Co-founder and CTO of Universal Robots wins Engelberger Award – the ‘Nobel Prize of Robotics’

Esben Østergaard, co-founder and chief technology officer of Universal Robots, a market leader of collaborative robots, has been awarded the automation industry’s most prestigious honor.

Esben Østergaard, co-founder and chief technology officer of Universal Robots, a market leader of collaborative robots, has been awarded the automation industry’s most prestigious honor.

The Robotic Industries Association (RIA) has announced Esben Østergaard as the recipient of the Engelberger Robotics Award.

The Engelberger Awards Dinner and Ceremony will be held at 6:30pm on Wednesday, June 20, 2018 at the Hofbräuhaus in Munich, Germany as part of Automatica and the International Symposium on Robotics.

President of RIA, Jeff Burnstein, calls the Universal Robots CTO a visionary in defining a new category of robotics.

“His work in the field of collaborative robot applications has allowed robots to enter previously unthinkable sectors in just about every industry,” says Burnstein. “Esben Østergaard’s emphasis on robots that work side-by-side with people and are easy to use has created enormous interest among many small and medium sized companies who never even considered robots before. In a world that is increasingly characterized by people and robots working together, Esben’s pioneering technology advances play a pivotal role.”

Østergaard spearheads the development of Universal Robots’ collaborative robot arms. Universal Robots’ 2008 launch of the a commercially viable robot able to operate safely outside enclosures alongside people came at great financial risks in a market unaccustomed to human-robot collaboration. The company is now a market leader of collaborative robots – also referred to as “cobots” – with a current 58% share of all cobots sold worldwide, and posting 72% growth in 2017.

“I’m deeply honored to win the award named after Joseph Engelberger, who revolutionized industrial manufacturing with robotics,” says Esben Østergaard. “Engelberger’s view that a robot should be able to handle a range of tasks in a factory aligns with Universal Robots’ core mission, and I’m a great admirer of his work.”

According to a release, Østergaard leads a team of developers that became the first to launch 3D robot programming via a tablet interface. This has enabled users with no previous programming experience to quickly set up and operate the UR robots.

He also developed the robot’s force and safety control features, which ensure that if the robot collides with a person, the robot automatically stops operating and does not cause bodily harm, adhering to the current safety requirements on force and torque limitations. These features have eliminated the need for safety guarding in a vast majority of the UR robot applications currently installed.

“We want to place control of factory automation back into the hands of operators. Instead of replacing people, we want to give them a tool to do their work more efficiently,” Østergaard said. “We want to remove them from working like robots to becoming robot programmers and handling more value-added tasks. Doing this will perhaps be the best long-term result derived from leveraging collaborative robots.”

“This redeployment of human creativity interspersed with the robot’s repeatability addresses the market evolution and customer requirements demanding a high degree of product individualization,” Østergaard said, adding that the industry is in the midst of the fifth industrial revolution. “It’s a qualitative change both in the products made and for the people making them.”

Article topics

Email Sign Up

Get news, papers, media and research delivered
Stay up-to-date with news and resources you need to do your job. Research industry trends, compare companies and get market intelligence every week with Robotics 24/7. Subscribe to our robotics user email newsletter and we'll keep you informed and up-to-date.

Robot Technologies