Today, ABB announced two more families in its portolfio of collaborative robots, complementing its 2015-launched Yumi. Now, ABB covers all three types of robot collaboration: Type 1: hand-in-hand, operation in close proximity of human operators with its cobot Gofa; Type 2 – intermittent working alongside human operators with its Swifti; and Type 3, when a cobot is left to operate on its own, but without any fencing, away from human operators.
At their launch, Sami Atiya, President of ABB’s Robotics & Discrete Automation Business Area, said: “This is the decade when robotics change the way we live and work. And the pace of change is accelerating – last year has been more transformative than the past 30 years! In 1974, ABB launched the first microprocessor-based robot, today we have the most comprehensive portfolio of robots on the market.”
IMAGE: ABB’s Gofa
Cobots are suitable for many industries, logistics, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and food and beverage, among others. In a global survey carried out by ABB last month of 1650 large and small businesses in Europe, the US and China, 84% of businesses said they will introduce or increase the use of robotics and automation in the next decade, while 85% said the pandemic had been “game changing” for their business and industry, with COVID-19 a catalyst for accelerating investment in automation. Nearly half of businesses (43 percent) said they were looking to robotics to help them improve workplace health and safety, 51 percent said robotics could enhance social distancing and more than one-third (36 percent) were considering using robotic automation to improve the quality of work for their employees. More immediately, 78 percent of company CEOs and Managing Directors said recruiting and retaining staff for repetitive and ergonomically challenging jobs is a challenge.
IMAGE: ABB’s Swifti
ABB’s Atiya said that we are going through a transformative era, where consumers demand more, faster, where an ageing workforce leads to labour shortages and digitalisation takes hold. But he believes cobots will improve the nature of work. “I see robots become what PCs and mobile phones have become to us,” he said.
With the help of AI, the cobots can be taught work routines by initially being physically guided, by which they form a software program that they follow until completing a task. It doesn’t take an extended training or an expert to use one.
“Our customers tell us that it takes a month to become proficient using our cobots, and a year to become an expert,” said Atiya from ABB’s headquarters in Switzerland.
Kitted out with MPUs and sensors, they can stop operating within milliseconds of coming close to a human operator, to prevent injury.
Every ABB cobot installation includes a start-up package that provides ABB Ability condition monitoring and diagnostics as well as a support hotline free for the first six months to access ABB’s expert technical assistance, which is offering support across all industry segments.