Baxter’s Brother, Sawyer


Baxter, a versatile robot that costs less than a human worker, made a splash when it came on the industrial scene. Now Rethink Robotics, Baxter’s makers, have added a little brother to the line.

Sawyer has some impressive specs: 1260mm reach, 4kg payload and 0.1mm task repeatability, and it weighs only 42 pounds. Its Build a Bot page lays out the configuration options and pricing. Sawyer is a collaborative single arm robot that is designed to perform precise tasks, even in harsh environments.

It’s also designed to work alongside humans, a trend that was in the forefront of this year’s Pack EXPO. As manufacturers increase automation and reduce the number of people on the line, it’s essential that the robots and humans be able to work together.

Sawyer and Baxter both also have faces: a screen with eye icons that let humans know where the robot is about to move. Not only does that provide important information to human coworkers, it has also been shown that giving a robot a cute face affects the way humans interact with it. People pay more attention to a machine with eyes and are more inclined to collaborate.

Baxter, according to TechnologyReview, has sold just a few hundred units, but provided the makers with lots of information about what manufacturers want in a robot. The new Sawyer model can lift more, perform machine tending tasks, and also has built in “vision” sensors that extend the range of operations it can perform. It’s also much smaller than its two-armed brother.

The Boston Consulting Group estimates that 60% of all manufacturing tasks can be automated. The question is, how can this best be done? Safety, power, performance, and precision are all key. Some of the trends we’re seeing:

  • Collaboration is ever more important, so safety is non-negotiable.
  • Customization, a growing trend in manufacturing, requires greater precision even in smaller factories.
  • Open-source software like Rexroth’s allows integration of a greater variety of machines.

Of course, motion control is the true key to success with a robot like this. If you need support for your Rexroth motion control machinery, contact us immediately.


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