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Pittsburgh mobile robots company Aethon looks to expand

Aaron Aupperlee
robot
Aethon Inc.’s self-navigating TUG robot is used in more than 140 hospitals.
PTRAethon1020414
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Aethon President and CEO Aldo Zini said he expects TUG robots to be in hospitals in Germany, Canada and Australia before the end of the year. The company makes robotics for the health care industry.

The Pittsburgh-area robotics company responsible for the helpful and friendly looking TUG robot will use the infusion of cash from its recent acquisition to expand, hire more employees and place its robots all over the world, its CEO told the Tribune-Review.

Aldo Zini, CEO of Aethon , said the Robinson-based company is looking at finding a larger office space and could hire 12 new employees by the end of the year and more next year.

“We’re definitely excited because this is capital investment that we needed to grow as a company,” Zini said.

Aethon currently employs about 70 people.

ST Engineering, a Singapore-based firm, bought Aethon for a reported $36 million, according to several sources. Zini would not disclose the terms of the deal but said ST Engineering would invest another $10 million in Aethon to grow the company.

Aethon recently sold its prescription-tracking hardware and software, MedEx, to North Carolina-based Inmar. Money from that sale will also be re-invested in Aethon’s robotics business.

“That is really the focus of the company,” Zini said.

Zini, who grew up in Dormont and Beechview and has a degree from Carnegie Mellon University, said both he and ST Engineering wanted to keep and grow the company in Western Pennsylvania. Aethon hopes to form stronger ties with CMU and participate in the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute at the university.

Zini said the ST Engineering deal started as Aethon was looking to grow its global presence. The company wanted a partner to help bring its robots to Asia, Europe and more. ST Engineering was originally going to be a distributor.

“Long story short, they decided to buy us,” Zini said.

Aethon started in 2004. It developed the TUG robot to automate small, indoor deliveries such as medications and surgical supplies in hospitals.

About 500 TUGs are in 150 hospitals, including UPMC, which is a big customer, Zini said. Aethon also has robots in a semi conductor plant in China and a Bosch diesel plant in Turkey. Zini hopes to expand the use of TUGs in factories, warehousing and manufacturing facilities.

TUGs will also start showing up in hotels, Zini said. The company recently signed on to a pilot program at a major resort hotel in Florida. Aethon will provide robots to handle things like delivering linens and luggage.

“Eventually, room service as well,” Zini said.

A Sheraton Hotel in Los Angeles will also start using TUGs.

Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected], 412-336-8448 or via Twitter @tinynotebook.

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