Breaking the common physics rules of motion components

Can a $7,500 Cobot Democratize Global Automation?

Created in collaboration with Christian Meyer’s Commonplace Robotics, the igus 6 DoF ReBel might well be the long-awaited breakthrough tech for low-cost automation to thrive

“When in 2020, MIT researchers visited SME factories in Ohio, Massachusetts, and Arizona, they were surprised to find no cobots in any. In fact, there were very few industrial robots of any kind: “Indeed, even in the large firms (with over 500 workers) we visited, robots were scarce.”
—Suzanne Berger, et al: Manufacturing in America: A View from the Field (MIT)

by Tom Green

Democratizing low-cost automation
“Is there a cheaper cobot? Can they be made easier to use?” Those all-too-familiar refrains from potential customers are still being heard on the cobot circuit, over two decades after the cobot’s initial debut in 2005.

Crack those two wish-list favorites and all hell might break loose in cobot world. Such a breakout might well finally realize the as-of-today unrealized boffo sales numbers annually predicted by most industry forecasters. Cobots today claim a miniscule 4% of total robot sales.

Even better for a cobot breakout, productivity gains among SMEs would increase a nation’s GDP. SMEs, according to the World Bank, represent about 90% of businesses and more than 50% of employment worldwide, and SMEs contribute up to 40% of a nation’s GDP.

What better group than SMEs for any technology to target? The outcomes could be nothing short of spectacular.

Control Automation writes: The ReBel has a linear speed with a full load of 200mm/s and an angular speed of 45°/s. These speeds are typical of a collaborative robot of similar size and payload. The ReBel has a repeatability of +- 1mm which is respectable repeatability for a collaborative robot. This repeatability is sufficient for tasks such as machine tending, and welding. 

The ReBel gearbox breaks the common physics rules of motion components? The ReBel has been tested to one million movement cycles, ensuring that the internal plastic components will withstand the lifecycle of the robot. Using plastic components that are self-lubricating makes for a lighter robot that is capable to be used in many clean or food-grade applications.

Why Aren’t SMEs Buying Cobots?

Are Cobot Vendors Avoiding Them!?


Surprisingly, the ReBel isn't produced by an old-line robot company or a new-line cobot company. It's produced by a high-performance plastics manufacturer from Germany.
igus was founded by Günter Blase and his wife Margaret (now in their 90s) in 1964 in their two-car garage in Cologne (Koln), Germany.

How to sell to SMEs
As we pointed out in a previous research report, which we featured on This Is Robotics (podcast), The Problem with Cobots, only 10% of SMEs have ever heard of cobot and that cobot vendors persist in selling cobots almost exclusively at booths at trade shows and events. Even when research shows that 7 out of 10 SMEs don’t attend trade shows. I’ve been in SME manufacturing plants in Asia, Europe, and the U.S., and they’re all the same when it comes to attending trade shows. Hardly anyone does!

So, what does igus do to sell the ReBel in the face of all that contrarian attitude? igus creates RBTX, an online selling environment, with an online catalog that includes prices. Yes, prices! The one thing that’s hard to extract from most any robot and cobot vendor.

Included in RBTX is a Zoom online video hookup where customers can interact with igus staff from the comfort of their own shop. Need a demo? Staff on the Zoom call will demo any product, and even rig the demo gear to replicate the task(s) that the customer is looking to automate.

As igus RBTX page says of its cobot marketplace: “Experience robotics live with the Customer Testing Area and the RBTXpert. The digital marketplace also offers a place where humans and robots meet: In the Customer Testing Area, customers can have their application tested. The RBTXpert uses live video calls to connect from this environment for individual advice to those interested in automation.”


It's a Trade Show for ONE! Just Book a Flight on Zoom to Get There!