Humans and robots are working closely more than ever. Our engineers at SICK are developing sensors that shape industry 4.0. In this interview, Nikolas Simon explains why he would love to be a surgeon for a day and what his current projects are.
SICK Careers: Why did you pursue a career in science?
Nikolas Simon: I think I have always had a passion for science. Partly inspired by my uncle and partly by the things one can achieve with new technologies. So, I decided to do my A-Levels at a school with the focus on engineering and later on, I enrolled in a technical program at university. Once I got in touch with the field of Robotics and Computer Vision, I knew that I definitely wanted to pursue a career in science. I wanted to get to know the current state-of-the-art technologies and contribute to research and development to make the world a better place.
SICK Careers: Your work focuses on “Robotics Engineering“ – what led you to this position?
Nikolas Simon: When I started my master’s program „Embedded Systems Engineering“ at the University of Freiburg, I decided to specialize in the field of “Robotics and Computer Vision”. As a result, I ended up at the robotics chair for “Autonomous Intelligent Systems” where I wrote my master thesis in cooperation with SICK. During this time, I got to know SICK as a company, the development team behind the innovative project and the way they work together. This was fascinating. Right afterwards, I took the chance and started my first professional position at SICK to combine my passion for Robotics and Computer Vision with the Safety Development.
SICK Careers: Can you share a bit of one of your current projects? What do you hope they will lead to?
Nikolas Simon: Currently, I am working on a project where we enable a closer collaboration between humans and robots in production processes. Nowadays, so-called “Cobots” are used in Human Robot Collaboration (HRC)applications. These small robots with low speeds and low payloads are able to stop quickly. Large robots for high payloads and high speeds are only used behind fences. They are only accessible for humans from certain directions which are safeguarded by state-of-the-art safety solutions (e.g. laser scanners or light curtains). Therefore, these robots cannot be used for efficient HRC applications right now.
And this is exactly what we are working on: Future production processes where humans and large and fast robots can work closely together without fences. They need to be easy to set up and operate and also adaptive to changing production flows. As a result, our project enables more efficient and flexible production processes in the future where humans and large robots work hand in hand.
SICK Careers: Do you have any advice for students interested in science and engineering careers?
Nikolas Simon: Gain some experience as a research assistant. In the beginning of my studies I wasn’t really sure about the field of science I wanted to work in. During my studies, I had several research assistant positions at various chairs, e.g. for Microelectronics or Autonomous Intelligent Systems. During these jobs, I gained some first experiences which helped me to figure out the field I wanted to work in. Also, keep the big picture in mind and don’t give up. I can remember the first terms of my engineering program at university very well and I know some subjects can be quite tough. But I can tell you, it will pay off. The most interesting and up-to-date topics follow later on and they are worth it.
SICK Careers: If you could try another job for a day, what would it be?
Nikolas Simon: I think, it would be interesting to be a surgeon for a day. It is impressive what surgeons nowadays do. How precise an operation can be performed and what damages can be repaired. Some of these operations are even supported by robots.
SICK Careers: What do you like most working for SICK?
Nikolas Simon: The opportunity to work in an innovative project together with a team of many experts from various technical and non-technical fields. The development team is really inspiring and encouraging and I can improve myself every day, technically but also personally, to become a better engineer.
SICK Careers: Are you still vacuuming at home or are you letting the robot do that?
Nikolas Simon: Unfortunately, I am still vacuuming myself. But I moved into a new apartment a few weeks ago and this will be one of the first things to be changed once we are settled in.
SICK Careers: Thank you for your time, Nikolas!
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