Franka Emika, developer of the Panda cobot arm, is no longer involved with systems integrator Voith Robotics, the joint venture it launched with Voith in April 2018. Voith Robotics recently announced a new partnership with Universal Robots, the leading cobot arm brand and a competitor to Franka Emika.
The split came less than two years after the launch of Voith Robotics. The partnership was designed to have Voith Robotics develop the Panda cobot business, while Franka focused on research and selling to academia.
The Robot Report reached out to Franka Emika multiple times for comment, but the German developer has not responded.
The split is even more interesting since Voith continues to hold shares in Franka Emika, which raised an undisclosed amount from Voith in April 2018. There are no references to Franka Emika on the Voith Robotics website.
A Voith Robotics spokesperson told The Robot Report it is a “vendor-independent system integrator for robot-assisted automation solutions. The company is 100% owned by the Voith Group and implements the analysis and integration of robot systems and the planning of intelligent automation solutions.
“Voith Robotics bundles know-how in the areas of process consulting, artificial intelligence, digital apps and service solutions for customers with 150 years of experience from established Group Divisions of the Voith Group in various target markets such as metal processing, machinery and electronics.
“Franka Emika is no longer a shareholder in Voith Robotics. The Voith Group continues to hold shares in Munich-based robot specialist Franka Emika.”
When asked to clarify why it was no longer working with Franka Emika, Voith Robotics said it “acts as a supplier-independent system integrator, as different robot systems and partners can be used to serve different customer requirements, thus enabling faster growth.”
Universal Robots was acquired by Teradyne, a Reading, Mass.-based developer of automatic test equipment, in 2015 for $285 million. Teradyne also owns AutoGuide Mobile Robots, Energid, and Mobile Industrial Robots.
A mismatch from the start?
An executive at a cobot arm company (not Universal Robots), who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the relationship between Franka Emika and Voith was a mismatch from the beginning.
“Franka was geared toward eduction instead of industrial, and Voith is purely industrial, so they didn’t mix well,” the source said. “Franka is technically very good, but it’s very hard to build and it reflects in the cost, so they can not compete with UR. And the 3 Kg payload is too small. A 5 Kg payload is the most popular, followed by 10 Kg and 3 Kg is [a distant] third.”
Voith Robotics is part of the Voith Group, a global technology company that has been in business for 150-plus years. Founded in 1867, Voith has more than 19,000 employees, sales of $4.6 billion, locations in over 60 countries worldwide, and it’s one of the largest family-owned companies in Europe.