Universal Robots, founded in 2005, makes single-arm collaborative robots that are used to do repetitive tasks in the automotive and manufacturing space for such companies as BMW. UR has sold about 10,000 robots around the world.
Universal Robots has reinvented industrial robotics with lightweight, flexible robot arms. The collaborative robots automate production even in small operations regarding automation as costly and complex. Programming is done through an intuitive touch screen, eliminating the need for skilled programmers. The robots can work alongside personnel with no safety guarding after risk assessment and are easily moved around production sites to complete detailed tasks.
The robots, lightweight and mobile, are used for a variety of jobs, including CNC machining, injection molding, and assembly-line tasks such as packaging eggs and sealing car doors. But the applications are endless: One robot assists a neurosurgeon during surgery, another UR bot films football matches in Europe, and another makescustom flip-flops.
“Our robots do the dirty, dull, and dangerous tasks people don’t want to do,” Scott Mabie, UR general manager, says.
Employees require minimal training to learn how to teach a robot a certain task and put it to work, he says. The ease of adoption is important as employees–to avoid losing their jobs–essentially have to learn how to operate the robot. In free-drive mode, an operator manually moves the arm through a task and the movements are recorded and programmed into the software.
When asked if UR bots steal jobs from humans, Mabie doesn’t hesitate: “No,” he says. “What they do is allow employees to enhance positions they are in.”
When Scott Fetzer Electrical Group, a Nashville-based appliance-motor manufacturer owned by Berkshire Hathaway, bought its first fleet of robots from UR, the employees were worried about their jobs. But Rob Goldiez, general manager of Scott Fetzer, said the company saw a 20 percent increase in productivity after the robots were deployed, which has helped Fetzer put more people to work.
“We’re bringing back business we used to send to China,” Goldiez says in a company video about the robots.