Ryan Polk, Karen Caswelch and “Dexter” – their robot – may be coming to a factory near you one day soon, with their dream of taking the edge off automation.
Archytas, Polk and Caswelch’s startup, is one of scores of Irvine-based startup firms seeking to change the world.
Archytas moved into Irvine’s Spectrum District in November 2020, after a brief incubation around Polk’s family room dining table, and has already helped small- and medium-sized firms, from a coffee roastery to a COVID-19 test lab, save money by having Dexter do their most menial tasks.
Dexter’s 200 parts can be made with a 3D printer before humans assemble and program it, a breakthrough that can drive down prices of automation by as much as 50%. Rote jobs like bagging coffee and manipulating laboratory pipettes can be delegated to Dexter.
“I’ve been around manufacturing assembly plants, and I can tell you that repetitive injuries are common, and that very few people wake up every day and say ‘I can’t wait to go put a label on a bag,’ ” Caswelch says.
Caswelch and Polk hope to open “micro-factories” where workers who’ve been displaced by automation can build and program new Dexters. “We’ve got our proof of concept,” Caswelch says. “One of our employees was a phone-company lineman who couldn’t physically do his job anymore, so now he’s building robots.”