Numerous industrial robots for welding, material flow tasks, painting, inspection, assembly and disassembly applications are installed or are going to be put into service all over the world. They are working effectively, especially cost-effectively and with a high degree of reliability.
One of their common characteristics is the strict separation between robot and humans, who are working in the same production environment. The applicable means for separation are prescribed very strictly by diverse national and international regulations and extend from physical fences to light barriers, light curtains and safety mats.
New robot applications are aiming at the automation of services which imply close co-operation with humans. Examples are well known transportation vehicles (AGVs) and an increasing number of robots in public or at least populated environments. IPA's approach uses distributed smart sensor systems which are strategically installed around the robot. To adapt their survey areas to the actual robot configuration fault tolerant and selfcontrolling field-bus-systems are implemented. Recent prototypes are refuelling robots or welding robots in shipyards. Here people are allowed to go in the nearest vicinity of the robot.
This paper will present the above scope of interest for service robot safety sensors beginning with new requirements for sensor and control systems and continuing with the discussion of further developments of existing regulations. The safety concepts of selected examples, where robots are working closely adjacent to humans, will be presented. The paper will include a survey as well as major study results of these projects.