© Roundpeg Technologies

Roundpeg Technologies: “Our Robots Recognize People and Don’t Endanger Them”

The Munich startup Roundpeg Technologies develops robots that can recognize people in order to avoid putting them in danger. The aim is for them to make production lines safer, faster and more flexible. In our interview, co-founders Oliver Krieg and Etienne Eichstaedt explain how it works exactly and what differentiates the solution from conventional cobots.

Munich Startup: What does your startup do? What problem are you solving? 

Oliver Krieg, Roundpeg Technologies: We build robots that have AI-supported human recognition for industrial production. This makes it possible to use the robots right in middle of production lines and to let them work with humans at a high speed without safety fences. And that’s how Roundpeg Technologies makes it much easier to manufacture products. 

Relying on a highly automated production line with robots that is completely closed off with fences around it requires a huge investment, and you are extremely inflexible at the same time. For example, if parts aren’t available or the product isn’t accepted well by the market, it’s difficult to implement changes. That’s why production in Germany still involves a great deal of manual work, and that applies to both SMEs and large companies. However, you can’t scale this type of production because automating small manual processes is problematic. 

We want to fill this gap with our system by putting robots between the workers in the middle of the production line. We don’t need fences because our robots recognize people and don’t endanger them. This makes it much easier to advance the automation of operational tasks and to present new manufacturing concepts that are much more flexible and also easier to scale. 

Etienne Eichstaedt: Especially new products generally require a greater amount of manual labor in production in order to maintain a certain degree of flexibility. If a product is successful, you can then use the incoming cashflow to drive automation with our robots and the people in your workforce can work on new products. In times with a shortage of skilled workers, our robots help people with strenuous and monotonous tasks, which not only increases product quality, but also production volume. 

With Roundpeg Technologies, collisions don’t happen in the first place 

Munich Startup: But that’s nothing out of the box! 

Oliver Krieg: There aren’t any robots out there at the moment that can directly recognize people. The current concepts all involve what are known as collaborative robots. They’re built to stop if they collide with a person. In order not to hurt anyone, they work at a very low speed. We’re able to avoid that completely, because thanks to our all-in-one system integrated into the robots, collisions don’t happen in the first place. The big advantage is that they work at a much higher speed because our robots’ movement isn’t restricted by the possibility of a collision. 

Munich Startup: What’s your founding story? 

Oliver Krieg: I used to be responsible for product management at a larger corporation. It was during that time that I saw many ideas fail due to the high investment costs for production. It is true that robots on production lines reduce these costs, which is why the collaborative robot approach is great in principle. But they simply can’t keep up with the normal production speed of a human being. As a result, you always have to build your production processes around the robots. I wanted to change that with a robot that doesn’t lead to collisions. 

Of course, you don’t found a startup like Roundpeg Techologies alone. In particular, I got in touch with old contacts in my personal network. For example, I worked with my co-founder Etienne in the TUfast team of Formula Student at the Technical University of Munich many years ago and was able to get him interested in the world of robotics. 

“There’s no point having a robot that just stands there” 

Munich Startup: What have been your biggest challenges so far? 

Etienne Eichstaedt: The biggest challenge was definitely the Motek trade fair in October 2022. It was a big milestone on our agenda that we definitely had to hit, because that trade fair was the perfect platform for presenting our system to the world for the first time. And it’s not enough to show up with a few interesting product ideas. You only get attention if you have a real product. There’s no point having a robot that just stands there. That’s why it was important to have a functioning product that grabs attention and also moves and stops when it’s supposed to stop. We wanted to put a high-quality robot on display, so that required a very heavy workload before the fair. 

Oliver Krieg: The weeks before the fair were really busy, that’s certain. But at the end of the day, people will only believe you if you can actually show them how the product works in real life. We really wanted to push our MVP to the point where we could talk to customers about their problems at the trade fair and not just about our ideas. And even though we did have a few sleepless nights, it was worth it. It went so well that we even had orders placed at the trade fair. Another thing that’s exciting about our solution is that people understand it right away. When the robot moves at a high speed and then suddenly stops in front of you, you intuitively understand what that means. Customers then immediately start thinking about their problems and how we could solve them. 

Roundpeg Technologies is preparing their market launch 

Munich Startup: Where would you like to be in one year, and in five years? 

Oliver Krieg: Our market launch is planned for next year and we’re preparing everything right now to make that happen. For the time being, we’re concentrating on Germany and Europe. Of course, there is a desire to expand even further, but you have to see where the journey takes you first. In any case, we’re doing everything we can to ensure that Roundpeg Technologies continues to grow and that we truly make it easier for producers to bring products to the market. 

Munich Startup: How have you experienced Munich as a startup location so far? 

Oliver Krieg: We’re Munich natives ourselves, we grew up here and went to university here. It’s a great city with a lot to offer in terms of quality of life. When we finished our studies, UnternehmerTUM was still quite young and still a startup itself. Since then, a genuine startup ecosystem has emerged here in Munich, which is incredibly helpful. We contacted UnternehmerTUM soon after we started, and they gave us a lot of support, just like Baystartup. Both of them helped us in many ways, which was invaluable for us. Munich is also a good starting point for attracting employees. 

Etienne Eichstaedt: The startup density here in Munich is very high. You can exchange ideas and help each other, so we’ve learned a lot about dos and don’ts from other startups. For example, it was through our network that we got to know Fabian from Fazua . He showed us how they build their own powertrains on site, which is obviously very interesting for us. The exchange of information in the ecosystem really gives you a lot of possibilities. 

“You can’t reinvent the wheel all day long” 

Munich Startup: Outsource it or do it yourself? 

Oliver Krieg: We actually like to do things ourselves because it gives us more control over how the product looks in the end. But the truth is: With a startup, you can’t reinvent the wheel all day long. So primarily, we do the things ourselves that differentiate us in the market and that are noticed by our customers. 

Etienne Eichstaedt: At a certain point, you simply have to focus and prioritize. Then you end up having to outsource a few things. But we don’t want to pass everything along yet – as Oliver says, the goal is to still be in control in many areas.