Big announcements from major players in collaborative robotics

The cobot market is unstoppable as heavyweights compete to expand distribution and bring new products online

Big announcements from competing firms leading the way in collaborative robotics.

Boston-based Rethink Robotics, which makes the personable Sawyer, is expanding and just announced ten new distribution partners in the U.S., Europe, and Asia.

Meanwhile, Danish rival Universal Robots, a pioneer in the cobot market, announced new versions of its flagship collaborative robot arms, the UR3e, UR5e, and UR10e.

Also: Robots with soft hands will transform the world. Here's why.

Collaborative robots differ from the huge industrial robots used by automakers in that they're smaller, task-agnostic, and easy to program on the fly. Features like force sensors and machine vision enable them to operate outside cages and alongside humans.

Many of these robots actually act as a second pair of dexterous hands to augment the capabilities of skilled workers.

The market for collaborative robots is surging and could be worth $4.3 billion by 2023, with a CAGR of 57 percent.

"The growing international demand for our smart, collaborative robots has encouraged us to expand our network of qualified distribution partners in critical geographies across North America, Europe and Asia," says Jason Barton, chief revenue officer, Rethink Robotics.

With its new e-series line, Universal Robots is dialing in some of the features that have helped spur growth in the cobot market, like new force/torque sensors that aid applications that require precise force control, such as sanding and polishing.

"The global cobot market is the fastest-growing segment of industrial automation," says Stuart Shepherd, Regional Sales Director for Universal Robots' Americas region. "The e-Series will continue to propel this class of robots forward into new applications in small machine shops and large enterprises alike."

With no sign of a slow down in the cobot market, both companies are expanding aggressively in new markets like Southeast Asia.