Wandelbots is a spinoff company from Dresden University of Technology, Germany with a groundbreaking platform that makes it possible to program practically any robot fast and with lower costs, making robot-based solutions available for a higher number of businesses.
The TracePen is a programming device and a part of the Wandelbots Teaching Solution. With the TracePen it’s possible to teach a robot in a matter of minutes by simply showing it the path by gesture-controlled programming. The user’s movements are visualized simultaneously in the app and then transferred to the robot controller as robotic code.
Read our customer story on how Haltian helped Wandelbots to make the TracePen a market-ready product.
From the first prototype to mass production
The initial idea for founding Wandelbots was to make robots accessible to anyone. By nature, industrial robots are designed specifically to execute a variety of tasks of a certain application. However, programming is the bottleneck that requires expert level skills and still takes a long time to complete. To solve this issue, Wandelbots created an easy to use platform that includes a gesture-based robot teaching solution to make it easy for the non-expert user to work with robots.
The Wandelbots team made some early prototypes of TracePen that were presented at an industry event and got excellent feedback for their idea. Shortly after this, a decision to make the TracePen a commercial device was made and Wandelbots began to look for a product development partner that could develop the TracePen concept further. The partner needed to have the capability to conduct all the project phases, as well as the expertise and experience in all engineering disciplines like electronics and hardware, mechanics and embedded software. Since Wandelbots wanted to get their product ready quickly, they acknowledged that using an external partner would be more efficient and also faster.
Haltian was chosen as the product development partner because of our good reputation, impressive track record in making first-of-its-kind devices and an excellent network of suppliers and partnerships.
“While searching for a competent engineering partner we were recommended to talk to Haltian through our investor network. Quickly, we were confident that Haltian is the right partner for bringing our technically ambitious industrial product into large-scale manufacturing. Not only do they have an outstanding reputation and unique references when it comes to technology engineering services, but also, they have access to a great ecosystem of long-established partners and suppliers in Finland. Finally, their location within the EU meant for us short communication cycles and the ability to meet both in-person as well as remotely which was important in times of the COVID-pandemic,” says Jonas Schreiber, Chief of Staff at Wandelbots.
New product development using SteamVR technology
In the first kickoff meeting with Haltian, the Wandelbots team presented the prototypes and their ideas for features and functionalities the TracePen would have. From there, the project was quickly started in close cooperation with the customer.
The Wandelbots team provided the industrial design, specified key functions and features for the product and how it should work with the rest of the Wandelbots system. Haltian then executed the detailed design and product development accordingly. “When we wanted something to look or work the certain way, the Haltian team came up with some suggestions on how to make it happen” Dirk Ackner, Project Manager at Wandelbots says. “Like, when we required a certain amount of battery life, Haltian came up with battery solutions that would work for us” he continues.
One of the important features of the TracePen is that it uses SteamVR technology for position tracking. SteamVR is an emerging type of Virtual Reality technology that requires a lot of expertise from the product development team. While SteamVR documentation is available, there are a lot of of details and nuances that simply need to be learned. For the challenge of SteamVR, Wandelbots and Haltian joint forces with Tundra Labs, a company that is an expert in SteamVR technology. Combining Tundra Labs’ insights and Haltians product development expertise we managed to pass many typical hick-ups related to material selections, sensor placement, component selections and the integration of SteamVR and device-specific hardware.
All in all, the TracePen product development project included:
- Mechanical design including primary construction, material selections, Design For Manufacturability (DFM) and more
- Electronics engineering for custom hardware and implementation of Tundra Labs’ SteamVR module
- Software/ firmware development, testing, debugging and releasing.
- Production testing solutions
- Prototype manufacturing and testing
- Market access / Type approval testing
Precise motion tracking was the main requirement for the TracePen to have. During the close co-operation, Wandelbots was able to test the different features and validate the accuracy of the product with test prototypes that were made in different crucial stages of the product development. Wandelbots particularly appreciated the chance to talk with all the Haltian experts involved in the development.
Haltian extensive networks for trusted suppliers became an important aspect for Wandelbots as they didn’t have to use too much time and effort to look for partners and service providers.
An exciting project for an amazing robot programming device
Wandelbots would recommend Haltian as a new product development partner for any company wanting to get their idea to a production-ready device. “There was a lot of flexibility when working with Haltian. From the beginning, we got the feeling that they were a low bureaucracy company with a lean and efficient style of doing things which matched our team’s way of working,” Dirk comments.
With the TracePen and the Wandelbots Teaching Solution anyone can program a robot: You simply record the movement you want using the TracePen and this movement then gets displayed in an app for refinement and finally will be executed by the robot accordingly! With Wandelbots’ solution, customers can reduce the downtime and programming tasks. What used to take days can now be done within a few hours.
The TracePen is a super functional and well working product, and Wandelbots is very happy with how the product performs. The feedback from Wandelbots customers has also been very positive: “Our customers have liked how TracePen feels in the hand, and how the tracking works.” Dirk comments.
Time was one of the most relevant factors for Wandelbots and the project was completed nearly on schedule. “When we faced any challenges, we always moved fast onto how to solve them rather than just talking about them. I believe that saved us a lot of time and we got the TracePen market-ready as fast as possible,” Dirk says.
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