BOSTON—Rethink Robotics, the pioneering manufacturer of the Baxter and Sawyer collaborative robots, closed for business Oct. 3, just 10 years after it started.
Rethink Robotics was co-founded by Rodney Brooks and Ann Whittaker in 2008. Before starting Rethink, Brooks was a professor of robotics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and former director of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. He was also the founder and former chief technical officer of iRobot, the maker of the Roomba home vacuum-cleaning robot.
Rethink was launched with the aim of creating low-cost robots. In 2012, the company released Baxter, a vision-guided, dual-arm robot that can safely work side-by-side with people on assembly lines. Three years later, the company released a smaller and more flexible counterpart to Baxter, Sawyer, a one-armed cobot designed to perform smaller, more detailed tasks.
Although Rethink was among the first companies to commercialize collaborative robots for manufacturing applications, the company was quickly overwhelmed by competition from mainstream robotics companies, including ABB, Comau, Fanuc, KUKA, Stäubli and Universal Robots.