Do you know which was the first cobot ever released on the market?

Ok, let’s start from the beginning. Have you ever heard about the first industrial robot ever invented?
In 1957, Joseph Engelberger convinced Condec to finance the development of inventor George Devol’s idea. Two years later the first prototype of the Unimate 1900 was installed in a factory line and by 1961, the Unimate 1900 series became the first mass-produced robotic arm for factory automation.

After almost 30 years of incredible technical and economic growth of industrial robotics, in a 1997 patent, a new class of industrial robots was described as “an apparatus and method for direct physical interaction between a person and a general purpose manipulator controlled by a computer“. This was the first line ever written about cobotics.

But which was the first cobot, similar to the models we know them today, ever released on the market?

In 2004 after a long collaboration with the German Aerospace Center Institute, Kuka Robotics released the LWR cobot.

Even if today this cobot model was replaced with the new Kuka cobots LBR iiWa, it remains a legend of early research in cobotics and if you are visiting a lab where engineers are studying the future of collaborative robotics, you are very likely to see one of them in a corner, standing as the most important piece in a living museum.