” he said.
Ready Robotics, which raised $3.5 million last year, is set to grow its presence in City Garage with the deal. The company is doubling the size of its offices, taking another 7,500 sq. ft. It will allow the company to quadruple production. Gibbs called the deal a “big component of how we scale into an international company.”
The two companies believe more robots will help manufacturing companies, as well. While the national conversation often focuses on a decline of domestic manufacturing overall. But the small-and-medium-sized manufacturers that make up the industry currently have a shortage of skilled workers, especially for the second and third shifts, due in part to an aging workforce. Rather than replacing humans, deploying robots can help free up the existing skilled workers to take on more challenging tasks, Arnold said.
“If we were to deploy a robot, no one’s leaving the building,” Arnold said.
How about the country?
“If anything, it’ll help bring more manufacturing back into the U.S.,” Gibbs said.