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Franka Emika, the German-based developer of the Panda collaborative robot arm, has filed for insolvency due to “irreconcilable shareholder differences.”
The preliminary insolvency administrator, Dr. Matthias Hofmann, and his team are currently preparing the pre-financing of insolvency benefits for the more than 100 employees. “The wages of the employees are secured up to and including October 2023 through state-sponsored insolvency benefits. Until then, we will work together to find a solution for the future of the company. I am very confident that we will succeed in leading Franka Emika into a good future together,” says Hofmann.
The company issued a LinkedIn post to give more details about the news:
According to a release from the company, talks with investors in recent months could not be concluded due to differences among the shareholders of Franka Emika. Hofmann will be tasked with taking charge of these ongoing talks and opening discussions with new investors.
Currently, Hofmann and his team are taking an in-depth look at the company. Franka Emika’s management team and Hofmann have already informed more than 100 Franka Emika employees about the situation, and are currently in the process of informing customers, partners, and other stakeholders. The team is also working to expand the company’s search for investors.
While these two events could be unrelated, perhaps the first sign of trouble for Franka Emika occurred in early 2020. Systems integrator Voith Robotics stopped selling the Panda arm in favor of cobots from Universal Robots. At the time, a source told The Robot Report the relationship between Franka Emika and Voith was a mismatch from the beginning.
“Franka was geared toward education instead of industrial, and Voith is purely industrial, so they didn’t mix well,” the source said. “Franka is technically very good, but it’s very hard to build and it reflects in the cost, so they can not compete with UR. And the 3 Kg payload is too small. A 5 Kg payload is the most popular, followed by 10 Kg and 3 Kg is [a distant] third.”
Both Hofmann and Franka Emika seem optimistic about discussions with future investors. “Our order books are full, and we are pleased to be able to serve our customers well again with the support of our supplier and Dr. Hofmann,” Franka Emika Managing Director Dr. Patrick Pfaff said. “In the meantime, more than half of our orders now come from industry – including industrial players, as well as innovators like Deepmind and a recently won OEM in the US covering a completely newly market segment, major research institutions and numerous medium-sized enterprises, addressing labor shortage and securing their local competitiveness with our solution. With a new investor at our side and with the support of our business partners, we can double our previous year’s turnover in the short term and achieve a positive cash flow.“
Franka Emika is likely best known for its Panda cobot arm, which is widely used for research purposes. More recently, the company released its Franka Research 3, an updated research platform for robotics. The platform includes a robotic arm and the Franka Control Interface (FCI) so users can explore low-level programming and control schemes. It also offers production-level robots for industrial robotics automation.
If you’re interested in learning more about the intricacies of German insolvency law, go here to find more information. The Robot Report reached out to Franka Emika for details. This story is developing and will be updated as needed.