The enduring image of an automated factory is one of large, efficient robot arms doing repetitive tasks on a car or item of heavy machinery on a clean, expansive factory floor. But as costs have come down and tech has improved, companies like Inovo Robotics are pushing to bring automation to companies across the spectrum. By creating modular, easily reprogrammable and redeployable robot arms that can be adapted for any number of tasks, co-founder Jonathan Cheung and his colleagues are channeling their passion for automation into a much wider pool.
“Small businesses can absolutely adopt some robotics and where we come along is that we bring them the kind of robotics tools that are much, much easier, a step improvement in terms of their ease of use, their programming interfaces, the flexibility for modularity,” he says.
“We really wanted to address that problem to make the barrier for entry for those businesses to be much, much lower;in order to provide them much more accessible tools to help the businesses become competitive.” He says the feedback the company gathered is that clients really want flexibility, they want ease of use, ease of reuse and affordable robotics.
While the initial customer base was fairly traditional - small-scale manufacturing plants, injection moulding plants and CNC Machining facilities – the COVID-19 pandemic has enabled Inovo Robotics to think a little more outside the box.
“[While] we’re targeting the batch manufacturing market, there’s definitely a very large pull in terms of robotics in general in the Asia region, which has changed in recent years, and secondly, our target market is in Europe, but when the pandemic has hit we’ve found that as that market has decreased, and we’ve seen a bigger increase in food areas, there’s definitely a change in market and strategy where we’ve had to pivot.” He says that customers now include restaurant kitchens and even bars, where Inovo robot arms are mixing drinks.
He says one of their most exciting collaborations is with an urban, vertical farm, called Farm 66. “Their vision is that they want to make a people-less farm, and what we have is our robot arm to help with seeding, feeding into their automation systems until you get to a point where you have the robots producing food for you, which is a great position, a great future to be in.”
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