PITTSBURGH—RE2 Robotics Inc. has had an interesting few years. The Pittsburgh-based robotics company makes mobile manipulation systems that are used in the defense, aviation, construction, energy, medical, and subsea industries.
Like every company, RE2 has faced hardships during the pandemic, but according to Jorgen Pedersen, former president and CEO, the company doubled the size of its staff in the past two years.
And the only reason Pedersen is the former president and CEO is because his company was recently purchased by Salt Lake City, Utah-based Sarcos Technology and Robotics Corp. Pedersen now works as chief operating officer there.
Business has also taken a shift in the past few years, and the commercial sector is now outpacing defense, a market RE2 has worked with since its start, he said.
“Defense is continuing to grow,” he said. “Commercial is just growing that much faster.”
Robotics 24/7 recently visited RE2’s office in Pittsburgh on Robotics Row. In February, the company expanded into the third floor of its main office building. In September 2020, it purchased a building across the street and uses it for research, development, and testing.
A look inside RE2
RE2 is one of the more well-established robotics companies in Pittsburgh, having spun out of the National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in 2001.
The company makes a line of robotic arms as part of its RE2 Sapien line, which are used in both structured and unstructured environments. Its flagship product is the Sapien 6M. It also makes robots that go underwater as part of its RE2 Sapien Sea Class line.
Pedersen said the company’s bread and butter is developing technologies for outdoor use.
“What sets us apart from ABB, KUKA, and FANUC is we design systems from the ground up for mobile outdoor applications,” Pedersen said.
To date, the company has sold more than 650 robot arms. Pedersen said last year, there was a 50% spilt between its commercial and defense customers.
But commercial is growing fast. To meet demand, the company recently added a floor to its operations and set up shop in a new 10,000-sq.-ft. facility where it is being used for assembly and production of its robotic arms.
“This is the future of RE2 production right here,” Pedersen said. The company is still working on fully occupying the space, but the plan is take advantage of every square inch. He estimated that the new space will help the company meet demand for the next 12 to 24 months.
Pedersen added that RE2 has the capability to make the facility even bigger and take up more space on the building’s third floor.
That’s not the only way the company is trying to be proactive. To combat against severe supply chain problems, RE2 has already purchased enough stock of critical components to satisfy projected production demand for next year, Pedersen said.
Proud to be part of Pittsburgh's Robotics Row
Pedersen said the company is proud to be in Pittsburgh's Robotics Row, which is located in the neighborhoods of Lawrenceville and the Strip District. He said it’s not uncommon for the dozens of robotics companies in the area to work together.
A few of the companies on the row include Carnegie Robotics, Locomation, and Argo AI.
RE2 is also a member of the Pittsburgh Robotics Network, a CMU-sponsored organization that works on behalf on more than 100 robotics companies in the region.
“We machine parts for our neighbors,” he said. “We’ve lent engineers to our neighbors. They’ve lent engineers to us. It’s a cool collaborative. “
Working with Sarcos
RE2 is actively expanding into new markets, and now has the support of Sarcos, which makes mobile manipulation systems and wearable industrial exoskeletons, to help it along.
In an interview with Robotics 24/7 earlier this year, Sarcos President and CEO Kiva Allgood said her company was buying RE2 to branch into new markets and expand its engineering team.
“Think about the fact that we will basically have products anywhere from undersea to the operating room, to heavy lift to light lift. We’ve now just really expanded our capabilities for all of our customers,” Allgood said.
Pedersen said he wouldn’t have done the deal with Sarcos if he didn’t feel like they would be good partners.
“It’s a lot of work to bring two companies together, but I’m encouraged, because what I quickly found is that the people in Salt Lake are the same ilk as the people here in Pittsburgh,” he said. “They are kind people who are smart and good at what they do.”
About the Author
Cesareo Contreras is associate editor at Robotics 24/7. Prior to working at Peerless Media, he was an award-winning reporter at the Metrowest Daily News and Milford Daily News in Massachusetts. Contreras is a graduate of Framingham State University and has a keen interest in the human side of emerging technologies.
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