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.