On January 3, 2017, Beijing ELITE Technology Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as “ELITE”), which assembles the “brain” for robots and truly realizes human-machine collaboration through the embedding of artificial intelligence technology, announced to “GG Robotic Network” that it has received another 50 million yuan A round of financing which Ce Yuan and Oriza have invested. The fund will be mainly used for mass production of collaborative robots. The landing of this financing case officially launched the first shot of the robotics industry financing in 2018!
ELITE was established at the end of 2014. In June 2016, it developed its first product, the ERC200 robot controller. As soon as the product aiming to control the system productization was released, it received 15 million pre-A rounds of financing from Langmafeng Venture Capital.
Just a year after the pre-A round of financing, ELITE has extended the original product series, not only improving the robot controller, but also developing an integrated drive and control unit. Both products have been released online for sale.
In fact, ELITE, which is frequently favored by venture capital firms, rarely reveals itself to the public. What exactly is this company that is so low-key but combative? Follow the GG Robotic network to uncover ELITE’s mystery.
The Controller Is the Beginning, But It Does Not End There
ELITE is a company that was born with a silver spoon. It is an enterprise initiated by a group of PhD scholars from the Institute of Robotics of Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Tsinghua University, who have been focusing on the research, development and manufacturing of intelligent industrial robots for almost fifteen years.
The founder and CEO Cao Yunan talked about ELITE’s business journey. The five PhD scholars, under the guidance of their professor Wang Tianmiao, relying on the opportunity of the national project, cooperated with Guangzhou CNC to develop its first controller, GSK980TD system as early as 2003. Thus, the team started from the CNC field.
Back in 2009, the domestic robot control system was in a terrible situation. The team cooperated with Eft to develop a robot controller, thus officially entering the field of robot control. After accumulating a wealth of knowledge and experience in project implementation, Cao Yunan devoted himself to the startup of robotics after graduating from Tsinghua University. Thanks to the long-term cooperative relationship with the local government in Nantong, ELITE received certain subsidies from the Nantong government in the beginning days of its establishment. All of these factors prompted ELITE to successfully develop its first robot control system in June 2016.
“One can say that we have inherited the excellent genes for motion control since the day the team was formed.” Cao Yunan said, “Along the main line of controllers, ELITE has sequentially extended from traditional industrial robot motion mechanical control to the control function of collaborative robot human-machine integration, and then we go deeper into human-machine intelligence and realize the evolution from the cerebellum to the brain. ” Cao Yunan further explained that the core of robots is “control”. From the realization of simple control behaviors and processes of industrial control to the human-machine interaction of robots to the autonomous decision-making of robots — that is the true function of the “brain”.
Adhering to this concept, ELITE’s technology puzzle is gradually becoming full and complete: robot hardware, algorithms, operating systems, offline programming, integrated technology, and the layout of the entire product line are all independently developed.
Based on the logic of the product and thorough understanding of integration, ELITE is taking a completely autonomous route, turning the segmented areas into project products, packaging them for clients, and trying to shield non-standard automation items. At the same time, ELITE’s products also involve customization, including teach pendant modules, etc. to meet the needs of specific processes.
Cao Yunan said with a smile: “Our team is a group of doctors that were heading toward our 40s, so we were very cautious about starting a business, and we would want to use the traditional industrial ideas based on hardware to land the technology. Based on this, we will continue to try It is necessary to have both avant-garde and international elements as well as the local and more down-to-earth elements. We need both the spirit and the material. We will grasp both hands and be firm with both hands in order to focus on success. “
“One Vertical And One Horizontal” To Realize The Evolution Of “AI + Intelligent Robot”
Talking about ELITE’s product positioning, Cao Yunan summarized the idea of “one vertical and one horizontal”. “One horizontal” refers to the robot manufacturer adaptation controller and drive-control integrated machine. “One vertical” refers to using the advantage of control to develop the integration of next-generation robots and AI.
ELITE currently has more than 50 R & D personnel dedicated to the three major product directions. First, the robot core control group is responsible for the development of core control and technology to meet the diverse needs of robot manufacturers. Second, a team of about 20 people specializes in collaborative robot technology, including mechanical design, structural design, industrial design, UI design, servo motors and drives, and the development of algorithms and encoders. The third group is focused on the in-depth research on machine vision and AI integration.
When it comes to this year’s hot topic: collaborative robots, Cao Yunan becomes even more talkative than usual. In his opinion, it is more suitable to call collaborative robots the next-generation robots. Their attributes are more like a tool, with their light weight, high ease of use, low manufacturing cost, cheaper price, multi-sensor fusion, and wider application range and other characteristics. Companies of all sizes are eager to jump on this opportunity.
However, there are not many manufacturers whose products can be marketed and achieve mass production. Cao Yunan believes that there are three main reasons. First, the core technology of collaborative robots is still control, which is the top priority of every product. ” The control of collaborative robots not only includes the basic requirements of traditional industrial robot motion control such as fast and accurate, obstacle avoidance at singular points, trajectory planning, but also includes free drive teaching, autonomous obstacle avoidance, real-time torque feedforward, collision detection, vision Integration, etc. “
“In the future, collaborative robots will be ‘smart workers’ and have the ability to make autonomous decisions. Therefore, collaborative robots have explosive potential and the core lies in who yields the commanding power of ‘control’,” said Cao Yunan.
In addition, highly integrated joints are also a key point of technology. Highly centralized modules such as reducers, motors, drives, and brakes determine the accuracy and capabilities of the robot body.
At the same time, the competitiveness of collaborative robots is also reflected in cost control. In Cao Yunan’s view, the ability to control costs depends on the industrial upgrading of the core components of domestic robots. On the other hand, the more autonomous the product, the lower the cost.
At the Shanghai Industry Fair, ELITE exhibited its prototype of a seven-axis collaborative robot for the first time. This collaborative robot is a collection of the three core competitiveness mentioned above. The EC75 collaborative robot embeds ELITE’s completely independently developed control system and modular joints, integrates cutting-edge AI capabilities, and achieves extreme cost control while maintaining high performance.