Usually, the most successful enterprises directly address the challenges facing different communities and stakeholders. The story of a startup’s journey to success is unique and special, resulting from the passionate efforts of entrepreneurs. In this article, you will explore the story of Czechia-based RoboTwin, an innovative robotic automation startup, and its journey from industry impulse through validation to a first-generation product.
RoboTwin builds Motion-Imitating Robotic Automation Solutions
Automation is not a new thing. Many industries have developed and adopted automation techniques – a classic example is robots working on conveyor belts. The typical approach to automation replaces trained workers with “generalist” robots. For specialized tasks, such as spray painting or coating, this means losing the know-how and experience of skilled specialists.
RoboTwin provides an alternative approach to automation based on motion tracking and imitation, allowing specialized workers to take on other meaningful tasks. While an experienced worker demonstrates how the paint job is done on the first product in the series, RoboTwin tracks their motion and processes this data into a robotics program. The robot is then able to imitate their exact motions and can finish the other products in the series.
Founder’s Profile: Megi Mejdrechová, Co-Founder & CTO at RoboTwin
For some people, entrepreneurship is a calling. However, Megi Mejdrechová, a Czech engineer, does not put herself into this category. If you would have asked her a few years ago, she probably would have said that entrepreneurship was unappealing to her. She enjoyed the more analytical and technical nature of the engineering field: “I really love technical tasks, development, solving challenges, and making something work”.
One question was instrumental in her decision to co-found RoboTwin in 2020: was she creating anything useful, which improves industry, the environment, or people’s lives?
At the end of her studies, she realized that she held the answer to this question in her hands: “after graduating I had the chance to work on my own innovation, which I believe has the potential to make the manufacturing industry a better and safer place”. The power to follow her own beliefs and create a positive impact eventually made entrepreneurship attractive to her.
Being a young woman in a male-dominated high-tech field only adds to the challenge. However, Mejdrechová does not see it that way: “I think it can be an advantage. You’re more visible, people are interested, and you can be part of a powerful women co-founder community which is very supportive and welcoming.”
The Journey of RoboTwin — from Prototype to Market
In 2019, a Czech spray painting company approached the Czech Technical University. The company’s purely manual processes meant that employees would spray paint an entire series of products by hand – a laborious, dirty, and unhealthy job. Further, these processes are not scalable, and the company had to decline orders due to a lack of workforce. Since they did not find a suitable solution on the market, they turned to the university.
It quickly turned out that most small and medium-sized paint shops, of which there are 250 in Czechia alone, still spray paint manually. Many want to robotize their production, but the specialized nature of their portfolio meant that this is either not possible, or expensive and inefficient.
Mejdrechová, a student at the Czech Technical University at the time, took up the challenge of developing a solution. Her goal: help automate a manufacturing industry still reliant on a human workforce, and thus reduce the number of hours these people spend in unhealthy or even toxic environments doing repetitive tasks.
“I was very excited about this topic and took this very seriously. It was simply not acceptable to me that so many people are still working in such conditions,” says Mejdrechová. She designed a way to robotize small-scale industrial painting easily and efficiently: “with the support of my supervisor, I tried out this motion tracking-based approach. We consulted with the paint shop, which helped me a lot to focus on a user-friendly solution”. Eventually, a prototype was successfully tested directly in a painting cell. It is on this technology that RoboTwin’s solution is based.
RoboTwin Impresses the Startup Community – from EIT Jumpstarter to ViennaUP’22
In 2022, the RoboTwin team spent five days in Vienna as part of the Discover Vienna: Manufacturing Edition program during the ViennaUP’22 startup festival. The program provides support to promising industrial startups from Central and Eastern Europe to access the Austrian market.
During Discover Vienna, RoboTwin competed in BoostUp! East, the regional edition of EIT Manufacturing’s competition for startups and scaleups. They took home the first prize in the SwitchOn category – the competition for early-stage startups. As part of the prize, RoboTwin received four-month-long support from EIT Manufacturing tailored to the individual startups’ needs. For RoboTwin, the focus was on the development and deliverables of a development strategy, including a business plan, profit and loss sheet, cash flow sheet, and pitch deck.
This support proved valuable for the Czech startup: “EIT Manufacturing has experience with business creation, they know the European market and understand the needs of a high-tech startup. We trust them and discuss our doubts openly and to the point”, says Megi Mejdrechová
In 2022, Mejdrechová and her startup RoboTwin were selected for and went on to win EIT Manufacturing RIS LEADERS. LEADERS is a competition under the Regional Innovation Scheme (RIS) for women innovators in manufacturing operating in European countries with moderate to modest levels of innovation.
RoboTwin also applied for EIT Manufacturing’s Call for Proposals 2023, which supports innovative manufacturing-related projects in the prototype stage, with the aim of launching products to the market in one year.
“Every year I spent working on our project was more exciting than the previous one. I believe that thanks to the various means of support from EIT Manufacturing, we have everything to keep this trend going in 2023. The provided funding could give us an exceptional boost to achieve our goals and fulfill our dream – to bring RoboTwin to market and enable the automation of difficult, unhealthy, and repetitive jobs in manufacturing all over the world. We were lucky to gain support from EIT Manufacturing CLC East. Their support is priceless”.
– Megi Mejdrechová, Co-founder and CTO at RoboTwin
EIT Manufacturing — Making Innovation Happen!
EIT Manufacturing is one of nine ‘Knowledge and Innovation Communities’ (KICs) supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the European Union. It brings together startups, businesses, research centers, and universities to strengthen cooperation in the European manufacturing ecosystem. It is focused on building innovation ecosystems for manufacturing that add unique value to products, processes, and services and inspire the creation of globally competitive and sustainable manufacturing.
EIT Manufacturing’s Co-Location Center (CLC) East, based in Vienna, is one of six innovation hubs and services seven countries in Central and Eastern Europe.
Are you a startup or business interested in working or collaborating with RoboTwin? Reach out to the team by connecting via Linkedin or directly through the following emails:
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