Baxter the Soft Industrial Robot Gets Japanese Distribution

Baxter Coming to Japan -

Attention Kawada, Yaskawa, Nachi, Fanuc - Your American Nemesis is Coming!

Somewhat under the robo-radar - perhaps drowned out by the all the iREX coverage - The Business of Robotics reported earlier this month that Rethink Robotics, maker of the Baxter industrial & manufacturing robot, has signed an exclusive deal with Nihon Binary to distribute the machine here in Japan. For now it’s just the research version, but it clearly opens the door for more.

The combination of Baxter’s low price (base model: $22,000), ease of programming, and ability to safely work next to humans is promoted as a fundamentally game-changing manufacturing solution. Nihon Binary, a primarily B2B tech sourcing firm well-placed with customers across the entire spectrum of Japanese tech business, academia, and government agencies, clearly sees opportunity; while very similar machines like Kawada Industries’ Nextage have been doing actual factory work for nearly a year (see video below), they ring up at approximately $85,000 - $100,000 each, are not as easily programmed on-site, and lack Baxter’s more advanced safety features.

As stated, the current deal is for the Baxter research model only, but Kawada & friends had better take notice: when a highly respected new kid comes to town with a better product at as much as 1/5 the cost… well, for an example of a similar too-little too-late market dynamic, look no further than Japanese smartphones vis-a-vis the iPhone.

See below Baxter at work, the competition from robots like Kawada Industries’ Nextage; and a broad, state of the art robotics industry survey: our iREX robo-wrap-up.

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VIa: The Business of Robotics, Rethink Robotics, Nihon Binary (Japanese/日本語)
Images: Rethink Robotics,