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Meer our E.P.I.C. Researchers: Associate Professor Mats Isaksson

Recently we interviewed one of our E.P.I.C. researchers from Swinburne University of Technology, Associate Professor Mats Isaksson, co-Lead of the ‘‘Biomimic Cobots‘ program in the Centre. Mats shared some of his career highlights so far, and a little about his many different research roles!

Tell us a bit about yourself and your research with the Centre? Include the long term impact of what you are doing

I grew up in the north of Sweden, close to the Arctic Circle. It is an interesting place where the sun never sets in the summers (and hardly rises in the winters). I did my undergraduate and MsC at Lund University, specialising in Automatic Control. After finishing my MsC in 1997, I began working for the motion control department at ABB Robotics in Sweden.

After 10 years at ABB Robotics, Sweden, I relocated to Newcastle, Australia. After working for my own IT company for a year, I was contacted by Boeing who together with ABB offered me a very generous opportunity for a PhD candidature. The PhD project targeted investigating the feasibility of a novel parallel kinematic robots for aerospace applications and was carried out at the Institute for Intelligent Systems Research (IISR) at Deakin University in Geelong.

After finishing my PhD, I worked for three years at IISR before starting at Swinburne in 2016. I am currently an A/Prof at the Department of Mechanical and Product Design Engineering where I am the unit convenor for Control Engineering. I am also the program leader of the Intelligent Robotics Program at the Manufacturing Futures Institute and the manager of the Intelligent Robotics Lab, which I founded in 2021. Having an industrial background, I have always focused on industry collaborations and during my last three years at Swinburne I have been awarded above $12M in funding for such projects.

 

Why did you decide to be a part of the Australian Cobotics Centre?

Currently, my main research focus is medical robotics and I am working with Cambridge Medical Robotics and Mulgrave Hospital on projects targeting the ergonomic benefits of robot-assisted laparoscopic surgery. I am also the principal supervisor for three PhD candidates whose projects target the use of collaborative robots in medical applications. One project is a collaboration with Baker Heart Institute targeting the use of collaborative robots for teleoperation of heart ultrasound examinations. I am also researching and developing systems for autonomous ultrasound examinations, robotic photobiomodulation therapy, and skin cancer detection. As so much of what I am doing involve collaborative robots and industry collaborations, becoming a member of the centre was a perfect fit for me. I am very excited about learning from colleagues in this field and supporting the robotization of Australian industry.

 

What project are you most proud of throughout your career and why?

One of my longest and most interesting projects during my time at ABB Robotics was to develop robot force control functionality. The entire project, from low-level control loops to designing a user interface, were done by myself and one other colleague. This was quite satisfying as in a large company you typically only provide one piece of the puzzle. As far as I know, ABB was the first company including force control functionality in their industrial robots, which enables lead-teach programming and advanced assembly and machining applications. I am also very proud of leading the IMCRC Tradiebot project where a small team integrated 3D scanning, 3D printing, advanced robotics, and the development of a novel polypropylene composite filament, to build a fully working prototype for automatic repair of car headlights.

 

What do you hope the long-term impact of your work will be?

Although some larger Australian companies are in the frontline of robotics integration, the general impression I get when visiting industries is that the level of automation is low compared to northern Europe. This is particularly true for SMEs. Although the increased safety of cobots makes them faster to commission, developing a cobot cell still requires significant know-how. My hope is that the Cobotics Centre can contribute in developing methods that reduce the requirement for expert knowledge and traditional programming skills when developing a cobot cell.

 

Aside from your research, what topic could you give an hour-long presentation on with little to no preparation?

I can talk about many things such as being bitten by sharks and attacked by Cassowaries but not sure if anyone would care to listen 😊

 

Mats is also the Research Lead for the Intelligent Robotics program at Swinburne’s Manufacturing Futures Research Institute.

Meet our E.P.I.C. Researcher, Associate Professor Glenda Caldwell

Associate Professor Glenda CaldwellThe Australian Cobotics Centre has some incredibly E.P.I.C. researchers. Each month we will be profiling a different researcher. Associate Professor Glenda Caldwell, co-Lead of the ‘Designing Socio-Technical Robotics Systems‘ program and the Centre’s Open Innovation Network, is kicking things off.

We sat down with Glenda recently to find out more about why she does what she does.

  • Tell us a bit about yourself and your research with the Centre?

My disciplinary background is in Architecture with a particular interest in computational design and digital fabrication. I have always been fascinated – a little intimidated and inspired – by technology (software and hardware) and its impact on how we make things, how it impacts our design processes, and our ability to visualise and communicate our ideas. The research we are doing in Program 3: Designing Socio-Technical Robotic Systems looks to explore and further understand what and how human centered design methods and processes can facilitate or drive the integration, implementation and adoption of Collaborative Robots into manufacturing tasks of industry partners. We explore the human factors such as ergonomics and motivation, the design factors such as use of space, design of systems and robotic tools, and the virtual factors such as use of VR to simulate and validate cobotic tasks in safe virtual environments. We intend to use design approaches to take the people on the workshop floor on the journey with us of exploring how and why a cobot can improve the manufacturing tasks they are working on. The outcomes we seek will deliver safer working environments that are more productive and efficient while more importantly will also be more enjoyable and stimulating for humans working collaboratively with robots.

  • Why did you decide to be a part of the Australian Cobotics Centre?

I see being a part of the Australian Cobotics Centre as a natural next step and evolution from the completed IMCRC Design Robotics Project where I was a Chief Investigator. There were many research opportunities that arose from that project where we could see the tremendous value for further Cobotics research in manufacturing. The ACC provides opportunities to work with researchers from a range of disciplines and backgrounds from UTS, Swinburne and QUT while collaborating with diverse industry partners who create different types of products using different manufacturing processes and materials. This mixture and breadth of expertise from both the academics and the industry sides is super exciting and essential to collaborate on and address the different challenges and many opportunities for cobotic solutions. This is an ideal test bed for progressing impactful design and cobotic research which is emerging in recognition not only in manufacturing but in other sectors such as construction and for helping to develop the next research superstars who are embarking on their own research and career journeys.

  • What project are you most proud of throughout your career and why?

During my PhD I was able to secure internal seed funding for a project called the InstaBooth, a purpose designed and built pop-up interactive booth for community engagement. Its purpose was to include and capture the voices of people from public places and assist in their communication and envisioning of the city they wanted to live in.  This tiny, but quick to grow large, project was highly collaborative with colleagues from across disciplines, with other PhD students, undergraduate students, other universities including California Polytechnic University and University of Sydney, and numerous community partners. The project was creative, collaborative, and so much fun while also highly impactful not only for the researchers and students involved but also for the community members who participated and engaged with it. I am most proud of this project.

  • What do you hope the long-term impact of your work will be?

My ambition and long -term impact of my work will not only be for the successful design of the integration of cobots into our industry partners’ manufacturing lines but also more broadly to the manufacturing and construction industry demonstrating that human centered design is essential in creating workspaces, places, and processes that respond to the needs of humans while being safe, efficient, and sustainable. I am driven by openness, collaboration and creativity for innovative outcomes and hope that these key ingredients will help to create environments that support gender equity in research and climate responsible processes and solutions.

  • Aside from your research, what topic could you give an hour-long presentation on with little to no preparation?

I could talk about teaching in Architecture or Research Methods. I could talk broadly about Computational Architecture and Design Robotics. My other research topics – Media Architecture (can put together quickly) or Human Building Interaction (would need time to put this together though) is something I could also talk about. I could also talk about being an academic and a mum, and the juggle of work life balance : )

Glenda also works with the QUT Design Lab. Read more about one of Glenda’s recent projects which was a collaboration between QUT,  Griffith University, The University of Melbourne, La Trobe University, and Monash University: Transforming Aged Care with Virtual Reality.