CHICAGO—The two engineers who created the delta robot are the “technology” category recipients of the 2024 Joseph F. Engelberger Robotics Awards sponsored by the Association for Advancing Automation (A3). They received the honor during the recent Automate show at McCormick Place.

Reymond Clavel, Ph.D., professor emeritus of mechanical engineering at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale Lausanne (the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) was selected for his pioneering role in the invention of the delta robot concept in the early 1980s. Marc-Olivier Demaurex, Ph.D., president of Demaurex SA, a Swiss packaging company, was cited for his role in bringing the machine to market in the late 1980s.

Delta robots enabled manufacturers to achieve much higher productivity rates than ever before, due to their increased speed and throughput. Each arm of a delta robot is driven by a motor mounted in a stationary base above a large cylindrical work envelope. The arm joints work together to drive a rotary axis connected to an end-effector.

The extremely fast machines were originally designed for low-payload applications, such as food and cosmetics packaging. However, delta robots are also used for some assembly applications today, such as adhesive dispensing, kitting, labeling, parts insertion, pick-and-place, polishing, screwdriving and soldering. They are used to mass-produce batteries, circuit breakers, electronics, medical devices, pens, semiconductors, solar panels and other products.

In the early 1980s, Clavel led the research team that invented the delta robot, which was patented in 1985. In 1987, Demaurex purchased a license for the new design and started to produce delta robots for the packaging industry.

“Who would have thought that a visit to a chocolate factory would result in a robot concept that is not only used worldwide, but is actually studied in universities, and now further recognized with this prestigious Engelberger Award,” said Clavel. “I’m beyond proud that we were able to create a real solution to a problem that so many dealt with as they looked to automate complex piece picking applications and the influence these parallel robots have on today’s robots.”

“Being recognized with an Engelberger Award for my pioneering role in the Delta robot concept is definitely a highlight of my career,” adds Demaurex. “We recognized early on that the delta robot…was the solution to problems companies in the packaging industry had long encountered when considering automation. By bringing it to market with early adopters such as Nestlé and Kambly, we created a company—and an industry—that is still going strong today.”