Adept Technology Is 'Marching to a Mission'

Acquisition of Two Related Robotics Firms Expands Company's Capabilities and Potential Markets

Over the past year, Hacienda-based Adept Technology has completed two strategic acquisitions that make its intelligent robotics systems even smarter and more productive. Incorporating the capabilities of Denmark's InMoTx and New Hampshire's MobileRobots Inc. allows Adept to provide compelling new solutions to long-standing challenges in high-growth markets, including the packaging and medical arenas.

"With these new technologies, we are now selling solutions, not just components," observes Adept CEO John Dulchinos.

Announced in January 2011, the purchase of InMoTx adds proprietary gripping technology to the Adept family of high-speed material handling robots. That capability holds great promise for the Adept Quattro, which was recently certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as accepted for use in meat and poultry processing, another major advance for the company.

"InMoTx complements our existing product line by giving us really innovative tooling that is perfect for handling odd-shaped items," explains Dulchinos. Much like hands connected to the end of the robot arm, the grippers can pick up non-rigid, non-uniform, slippery, or delicate pieces of food, eliminating human contact during processing or packaging.

"One of the big issues in the food industry today is contamination," Dulchinos continues. Human handling, especially of products like raw chicken and ground beef, entails potential exposure to harmful bacteria. "Our robotic systems reduce the number of people who come in direct contact with food, avoiding the spread of disease. The applications we're providing on the front end of the production line prior to wrapping are solutions to problems that couldn't be resolved before. This has the potential to transform the way meat products are packaged over the next five years."

In addition to boosting product safety, the robotic capability offers a major advantage for employers, who typically have trouble staffing processing and packaging lines. "These are not pleasant jobs," Dulchinos comments, noting that food plant turnover can average 40 to 50 percent a year. The increasing difficulty of filling these positions makes the use of robots that much more attractive.

Last June's acquisition of the aptly named MobileRobots, a developer of autonomous robot and intelligent automated guided vehicle (iAGV) technologies, expands Adept's capabilities in another direction. Equipped with this new intelligence, robots can move around in unstructured environments, navigating obstacles like walls, doors, and furniture, and " living amongst us," as Dulchinos says.

Right now, many of these mobile robots are installed in hospitals, moving pharmaceuticals, meals, or linens dynamically around the facility. "The health care community wants to maximize the amount of face-to-face time doctors and nurses have with patients," he points out. "The fewer back-office tasks they have to deal with, the higher quality of care they can deliver. Mobile robots allow them to spend more time with patients and less time moving, so these valuable workers can be more productive."

While Dulchinos sees a longer-term horizon for applications incorporating the mobile technology in a wide range of industries, Adept is currently integrating product built in New Hampshire with systems in its manufacturing facility on Gibraltar Road. The goal is to create unique value propositions for a wider and more diversified customer base.

"We are marching to a mission," Dulchinos concludes.

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