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From industrial robots to cobots

​Industrial robots were developed to replace human operators on repetitive or dangerous tasks. Cobots—or collaborative robots—are different. Human operators continue to use their unique know-how, while the robot works with them to make their work easier.

Published on 15 November 2018

​List, a CEA Tech institute, originally started developing robots to replace human operators in hazardous environments. New developments mainly consisted of remotely-operated robots for the nuclear industry. These robots were made up of two arms that were first connected mechanically and, later, by computer. This technology is known as remotely-operated force feedback robotics. List’s later research applied this force-feedback robotics technology to industrial settings, and collaborative robotics was born. Cobots do not replace human operators. They interact with their human counterparts, guiding their movements and helping them lift loads, for example. 

It takes knowledge in fields as diverse as mechanical engineering, electronics, automation, algorithms, and IT do develop a cobot. Researchers at List patented an innovative very-low-friction cable and ball-screw mechanism for its cobots. This advance enables cobots that are safe, accurate, and very sensitive in terms of force feedback, making them ideal for a wide range of tasks in the nuclear, offshore, mining, manufacturing, and healthcare industries.

Isybot, a List spinoff, developed the institute’s cobotics technologies to totally reinvent industrial workstations like sanding, polishing, and finishing. The company designs intuitive, accurate, lightweight cobots that are completely safe for the operator they are assisting. Plus, the operator can program the cobot simply by performing the task to be completed. The robot memorizes the movement and amount of force to apply. No computer programming is required! The operator can also make changes or corrections at any time, retaining full responsibility for quality completion of the task.

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