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Collaborative Robotics: Helping to create a safer workplace and more engaged workforce

Cobotics can help create safer working environments for people. This is particularly important within Australian manufacturing, an industry with one of the highest incident rates for serious claims of work-related injury or disease (Key work health and safety statistics, Australia 2021 | Safe Work Australia).

Our Industry Partners have always been committed to continually improving health and safety of their workers and for many, this desire to consistently improve is one of the main drivers for their involvement with the Centre.

So, how can cobots create a safer workplace?

Cobotics can allow workers to avoid the dirty, repetitive, and hazardous tasks they currently encounter and instead focus on high-detail and knowledge led tasks that a robot cannot do, such as finishing and quality assurance work, programming and servicing cobotic technology, and other highly skilled and knowledgeable tasks.

Cobots allow workers to be removed from potentially hazardous situations through:

  • Decreased time spent on activities that expose the worker to dangerous substances– e.g. cobotic welding or spray painting
  • Reduction in repetitious tasks removing the risk of repetitious strain injuries
  • Remote operation to reduce the risk of injury to the worker. e.g. through operating machinery, handling dangerous materials, or working in confined spaces

One of the Centre’s industry partners, InfraBuild, has a Safety Vision where every employee returns home fit and well at the end of each workday. One of their principles in achieving their vision is to be always alert to hazards.

“As a steel producer, our process involves casting 80 tonnes of 1640°C liquid steel into 2050kg billets and rolling those billets at 1050°C into bar and rod products”, describes InfraBuild’s Andrew Thomas. “Our most effective hazard control is elimination and we see cobots as providing opportunities to remove our operators from what are hazardous workplaces by virtue of the high temperature,  volume and energy of the steel.”

The Centre’s researchers and engineers are working with InfraBuild to research and develop a high-speed sensing and control system that is capable of identifying and moving steel rods and bars with the ability to be able to work safely within relative proximity of their operators. This will result in better working conditions for employees who will supervise the cobot, reducing manual handling tasks and risk of injury.

The project team are careful to ensure any new technology does not introduce new or increase existing hazards to InfraBuild employees.  Ideally it will also increase the health and wellness of their employees. Andrew notes that this can be achieved by including the employees in the design and implementation of the solution and reducing uncertainty for employees through, open and honest communication with employees around the benefits and reasons for introducing technology.

Cobotics also offers organisations an opportunity to attract and retain workers. With labour shortages across the industry, it is important that organisations focus not just on the physical safety of their workplace, but also the ongoing opportunities for existing staff to be exposed to, and learn new skills; and the ability to broaden workforce participation by offering work that relies less on specific physical capabilities.

The Australian Cobotics Centre’s researchers are working with partners to identify solutions can improve a worker’s employment through the development of new skills, and more generally, allowing greater diversity and longevity in the workforce.

This is a priority for our industry partners who want to ensure they have a healthy, safe and engaged workforce.

The Centre has research projects that focus on:

You can read more about InfraBuild’s commitment to Safety here: Safety at InfraBuild – InfraBuild

Further details about our partners and projects can be found via

Happy World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development!

Happy World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development!

Today we recognise and celebrate the contribution of engineers and the importance their work plays in building a sustainable, secure, healthy and better world.

Engineering is crucial to the development of new technologies enabling the 4th Industrial Revolution such as artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, robotics or quantum computing.  The strength of our Australian Cobotics Centre is its team of multi-disciplinary researchers and industry partners.  But today we celebrate our Centre’s engineers who hold undergraduate and post graduate degrees in Aerospace Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Robotics, Mechatronics, Automation, Manufacturing, Materials Engineering and  Engineering Physics. This range of engineering skills and experience is being used to develop robots that are able to mimic humans. Advancements in robotic engineering will allow many workers to avoid the dirty, repetitive, and dangerous tasks they currently encounter. Instead the workers will use collaborative robots as one of the new tools at their disposal.

The Australian Cobotics Centre has a research program specifically dedicated to understanding how this can be achieved. The Biomimic Cobots Program aims to address the fundamental challenges of enabling robots to work with humans in the conditions Australian manufacturing industry demands, and to build skills and capacity for the future workforce using and deploying these new technologies.

The Biomimic Cobots Program is led by engineers Associate Prof. Teresa Vidal-Calleja and Prof. XiaoQi Chen. Prof. Vidal-Calleja is a robotics expert focusing on enabling robots to be deployed in environments that are hazardous or difficult for people to access and Prof. Chen’s research interests cover robotics, smart manufacturing, advanced materials processing, additive manufacturing, and autonomous systems.

The program team also includes engineering researchers Prof. Jonathan Roberts, Dist. Prof. Peter Corke, Prof. Robert Fitch , Prof. Jochen Deuse , Dr Mats Isaksson, Dr Marc Carmichael and Fouad Sukkar. One of the program’s first project includes Engineers in QUT’s Research Engineering Facility and Industry Partner InfraBuild. The aim of the project is to research and develop a high-speed sensing and control system that is capable of identifying and moving steel rods and bars and have the ability to be able to work safely within relative proximity of their operators. This will result in better working conditions for employees who will operate the cobot, reducing manual handling tasks, which will result in higher quality products for their customers.

Learn more about World Engineering Day 

Current Developments in Medical Robotics seminar from Swinburne’s Manufacturing Futures Research Institute

Join one of the Centre’s Chief Investigators, Dr. Mats Isaksson on 15th February to hear him talk about current developments within Medical Robots.

Dr Isaksson, leader of the Intelligent Robotics Program at Swinburne’s Manufacturing Futures Research Institute, will provide an overview of medical robotics with a particular focus on surgical robots and the increasing use of collaborative robots in medical applications.

Collaborative robots (or cobots) are designed to safely interact with humans. The availability of mass-produced, low-cost, collaborative robots has enabled the introduction of numerous new medical robot applications. This presentation will provide a brief overview of such applications in addition to details about our research into using collaborative robots for photobiomodulation therapy and ultrasound applications.

Date: Tue, 15 February 2022

Time: 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM AEST

Register here


Thank you for an E.P.I.C 2021!

​As we approach the end of 2021, we often take stock of the year that has just passed. We look back on the successes, look for opportunities to enhance or improve in some area, and of course we begin to look forward to a well-earned rest from our day to day work responsibilities.

We would like to thank all our Australian Cobotics Centre members, industry partners and stakeholders for their hard work, commitment and support during this year. Our unique combination of people, expertise and backgrounds is what makes us successful as a Centre.

As we head into a new year, we look forward to another E.P.I.C year, and we are excited to embrace new opportunities and collaborations.

We wish you and your families a happy holiday season!


Teresa Vidal-Calleja on ‘Let’s Talk Robotics’ podcast

Our Biomimic Cobots program co-lead, the amazing Teresa Vidal Calleja (Associate Professor at UTS Robotics Institute) featured in today’s episode of “Let’s Talk Robotics” with 🤖Nicci Rossouw.

Listen to Teresa and Nicci talk about the importance of collaborating not just with industry but across universities as well! This is how we will innovate and build capability across Australia. Our PhD researchers will work with partners for at least 12 months to understand the workplace and work with staff to help identify how cobotics can assist them with their work.

Teresa also talked about her other projects including a Cooperative Research Centres Project (CRC-P) that helps blind people to navigate with a wearable device!

Listen here

Editorial feature in AU Manufacturing’s ‘Leadership in Factory Automation’ series

The Australian Cobotics Centre features in the latest editorial series of Au Manufacturing

Au Manufacturing is the news and analysis website of the Australian Manufacturing Forum Linkedin networking group – the largest on social media. Their mission is to extend the reach and influence of the views of our 8,000 manufacturer members through curated news, commentary and analysis.

The article that was written by Centre Director, Jonathan Roberts,  highlights that “today Leadership in factory automation looks at the potential of collaborative robots as a low-cost, more flexible and safer alternative to traditional factory robots.”

Click below to read the full article titled ‘Leadership in factory automation -exploring collaborative robotics’ – Australian Manufacturing forum. 

Read the full article here

Picture of a man working alongside a cobot completing a linishing task

Let’s talk robotics with Professor Jonathan Roberts

Centre Director, Jonathan Roberts featured in the latest episode of  “Let’s talk robotics” by Nicci Rossouw from Expatec.

The robotics capability in Australia has great growth and particularly in Queensland, there is the potential to be world leading. Although this technical capability is important, to be truly successful, collaborative robotics research and its application within industry also needs to address the design and human components that are involved in technological change.

As noted by Nicci and Jon: “It’s easy to buy a robot, but what do you do with it?”

If collaborative robots are used in the right way, everyone is a winner.  The worker will develop more interesting skills, the company becomes more efficient and the technology companies keep growing.

By including the workers in the design process, the Centre will ensure that cobot or technical solution addresses the challenges the worker and company may have. They are the experts in their job and their field and therefore the solution will be designed for them. For example, a worker might advise that a repetitive task creates a physical pain point and if that were removed, the risk of injury almost completely disappears. A company may also find it difficult to find staff to complete dangerous, dirty or repetitive tasks and a cobot allows this work to continue with no impact on production or efficiency.

Listen to the podcast here:  Let’s talk robotics with Professor Jonathan Roberts — EXAPTEC

Prestigious Academy of Social Sciences recognises Professor Paula McDonald

The Australian Cobotics Centre congratulates Professor Paula McDonald who has been newly elected as a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia.

Professor McDonald is one of the select group of leading social scientists from across Australia’s universities and research institutes who have been elected to the Academy this year.

Professor McDonald is one of the Research Program Co-lead for the Australian Cobotics Centre’s Human-Robot Workforce program led at QUT; a Professor of Work and Organisation; and Associate Dean, Research in the QUT Faculty of Business and Law.

Each year, the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia elects the most distinguished social scientists in Australia as Fellows. These New Fellows will join the ranks of over 700 of Australia’s leading researchers and professionals across the social science disciplines. For 50 years, research and advice from Fellows of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia has shaped government policies, been called on by Australia’s leaders, and played a key role in shaping our nation. Today’s announcement brings the number of Fellows in the Academy to 742.

A list of 2021 new Fellows can be found here.

An online event featuring brief presentations from each of the new Fellows will be held on 24 November, 4:30-7:00 pm AEDT. This event is open to the public via the Academy’s website:


Human Robot Interaction at the Centre for Biomedical Technologies 2021 conference

Centre Director, Jonathan Roberts  was joined by Human-Robot-Interaction Program co-lead, Jared Donovan and industry partner, Cook Medical‘s Alex Buddery at the 2021 Centre for Biomedical Technologies conference.

Although the conferenced was focused on the biomedical technologies Jon highlighted that the aim of the Centre is for the outcomes to be translated to different manufacturing industries.  The focus of cobotics is not to replace the human worker but to create a safer environment, the ability to work longer and an opportunity to increase skills.

Associate Professor Jared Donovan presented on the importance of considering the design and human interaction when creating robotic systems.

Continuous Innovation Manager at Cook Medical talked about the challenges that could not be addressed by fully automated solutions and highlighted the importance of their staff and where cobotics could assist.