Reported by: Juan Necochea, Director of Strategic Partnership

I had the pleasure of visiting Automatica Munich and it was an experience like no other. It is hard to begin to put into words what the first day’s 17 km walk through 6 airplane-sized hangars, full of incredible technology, welcoming old and new friends, and expresso-fueled conversations felt like, but I’ll give it a shot. As someone who has attended numerous trade shows in the United States, I was pleasantly surprised by the distinctiveness and innovative spirit of this event. From groundbreaking milestones to visionary announcements, Automatica Munich 2023 showcased the forefront of the robotics industry, and I am excited to share my 4-day journey with you.

Upon arrival, the grounds presented an overwhelming number of exhibits, efficiently organized into thematically distributed showcases of European-centric technology. I made my way through the world’s leading trade fair for smart automation and robotics with an open agenda to find what’s new and learn about the current state of Europe’s robotics landscape.

On my first stop, I was welcomed by our partner Festo, who was revealing the world’s first pneumatic cobot, setting new standards in technology and operability. With this groundbreaking development, Festo is ushering in a new era of human-robot collaboration. I met with Axel Schümann and Jörg Menner, who explained that through these technological advances, they are eliminating the need for safety fences and complicated setups. Festo’s innovation empowers seamless and safe interactions between humans and machines, enhancing productivity and efficiency in industrial settings. This first stop marked the first of many expresso-fueled conversations, which I quickly came to understand and celebrate as a standard in the European trade show modus operandi. 

Up next, I was happy to visit our partner Maxon, a company renowned for its precision and reliability, and captivated attendees with their latest offering, the ECX PRIME. These powerful brushless motors with 4-pole rotors and ironless windings are a testament to Maxon’s dedication to innovation. Particularly impressive was the ECX PRIME 6 in the M HP version, featuring a motor diameter of just 6 millimeters. Maxon’s continuous development and industrialization of small-diameter motors showcase their commitment to meeting the specific demands of their customers.

In the vicinity, I met the European branch of our partner Harmonic Drive, known for its cutting-edge technology. Their warmth and disposition to talk about the innovation ecosystem in Europe vs the US was profound. They explained about their expertise in precision gearheads and servo actuators, which continues to drive progress in the robotics industry. 

It was particularly great to check in with our MassRobotics resident team, Realtime Robotics, who were showcasing their cutting-edge technology following the exciting news of their partnership with BMW. Their advanced robotic motion planning technology opens new possibilities for safe and efficient collaboration between humans and robots. Their stand was smaller, however, crowded and buzzing with questions and admirers. This came a day after some great news for the startup.

They were excited to share the news about their newest fundraising success, securing in their extended Series A a figure north of $54 million, further solidifying Realtime Robotics’ position as a key player in the robotics ecosystem.

Our friends at Universal Robots impressed attendees by not only focusing on a new cobot, as in 2022, but on the web-based software Polyscope X, with which users can easily operate and parameterize not only the UR robot itself, but the entire application (specifically the machine loading). 

Of course, I was also in Münich to make new friends. I was very surprised by Stäubli Robotics, who unveiled the TX2-200, completing their TX2 six-axis robot series. Notable was the design of the largest Stäubli robot, which has been optimized for cleanroom suitability. I look forward to continuing a conversation with them and learning more about their commitment to innovation in the US.

ABB, which had a large impressive booth, introduced two new variants of their collaborative robot GoFa, along with four new large robot models tailored for the automotive industry. While discussing opportunities to develop lines of conversation, I was surprised to learn that these modular robots promise energy savings of up to 20%, demonstrating ABB’s dedication to providing efficient solutions for industrial automation. We also look forward to learning more about their interest in the startup space.

As a fan of corporate/startup collaboration, I must congratulate and highlight it when possible. Wandelbots and Advance Robotics, German newcomers with ambitious goals, were represented by Fanuc at the event. Fanuc showcased their cross-robot software platforms, Wandelbots Operating System and advance.core, which enable simplified programming and control across various robotic systems. The collaboration between these innovative startups and Fanuc highlights the industry’s pursuit of democratizing access to robotics technology.

I was happy to discuss innovation and open collaboration at the Siemens booth, who not only showcased their impressive range of industrial automation solutions but also announced a partnership with Intrisic, a Google offshoot. This collaboration signifies Siemens’ commitment to embracing open robotics platforms and democratizing access to robotics technology. The integration of Siemens’ expertise with Intrisic’s open robot platform and AI, programmer, and simulation platform, Flowstate, holds immense potential for advancing the field of robotics. 

The list of impressive exhibitors goes on, with notable mentions including Fruitcore Robotics, incorporating ChatGPT into their smart robot operating system Horst OS. 

I had the pleasure of meeting the dynamic team from Visense, an exciting startup spinoff from Zurich. I had the opportunity to speak with Ryan O’Sullivan, their Strategy & Operations person, and our conversation took an unexpected turn when he shared why he had chosen to move to Zurich instead of his hometown of Amherst, MA. Our discussion delved into the contrasting strengths and nuances of the two remarkable ecosystems. Ryan’s insights shed light on the diverse perspectives and unique opportunities that arise from embracing different environments. This exchange underscored the importance of global collaboration and cross-pollination of ideas in propelling the robotics industry forward. It was a truly enlightening conversation that epitomized the spirit of innovation and collaboration that permeated Automatica Munich 2023.

Automatica Munich 2023 truly demonstrated the transformative power of robotics, with companies from both Europe and around the world pushing the boundaries of innovation. From Festo’s pneumatic cobot to Maxon’s powerful motors, and the myriad of advancements showcased by global leaders like ABB and Fanuc, the event provided a glimpse into the exciting future of automation.

As I reflect on my experience at Automatica Munich 2023, it is evident that the collaboration and knowledge exchange among industry leaders will continue to drive the progress of robotics. The advancements I witnessed during the event serve as a testament to the passion and dedication of those working tirelessly to shape the future of automation; and the conversations that MassRobotics continues to develop prove without doubt the importance and interest in opportunities and bridges that can be built between our ecosystems.

Sign up for MassRobotics newsletter here.