ANYbotics, a spin-out of Switzerland’s ETH Zurich university, has developed rugged four-legged robots to provide automated routine inspections for heavy industry, with the aim of maximizing equipment uptime and improving safety while reducing costs. Customers include Petronas, Shell, Siemens Energy, BASF and Outokumpu, one of Europe’s largest producers of stainless steel.
Demand is rising for robotic solutions in heavy industries such as oil and gas, chemicals, power, mining, metals and minerals, and utilities, says CEO Peter Fankhauser. Faced with an aging workforce and labor shortages, these industries increasingly rely on innovative robotics solutions to streamline operations, reduce environmental impact, and increase worker safety, he says.
“Our robots are fully autonomous meaning one person can manage an entire fleet,” says Fankhauser, who co-founded the company along with fellow ETH students.
The Zurich startup, which was founded in 2016, currently offers two versions of its robots, ANYmal and ANYmal X. Both versions are waterproof and designed to work in corrosive environments and in harsh weather conditions. ANYmal X is additionally certified to be safe to work in environments were sparks could lead to explosions, the only robot of its kind to earn this type of certification, says Fankhauser.
The robots are compliments to the sensors that have been installed in industrial sites. “You can’t cover everything with sensors,” says Fankhauser, so industrial sites have humans who go around with clipboards to do maintenance inspections. Since some areas are dangerous it sometimes requires the shutting down of equipment.
ANYbotics’s autonomous robots are equipped with cameras that record what they “see.” The video is then processed with artificial intelligence and combined with sensor info to identity trouble spots and potential problems.
The robots can provide images multiple times per day. Based on analysis of those images, companies can optimize up time by 1.5%, which Fankhauser says can translate into hundreds of millions of euros in savings.
“This unique technology allows robots to be easily deployable in complex industrial environments, making it an efficient solution for inspection applications in environments that are dangerous for human beings,” Young Sohn, Managing Partner at Walden Catalyst, one of ANYbotic’s investors said in a statement. “Moving forward, we see a significant opportunity to leverage the company’s robust mobility platform and locomotion software stack to enable new use cases and expand their addressable market beyond robotic inspection.”
The company, which employs 110 people and has so far has raised a total of €75 million, including a $50 million round announced earlier this month, is present in Europe, the U.S, United Arab Emirates. and Asia Pacific. It operates through partners outside of Europe but plans to soon open its own offices in the U.S., UAE, and Asia, Fankhauser says. Its backers include Swisscom Ventures and Aramco Ventures.
ANYbotic’s principal competitor is U.S.-based Boston Dynamics which also makes four-legged robots, which the company describes as “general purpose with broad applications.”
Fankhauser says ANYbotic’s differentiator is that its robots are vertically integrated, meaning they can be deployed by heavy industry in only a few hours. The Swiss company sends teams on-site to do training.
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