Soft Robotics, which makes grippers for robots so they can handle odd-shaped and delicate items like food, announced today that it has raised a $23 million Series B round of funding. The round was co-led by Calibrate Ventures and Material Impact and includes existing investors Honeywell, Hyperplane, Scale, Tekfen Ventures, and Yamaha.
Also participating in the round was industrial automation solutions provider, FANUC, which had previously formed a strategic partnership with Soft Robotics to integrate the startup’s mGrip gripper system with any FANUC robot through the release of a new controller.
This brings the total amount of funding raised by Soft Robotics to $48 million.
As we wrote in 2018, Soft Robotics’ gripping solution for picking up objects mimics an octopus, using rubbery-tipped appendages. In the company’s demo video below, you can see the one gripper picking up all different kinds of items with odd shapes and textures like a loaf of bread, individual cookies, an onion and a package of chicken.
There are two reasons to pay attention to this technology. First, grocery stores like Walmart, Kroger and Albertsons are all starting to implement more robotic fulfillment centers. The ability to pick up fresh and delicate items will expand a retailer’s ability to automate fulfillment of online grocery orders. In addition to the CPGs, robots could be used to pack more fresh items like donuts, baguettes or store made bags of soup.
Second, as we’ve seen from Sony and Nvidia, the ability for a robot to safely manipulate fragile and odd-shaped objects like eggs and bananas can translate into other sectors of automation like medicine that require a gentle touch.
In today’s press announcement, Soft Robotics said it will use the new funding for its next stage of growth.