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A team of robotics passionates, a versatile scara cobot at a retail price of less than 10.000 euros, partnership with industrial giants and the first robot recruitment office. This is MIP Robotics! The French startup from Paris is gaining support among the cobotics experts with a unique modular low-cost robot and it is ready to expand its product line and to extend its business on the whole European area.
Gonzague Gridel, CEO of the company, and its team represent a brave example of how to compete on the market offering a simple innovative solution available to everyone, small and medium-size companies included.
We had the great pleasure to interview Louis d’Harcourt, Business Developer at MIP Robotics, and to get an exclusive story about their journey and their plans.
[CW] How was MIP Robotics born? What was the initial idea?
[Louis d’Harcourt] Franck Loriot, MIP’s founder was laid off by his previous company. With this newfound freedom, he developed a new type of gearbox leading to a patent and continued onto creating his first cobot. He was convinced that simple cobots could be made available for less than 5k€, which would provide a competitive advantage against lower cost international labour and bring industries back home.
A few years passed and we are glad to make available the MIP 300 with a retailing price of less than 10k€, becoming one of the cheapest cobots on the market. This price was not achieved by cutting corners but achieved by distilling the core requirements of an industrial robot and emphasised on ease of use and robustness. The vision that our founder had was achieved, we had now the challenge of making cobots ubiquitous within the industrial sector. Interestingly, we are now getting requests from Eastern European Countries for cobots.
[CW] Who were the first industrial partners who believed in your company and who are your partners now?
[Louis d’Harcourt] When MIP was launched in 2016, our first partners were Continental, Renault and Radiall. We have since been at the cutting edge of cobotic solutions and helped define today’s industrial standards. Nowadays we are partnering with Airbus, Sanofi and Sartorius to develop world-leading off the shelf cobotic solutions for versatile production.
[CW] What advice would you give to someone wanting to launch a startup in this sector?
[Louis d’Harcourt] Colin Angle founder of Irobot summed it well at CES “A Robotics company succeeds when it forgets its origin”. We agree with him. To launch a robotics company, you need to be prepared for a long and difficult multi-year development journey. To be relevant you need to address the most stringent of tasks performed by human beings… In other words, you need to be at bare minimum as good as a human being in robotizing the task….and humans are extremely precise and versatile robots 🙂
[CW] Let’s talk about your robot… Can you give us a brief overview of Junior 300? What is its unique selling point?
[Louis d’Harcourt] Our robot stands at the cheaper and simpler end of the cobots spectrum. It is simple to use and is meant to be used and programmed by virtually anyone as a third arm or diverse tasks. In comparison to our competition which uses mainly harmonic drives, leading to a limit on end-effector load of 10Nm and which produces significant wear, we chose an architecture capable of gripping and screwing 2.5 times more load with far less wear on the system decreasing maintenance intervals and overalls. Moreover, this architecture, based on modularity offers easy customization, linked to our great partner network we can deliver more advanced and versatile tools specialized to individual applications for our clients.
[CW] You decided to develop a collaborative scara robot. It is definitely not a mainstream choice in a market populated by anthropomorphic arms, what’s the reason behind this strategy?
[Louis d’Harcourt] The main driving factor for cost and complexity of a robot is definitely the number of joints or degrees of freedom. By targeting a market with simpler tasks, we can reduce the complexity of the robot leading to a reduction in cost. Additionally, with our proprietary gearbox technology and the lower joint count, we decrease the electric consumption of the system. The robot is therefore compact and runs on 24V DC, for example, when running on batteries the robot lasts twice as long as a UR5. These factors are very attractive to AGV manufacturers which are contacting us to explore projects using our cobot.
[CW] Which applications are most requested from your clients?
[Louis d’Harcourt] With no surprises pick and place applications (screwing/liquid handling/dispatching) are the most requested. The concept is broad and may well vary between clients from high precision liquid dispensing to screwing bolts to a set torque value.
[CW] Where do you see MIP Robotics and more generally the cobotic sector in 5 years?
[Louis d’Harcourt] Cobots have been addressing a long-standing issue in the automation industry, namely ease of reprogramming and safety concerns. As cobots keep spreading, these issues will be addressed and define new standards. We will start seeing standard physical and electrical interfaces for end-effectors increasing cross-compatibility, which will lead to the proliferation and creation of large ecosystems of accessories and tools.
These standards will help increase the number of applications supported, leading to off the shelf solutions for newcomers and a decrease in the barrier to entry. At MIP, we are committed to bring integrated cobotic solutions to our current and future clients allowing them to jump directly on this cobotic revolution without the pain of trial and error.
[CW] Could we have a sneak peek at your 2020 plans?
[Louis d’Harcourt] We plan to continue our strategic partnerships with Airbus and Sanof while supporting our current and future customers. In 2019 we mainly increased the functionality and use cases for our cobot such as pipetting and different forms of screwing. In 2020 we will be expanding our product line by adding a heavy-duty 10 kg, 360° capable cobot. Obviously we will be maintaining our MIP mindset of modularity and low price. Our ambition for 2020 is to become unbeatable at bringing simplicity to robotics and our clients. In other words, to provide cobots to all.