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Tesla jumps on talent of Koch company making direct drive for robots

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Tesla appears to be behind the acquisition, or “acqui-hire”, of a company developing direct drive motors for robots as it is being liquidated by Koch Engineered Solutions.

Besides the SolarCity acquisition, Tesla has avoided large acquisitions despite a significant cash position.

However, the automaker is known to have made several smaller acquisitions, especially in the manufacturing industry, either to secure manufacturing automation technologies or to “acqui-hire”, which refers to acquiring a company’s talent.

Here are several examples:

Now, Electrek has learned that Tesla might be adding a company, or at the very least its talent, to that list.

Genesis Motion Solutions is an engineering firm specializing in direct drive motors based in British Colombia, Canada.

In 2018, it received a strategic, controlling investment from fossil fuel giant Koch Industries.

Earlier this year, they announced that Koch was stopping operations of the company and liquidating it:

Shortly after, Electrek noted that many Genesis engineers started to join Tesla. Now, Electrek has found 18 former employees of Genesis who have joined Tesla.

The first engineers to joined Tesla from Genesis were Matt Balisky and Nick di Lello last year prior to Koch liquidating the company. Their role of “design actuators for humanoid robotics” at Tesla hints at the company’s interest in Genesis.

Genesis’ main product was LiveDrive. The company described the product on its website before taking it down last year:

Introducing LiveDrive housed and frameless direct drive rotary motors – engineered with patented electromagnetic technology for more torque to mass than competing direct drive motors, resulting in maximum productivity and efficiency for your machinery.

Direct drive motors offer highly dynamic acceleration and a high level of positional precision,often resulting in high efficiency.

Their main downsides are generally their costs and their limited torque.

It makes them interesting solutions as actuators for robots, which is one of the applications envisioned by Genesis founder and LiveDrive inventor James Klassen

In the latest generation of its Optimus robot, Tesla has noted that it started to incorporate its own actuators designed in-house.

We couldn’t confirm if Tesla is only acquiring Genesis’ talent amid the liquidation, much like an “acqui-hire” situation, or if the automaker is acquiring some or all of the company’s assets.

Electrek checked the company’s Canadian patents and Genesis is still the owners on record.

Tesla recently announced that it deployed its first two Optimus robots inside its factories and it plans to sell them to customers as soon as next year.

Electrek’s Take

Interestingly, most of the new hires from Genesis came amid the big wave of layoffs earlier this year.

However, Tesla’s AI and Robotics department, which is leading the development of Tesla’s self-driving effort and Optimus humanoid robot, has been one of the rare departments spared in the round of layoffs.

Elon is making it clear that Tesla’s priority is self-driving and humanoid robot. After laying off as much as 20% of the staff, it’s clear that those are the safest jobs at Tesla.

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