The quest for the $30,000 robot arm


Earlier last month Rethink Robotics announced their $29,000 robot Sawyer that is able to provide fine motor control in factories.  Billed, like many of its competitors, as a robot that can work hand in hand with humans, offloading repetitive tasks.  The Sawyer, however, is part of a trend by other robot manufacturers like ABB and Kuka to deliver a small scale $30,000 robot that can work next to humans.

So, why is $30,000 such a magic price?  Well the truth behind this is a little less wholesome than the marketing message.  $30,000 is the price at which there is a good ROI to replace a line worker in China.   It goes without saying that there is a huge surge in robot business in China as the cost of labor goes up and slowdowns plague factory owners.  A steady march down of robot prices changes the economics for the factory owners and workers.


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