20 years of Sensodrive

In 2003, exactly 10 years after the 'birth' of light-weight robotics, Norbert Sporer founded Sensodrive GmbH as its majority shareholder and made the space technology of the German Space Center's light-weight robot, which he had co-developed, available for industrial use. Thus the foundation stone of human-robot collaboration (HRC) was laid. Today, on Sensodrive's 20th anniversary, the robotics company from Wessling, Germany, is still a leader in torque technologies – and already working hard on the next robotics revolution.

1993 – the birth of light-weight robotics and telerobotics in space

Thirty years ago, the US Space Shuttle Columbia carried the second German Spacelab mission, D2, to orbit. On board was ROTEX, the first effective light-weight robot of its kind, as well as the first teleoperated robot in space that was remotely controlled from Earth. The sensor and drive technology developed by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) allowed ROTEX to be developed in a compact and lightweight design, while its force-torque sensor ensured maximum precision and sensitivity so it could be remote-controlled from thousands of kilometres away. After the mission's spectacular success, light-weight robot development was given a permanent place at DLR, headed by chartered engineer Norbert Sporer from 1994.

2003 – the first torque sensor for industrial use lays the foundation for HRC robotics

To make the torque technology he and his team had developed for space travel available for industrial use, Norbert Sporer founded Sensodrive GmbH as a spin-off from the DLR in 2003. Thanks to the Sensodrive torque sensors' reliably high measuring accuracy, vibration damping, weight compensation and collision detection entered industrial robotics. Robots became sensitive and able to perform delicate work. This was the birth of the cobots.

Since then, more than a hundred thousand patented Sensodrive torque sensors have been installed in cobots, medical robots, and many other robotics solutions from well-known manufacturers worldwide. The company continues to offer the leading torque technology on the market and regularly sets new standards, not only in industrial robotics but also in medical technology. "For surgical microscopes and surgical robots, absolute precision and haptic feedback with maximum realism are essential – and medical technology manufacturers can rely one hundred percent on our technology," says Norbert Sporer.

2023 – certified complete drives make cobot development easier than ever

Anyone who knows Norbert Sporer knows that he never rests on his laurels for long. And in fact, the Sensodrive CEO doesn't have much time to celebrate the big anniversary, as he's already in the middle of the next robotics revolution. That's because Sensodrive is about to complete safety certifications for its torque-controlled SensoJoint actuators. The company launched the world's first ready-to-install complete drives for cobots and medical robots back in 2021 – but the safety certification process is still ongoing. From the first quarter of 2024, SensoJoints will be certified in accordance with the international safety standards ISO 13849, IEC 62061 and IEC 61508.

And it is exactly these safety certifications that are one of the SensoJoints' greatest advantages. That's because Sensodrive can now offer a ready-to-install plug-and-play complete drive that not only features leading drive and torque technology, but also comes fully certified according to all important safety standards. This enables any company to develop cobots and medical robots within a very short timeframe, skipping years of development and certification processes. Norbert Sporer and his team have already proved this themselves by developing the world's most sensitive cobot for automatica 2023 in less than 2 months thanks to SensoJoints and AI.

Robot development out of the box – this is Sensodrive's promise to its customers on its 20th anniversary. The time-consuming safety certifications will be completed at the end of 2023 or the beginning of 2024; meanwhile, interested companies can see the underlying safety functions' impressive performance for themselves today in the Sensodrive Showroom.