Rethink Robotics, Maker of Factory Robots, Shuts Down

Xconomy Boston — 

Rethink Robotics, one of New England’s best-funded robotics companies, has shut down, according to reports by The Robot Report and The Boston Globe.

Rethink, which developed collaborative factory robots, had raised more than $130 million in venture funding since it was started in 2008. The company was led by CEO Scott Eckert and founder and CTO Rodney Brooks (pictured), who previously co-founded iRobot (NASDAQ: IRBT).

We’ve reached out to the company for comment.

Rethink’s robots—named Baxter and Sawyer—have dexterity, vision, and learning abilities good enough to help them collaborate with factory workers in tasks like assembly and testing, according to the company. As Xconomy has reported, one of Rethink’s adoption challenges has been making customers comfortable with integrating new types of robots into their production lines and processes.

Still, the appetite for industrial robots seems to be growing. Much of the investment and startup activity in the past couple of years has been around logistics automation. Companies such as Soft Robotics and RightHand Robotics have scooped up venture cash for robotic gripper technologies used in picking and placing items, and funding has flowed to companies developing mobile robots for toting goods around warehouses and factories—including Vecna Robotics, 6 River Systems, Locus Robotics, and Fetch Robotics.

Rethink competed with the gripper robotics companies, as well as firms such as Veo Robotics that are developing machines intended to work more closely with humans on the assembly line. Now, the collaborative robotics sector will move on without one of its pioneering companies.

Rethink was founded as Heartland Robotics 10 years ago. Here’s more on the company’s early days.