23 Jul 2024


Kickstarter campaign for ‘most powerful’ robot hits goal in 13h

UPDATED: A Chinese-American robotics start-up has exceeded a $50,000 target within 13 hours on the first day of Kickstarter campaign to fund the development of a what it claims will be “the world’s most powerful and affordable modular robot”. Umbratek is planning a family of five Scara and industrial robot arms with up to six axes, capable of lifting loads up to 20kg, with reaches of up to 1.5m and repeatabilities of up to ±0.01mm. It says they will cost about 70% less than their rivals.

A key to the Utra robots’ performance is a newly-developed actuator containing a precision harmonic reducer made of high-strength aluminium and high-carbon chromium steel. The compact, high-torque-density assembly has an integrated permanent magnet motor, cutting its weight. Also built in are high-performance servodrives using field-oriented control that protect the actuators against over-voltages, over-currents, over-temperatures, reverse connections, under-voltage ESD, short-circuits and rotor locks. The Adra actuators also contain 16-bit off-axis multi-turn absolute encoders, and thin electromagnetic brakes.

Umbratek was founded in 2019 by Evan Deng who previously founded UFactory, which produces the xArm and uArm desktop robots. He formed Umbratek with the idea of developing robots and robotic control systems at industry-breaking prices.

“We’ve spent the last few years developing simplified, customised, affordable robotic solutions,” says Deng. “Our robots provide fresh energy for industrial automation, logistics, medical, agricultural, and many more settings.” Fourth-generation prototypes of the new robots are already in operation.

The modular construction of the new robots means that they can be configured to suit customers’ needs. Around 90% of the robots’ components will be produced in-house, helping to cut costs and avoid supply-chain problems.

During the first five days of the Kickstarter campaign, supporters will be able to obtain a 3kg-capacity Scara robot for $2,999, compared to an expected retail price of $5,599. A six-axis arm with a 5kg payload capacity will cost $4,999 (compared to a retail price of $8,999) while a 20kg-capacity robot arm will cost early backers $7,999 compared to an eventual price of $13,999. The first machines are expected to start shipping to Kickstarter backers worldwide in October 2021.

Umbratek is also selling its Adra actuators separately with early-bird Kickstarter prices starting at $539 for a 120W model capable of delivering up to 35Nm of torque. This device will eventually cost an estimated $899.

The Utra robots are aimed at applications such as material-handling, pick-and-place, assembly, machine-tending, palletising and sanitation. They can be taught by pulling them along the desired path to the required end-position. The movements are recorded using software called Umbratek Studio. Another piece of software, called Umbratek Assistant, controls the Adra actuators via a graphical interface.

Update: Umbratek cancelled the Kickstarter project on 7 May, 2021, without giving an explanation. By that stage, the project had attracted almost $140,000 of funding from 31 backers. 

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