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Many educational robots are little more than remote-controlled toys or very basic programming tools, while most industrial robot arms are too high-powered — and too expensive — for small shops.
Collaborative robotics providers are serving small and midsize enterprises, but hobbyists and researchers have had few options. Niryo hopes to serve that need with its Niryo One arm, for which it launched a robot Kickstarter campaign today.
Edouard Renard, chief technology officer of France-based Niryo, told Robotics Business Review about the thinking and development behind Niryo One and the benefits of using crowdfunding and open-source technology.
How does Niryo One compare with other arms currently on the market?
We noticed there are three markets. [The first is for] industrial robots, such as ABB and FANUC. Those companies provide very precise and powerful robots, which are the best for industry requirements.
The problem here is the price. Buying plus installing plus programming plus maintaining an industrial robot costs a lot. Most small companies, schools, and people can’t afford to buy one, and it’s often a lot of trouble to get the space to put the robot, with all the security issues. In this market, we’re starting to see companies providing cheaper cobots, such as Universal Robots or Rethink Robotics.
The second market is the toy market, with very cheap robots — under $500 — but those robots are just toys; we can’t really do anything useful with most of them.
We are targeting a third market, between the two previous ones. We provide a low-cost robot — about $1,000 — which is close to industrial robots. For example, the robot is powered by the Robot Operating System [ROS], but it is easy to use.
We’re mainly targeting makers who want to get an industrial-like robot at home for testing, developing, and learning new skills about robotics.
Then we’ll target education and small companies. We want to give children and students more motivation to learn mechanics, electronics, and computer science by allowing them to test what they learned on a real physical system.
For small companies, it will be a chance to get a robot for automating basic tasks, which do not need the high precision of an industrial robot. This market — low-cost and user-friendly robots — is our main target for now.
What were the technical challenges involved in creating Niryo One?
We have met a lot of technical challenges that did not have an existing solution yet, because we are one of the first to create such a low-cost robot.
Concerning the mechanical structure, the main challenge was to make it as simple and as stable as it can be. The simpler the structure is, the better, but making a system simpler is not a simple thing to do.
We had to optimize the space inside the robot to put everything inside — all the wires, the cooling system, etc. — while keeping Niryo One nice-looking and easy to assemble.
For the computer parts, the challenge was to develop an entire...