Start-up gets seed funding for user-friendly robot operating model
One of the biggest obstacles to the acquisition of industrial robots in medium-sized manufacturing companies, apart from the high investment costs, is usually the lack of skilled personnel for commissioning and programming the robots. The company drag&bot has therefore developed an operating system for industrial robots at the Fraunhofer IPA with which robot programs can be put together from various modules via drag-and-drop. “With drag&bot, robot programming becomes as easy as operating a smartphone,” promises Martin Naumann, founder and managing director of drag&bot.
For the further development of the software, the start-up has now received financing in the low seven-figure range – at least slightly more than 1 million euros. The financing round was led by Speedinvest Industry, a venture capitalist from Vienna specializing in industrial technology, and other strategic partners. “We see drag&bot as a great opportunity to make robots accessible for new areas of application in industry and thus to take a significant step forward in the digitalization of industrial production,” explains Heinrich Gröller, partner at Speedinvest.
The start-up’s intuitive software enables users to train industrial robots without IT know-how. The functional sequences are initially combined in the cloud solution according to the drag-and-drop principle. Various operating and input aids, so-called wizards, support the parameterization of the individual function blocks. Three options are available to the user for this purpose: He can guide the robot arm to the desired position by hand or by teach pendant. He can also use the navigation in the system, which recognizes movement patterns. The wizard then automatically adopts this information.
The most common activities of robots with drag&bot are handling parts, palletising workpieces and loading or unloading machines. Even more complex applications such as screwing or joining gears are possible with the additional modules already available. For robot applications that require intelligent image processing, interfaces to common smartcams and established software products are available.
The founders of drag&bot see one of the greatest strengths of their technology in the fact that customers and partners can dynamically expand the software themselves and thus adapt it to their requirements. If desired, the programmed functional sequences can be shared with other employees and production sites via the cloud. The software works independently of the robot hardware and currently supports ABB, Kuka, Fanuc, Denso and Universal Robots, among others.
Currently, companies often rely on external service providers to program industrial robots. Because this is expensive and cumbersome, industrial robots have so far been used cost-efficiently primarily for monotonous tasks with very high volumes – for example in the automotive industry. The latter currently orders 40 percent of all industrial robots worldwide and uses them primarily for automation in line production.
In order for the purchase of industrial robots to be worthwhile for small and medium-sized companies as well, it must be possible to use these robots more flexibly. With its simple programming technology, drag&bot wants to enable customers to adapt automation solutions to the individual needs of manufacturing companies in a much shorter time, even without specific specialist knowledge. This makes it possible, for example, for robot cells to perform a different task in the afternoon than in the morning.
drag&bot GmbH was launched in 2017 in Stuttgart (Germany) by Martin Naumann, Pablo Quilez, Witalij Siebert and Daniel Seebauer. Their automation solution is already being used by international production and industrial companies from the automotive, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and automation sectors.