Robotics Startup Figure in Pact with BMW Manufacturing for Humanoid Robots Integration

Robotics startup Figure has inked a partnership with BMW Manufacturing, marking its first commercial deal since its establishment in 2022, Reuters news report said.
BMW-picThe collaboration aims to deploy humanoid robots developed by Figure within BMW’s manufacturing facility in Spartanburg, South Carolina, the largest automotive exporter in the U.S. This development reflects the increasing trend of companies turning to human-like robots to undertake specific physical tasks in industrial settings.

While the exact number of robots to be utilized by BMW remains undisclosed, Brett Adcock, Chief Executive at Figure, indicated that the partnership would commence with a limited quantity and expand based on performance metrics. The humanoid robots are slated to be integrated into various manufacturing processes, including the body shop, sheet metal, and warehouse, over the next 12-24 months, following specialized training to execute specific tasks.

“We have designed the robot to be safe next to humans. Working with BMW on automation in a manufacturing facility is a huge validator for us in the space,” Brett Adcock said.

The Spartanburg facility, currently employing 11,000 people, will witness Figure’s humanoid robots contributing to the automation of tasks, enhancing efficiency, and potentially minimizing the need for humans to undertake repetitive or hazardous activities.

BMW Group earlier reveled that its research and development spending for the year to the end of September totalled €5.223 billion (2022: €4.894 billion/+6.7 percent).

In addition to development expenses for new models such as the new BMW 5 Series and those of the NEUE KLASSE, R&D spending was primarily focused on further electrification and digitalisation of the vehicle fleet and automated driving.

BMW Group’s capital expenditure for the first nine months was significantly higher, at €5.078 billion (2022: €4.680 billion/+8.5 percent). In the third quarter, the capital expenditure of €1.847 billion was focused on accelerating the ramp-up of electrification and topics related to digitalisation (2022: €1.751 billion/+5.5 percent).

Various car manufacturers, including Honda, Hyundai, and Tesla, have been exploring the integration of humanoid robots in assembly lines for several years. Elon Musk, Chief Executive of Tesla, recently unveiled the Optimus Gen 2 humanoid robot and predicted the presence of a billion such robots on Earth by the 2040s.

Investor interest in general-purpose humanoid robots equipped with artificial intelligence has surged due to their potential for versatile movement and the ability to learn new tasks.

Figure, headquartered in Sunnyvale, California, attracted $70 million in funding last year, led by Parkway Venture, reaching a valuation exceeding $400 million. This partnership with BMW Manufacturing further positions Figure as a key player in the evolving landscape of robotics and automation.

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