Robot ‘Skin’ can help more efficient human-robot collaboration

News - 12 April 2017

Partners from the Factory-in-a-Day project have developed a robot prototype that consist of a robotic arm completely covered with sensors. The idea is that this will prevent the arm to bump into people or objects in a working environment.


Visitors to the RoboBusiness Europe 2017 event (from 19 to 21 April in The Hague and Delft) will be greeted in a very special way. They will be welcomed by a robotic arm completely covered with a robot ‘skin’ developed by the Institute for Cognitive Systems in the Technical University of Munich , which amongst other things, can measure the distance between themselves and objects or people. This robotic system is a result of the EU project Factory-in-a-Day.

Efficient collaboration

The efficient collaboration of human operators and robots is an important aspect of Factory-in-a-Day. Fitting sensors to a robot to make it “feel” that either people or objects are around it, is potentially a good way of efficient collaboration. Current safety mechanism allow interaction by stopping the system when a collision is detected. However, avoiding potential collisions is desired, because it provides a more flexible, efficient interaction without stops. To put this idea to the test, the Institute for Cognitive Systems in the Technical University of Munich developed a ‘smart skin’ with sensors that can gauge pressure, distance, acceleration and temperature.  

Avoiding collisions

The sensors in this robot skin can help the robot to avoid contact/crashing by using intelligent controls. Consortium partners CNRS-LAAS and Siemens PLM have provided technology for obstacle avoidance. ‘Dynamic collision avoidance can enhance productivity of robots that collaborate with humans in the factory floor’ says researcher Carlos Hernandez Corbato from Delft University of Technology.  ‘Another advantage of this robot skin is that it is auto-calibrating. This allows for quick installation and configuration of the skin in different robot arms.’

'Delft University of Technology was mainly concerned with the software (open-source) for the UR5 robotic arm, focusing on the integration of all the systems. In principle, the system with sensors can be used in robotic arms for a whole range of applications.’


European small and medium-sized businesses rarely make use of advanced robot technology. The EU ‘Factory-in-a-Day’ project is an attempt to change this situation by developing a flexible, inexpensive robotic systems that can also be leased. The international consortium consists of sixteen partners with TU Delft as coordinating university. The robotic arm is still at the development stage; the final prototype will be ready to be shown in September, at the end of the project Factory-in-a-Day.

The unique robotic arm will be on show at the RoboBusiness Europe event, booth B170, which takes place in The Hague and Delft from 19 to 21 April 2017. The event combines the trade fairs and conferences of RoboBusiness Europe, TUS Expo and ROS Industrial Summit, making it one of the largest robotics events in the world. It is expected to attract over 4,000 visitors from around the globe. The conferences will be held at the World Forum in The Hague and there will be an extensive programme in and around Delft.

More information

Dr Carlos Hernandez Corbato - TU Delft, +31 15 27 88643

Ilona van den Brink - TU Delft science information officer, +31 152784259