Menzing is keeping a close eye on Baxter


Menzing is keeping a close eye on Baxter

According to experts, the age in which robots and people will be working together has commenced. Tony Fadell, closely involved with the development of the iPod and iPhone, calls the development of Baxter “a Macintosh moment for the robotic world”. Manufacturers have been using robots in product assembly for more than fifty years, but they never really cooperated with humans. That was before Baxter, an adaptive robot by Rethink Robotics from Boston; a company by Rodney Brooks, who has shown – with the iRobot – that he is an innovative and successful entrepreneur. He now wants to initiate a true revolution in the world of production robots. Menzing follows these types of developments with heightened attention. Currently, Brooks is still not sharing many of his ideas, but his first robot, Baxter, which appeared on the market in 2012, is very promising.

It is an incredibly versatile robot that can execute simple, conveyer-belt tasks in smaller production and assembly companies. Because, using his sensors, Baxter knows where he must hold objects, he is flexible. With that, he is substantially different than the other robots we are familiar with from the car industry. Baxter does not need to be programmed. That is sensational. Instead of having to be programmed one line of code at a time by a programmer, Baxter can simply learn from people who show him how to do something. If one his colleagues shows him how to do something by manually showing him the movements involved once, Baxter will simply repeat those movements. On top of that, his system has sensors that prevent collisions with humans, and the robot has been given a type of face with which it can convey emotions.

Globalisation has led to the fact that the world has become our playing field in the search for the best and most affordable parts. It has made the logistical sector into the fastest-growing sector in the world. The arrival of this type of robots may, however, unleash a new revolution. Knowledge does not need to be transported in containers. Differences in the costs of labour allow us to transport containers across the world’s oceans, and these differences are increasingly being reduced. An average labourer in Pakistan costs two dollars an hour; Baxter costs four. But, Baxter’s work can be conducted close to the selling market, thereby diminishing many of the logistical costs. Highly interesting developments, which Menzing is keeping a close eye on, because Baxter can have an impact on the cost price, the time to market, and sustainability.

Martijn Geerdink |
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