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Rent-a-Robot: Silicon Valley's Answer to Labor Shortage in Smaller U.S. Factories

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A Rapid Robotics robot moves a product in a Westec Plastics Corp warehouse in Livermore, CA

The lease model puts much of the financial burden on robot startups which carry the risk of a manufacturer losing a contract or changing a product.

Credit: Nathan Frandino/REUTERS

Venture capitalists are investing in leasing robots from Silicon Valley startups to smaller U.S. factories amid a labor shortage.

Under the lease model, most of the financial onus is on robot startups if a manufacturer loses a contract or changes a product if the robots fail.

For example, rent-a-robot company Formic Technologies was set up with support from Lux Capital and Initialized Capital; Chicago-based metal-stamping plant Polar Hardware Manufacturing pays less than $10 an hour for a Formic robot, versus over $20 an hour for an average human laborer.

Initialized Capital's Garry Tan sees interest in leased robots fueled by cheaper and improved robot computer vision and artificial intelligence technology, low interest rates, and escalating U.S.-China tensions threatening supply chains.

From Reuters
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