Robotics and automation have become the norm in today’s manufacturing world and Southeast Asia is included. However, the capital expenditure of setting up the infrastructure and the operation of the machinery can be a huge barrier to entry or lower the productivity of the process.

As digitalisation takes over most industries, the disruption often presents itself in different ways. For the robotics industry, we have long seen progress and advancement in the hardware innovation. One startup is looking to change that perception. Fresh off their seed funding from early-stage venture capital firm Cocoon Capital, Augmentus is looking to make their mark in the manufacturing and robotics industry.

The startup allows companies to deploy complex industrial robots with high accuracy in a matter of minutes instead of weeks. Their proprietary technology incorporates an easy-to-use graphical interface that eliminates the need for coding and CAD files enabling up to 17 times faster programming and integration across various industrial applications.

We explore the growing robotics industry in Southeast Asia

This replaces the usual proprietary programming languages that demand extensive training and expertise. As automation processes require a high level of customisation, approximately 75% lifetime cost of your average industrial robot is software-related.

Founded in 2019, the startup is already working with 15 manufacturers to deploy its software for applications ranging from harvesting and plant inspections in urban farms to advanced spraying and welding in automotive production. Augmentus also provides an integrated artificial intelligence module that allows users to train the software to identify and classify objects, such as car parts or strawberries. Their partners include major global robot manufacturers, including ABB, Universal Robots, TM Robots, Kuka, Nachi and Mitsubishi Electric.

We had a chance to speak to CEO and Co-founder Yong Shin Leong about their journey and their plans for the industry as they prepare to expand their presence in the region.

Congrats on the funding. How will you be using the investment?

The funds will support Augmentus’ official debut of its robotics platform, which aims to streamline the $20bn robotics software market. In addition, Augmentus plans to hire new talent in software development, business development and partnerships to support the growing demand for its solution across the world in the coming months.

Could you share how Augmentus works?

Augmentus provides a common programming interface across all industrial robots and cobots. We support seamless integration of different robot brands and a variety of equipments from sensors, camera arrays, vision systems to grippers and much more.

Image courtesy of Augmentus

With minimal effort, users can choose the hardware that will best suit their application, connect to Augmentus, and get started right away. Users can either scan the work cell using their desired sensor or import CAD files to generate an interactive simulation environment. Calibration of robot and virtual environment is then completed in under 30 seconds through our one-click calibration process.

A real-life example is a government agency that uses Augmentus software to spray chemicals on high mix products. Usually it would take a skilled robotic engineer 1-2 weeks to program the robot for each product, however using Augmentus, the whole process is reduced to several minutes.

What is the market size in Southeast Asia for the industry and which market poses the best opportunity for you?

Southeast has a USD3.2 Billion market size in robot programming. Countries such as Indonesia and Vietnam have sizeable robot market, but we are focused on expanding beyond Southeast Asia, towards Europe and Japan as well. 

What have been the challenges with scaling Augmentus in the region?

One of the main challenges has been in building a network of trusted distributors and system integrators across different regions with unique cultures and practices. As a young company, we want to scale quickly and efficiently. Thankfully, we have a network of advisors who have helped us navigate and refine our approach. 

What’s next for Augmentus?

With the growing adoption of industrial robots in industries such as manufacturing, automotive and farming, Augmentus is on a mission to bring greater efficiency to the industry by lowering the time, cost and skill barriers. Ultimately, we want to make robotics accessible to everyone to use in any application imaginable. We plan to expand our reach into Japan and Europe in the coming months. 

To serve more customers, Augmentus is expanding towards robotic applications that require higher precision, for instance deburring, trimming and cutting. The feature will be commercially available in Q2 2022.