MUNICH — ABB’s YuMi collaborative robot won the Invention and Entrepreneurship in Robotics and Automation (IERA) Award at Automatica 2016 here.
Per Vegard Nerseth, managing director of ABB Robotics, accepted the IERA award at the International Symposium of Robotics. The International Federation of Robotics and the IEEE Robotics & Automation Society (RAS) organized the forum.
Zurich-based ABB has described the two-armed YuMi as “the world’s first truly collaborative robot” because it can be used without safety cages, is easy to program, and can precisely manipulate and assemble small parts. The cobot’s name is derived from the slogan “You and me, working together.”
“We are pleased with the YuMi solution’s strong penetration in our targeted 3C [electronics] sector, but what is especially encouraging are all the completely new customers talking to us at Automatica about collaborative applications,” said Nerseth. “These emerging opportunities are at the heart of our ‘Next Level’ growth strategy.”
Specs for ABB’s YuMi
YuMi is a full-scale industrial collaborative robot, fully tested and accurate enough to thread a needle.
The robot includes flexible hands, parts-feeding systems, camera-based part location, and state-of-the-art controls, according to ABB.
The cobot has a compact frame and 14-axis agility, as well as a footprint of 399 mm (15.7 in.) by 497 mm (19.6 in.). YuMi is 571 mm (22.5 in.) high and weighs 38 kg (83.7 lb.).
All wiring and air go through the robot, which has a working range of 559 mm (22 in.).
In addition, ABB’s YuMi has servo grippers, including cameras and two vacuums. There is a lead-through program and vision-guided assembly with accuracy to 0.02 mm.
“YuMi is easy to use,” said Steve Wyatt, head of sales and marketing at ABB Robotics. “It targets also the needs of smaller or medium enterprises, as YuMi can be moved around. If there isn’t enough work for 24 hours a day, you can give it another task.”
“It is attractive to automotive, fabrics, and other industries,” he added. “It is so easy to program that children can use the lead through program system. It makes YuMi attractive due to its flexibility.”
ABB’s YuMi is recognized by the industry
“It is nice to be recognized by the industry, and it feels like a pat on the back,” Wyatt said. “I am happy that our hard work to develop YuMi paid off. ABB Robotics has a lot of creative employees and creative customers. They use YuMi places where we haven’t thought of using it.”
Previous IERA Award winners include iRobot for its Roomba vacuum cleaner, Kiva Systems’ mobile logistics robots (later acquired by Amazon.com), and Aldebaran Robotics’ Nao humanoid.
Other winners were Universal Robots’ UR5 robotic arm and Kinova’s JACO Rehab Edition, an assistive arm to help disabled people conduct everyday tasks.
This year’s Automatica included 839 exhibitors from 47 countries and attracted about 43,000 visitors from 96 countries.
“We are extremely happy to have YuMi as an icon for collaborative robots,” said Wyatt. “We have seen Obama, Merkel, and other politicians greeting YuMi. It is a safe robot.”
Unipart Manufacturing and Coventry University in the U.K. recently invested more than £50,000 ($62,000) in ABB’s YuMi for research, training, and automotive assembly.
ABB also shows off heavy-duty robots
In contrast to YuMi’s 0.5 kg payload, ABB also showcased its IRB 8700 robot, which is capable of lifting 800 kg.
The IRB 8700 was demonstrated with ABB’s new SafeMove2 software, which allows people and robots to safely work closer together without compromising productivity.
“Automatica is always a great opportunity to talk to the top decision-makers here in Germany, where digitalization and Industry 4.0 are high on the agenda,” added Nerseth.
“But this year, we also had the opportunity to talk with new customers from the Americas and Asia too who are looking for solutions to improve the flexibility and efficiency of their operations and move in the direction of the ‘Factory of the Future,'” he said. “This is truly a global topic.”
In addition, ABB’s IRB 16601D is a high-performance robot for tasks requiring a high degree of accuracy, such as arc welding and machine tending.
Last month, ABB cut jobs and replaced the head of its Discrete Automation and Motion Division in response to slow demand, but the company hopes that the energy industry will bounce back and that widening automation will lead to new growth.
ABB provides support through IoT apps
The remote service suite also includes fleet assessment and asset optimization through the MyRobot Web application.
“Robots can help collecting data useful for people,” said Wyatt. “All robots from ABB are embedded with connectivity to the cloud platform. You can optimize [the robots] and check them the same way as your phone and make them perform more effectively.”
ABB recently opened a new 97,000-square-foot facility in San Jose, Calif. The Silicon Valley site integrates offices and laboratories for what the company calls the “Internet of Things, Services, and People” and is expected to house 200 staffers.
Cobots to enable factories of the future
Wyatt said he strongly believes that collaborative robots will influence industry in many ways.
“There will be no physical cages or zones around the collaborative robot in a flexible workspace,” he said. “We will see that the humans as well as the collaborative robots move around in the workspace.”
“Experts predict that the increase of collaborative robots the next seven to eight years will grow rapidly. The opportunity of the market is huge, and I expect a big increase of collaborative robots in the industry,” said Wyatt.
“ABB’s perspective is that collaborative robots are key to factories of the future with flexibility and connectivity,” he said. “YuMi embodies flexibility — it is easy to pick up and move.”
ABB’s YuMi shouldn’t push people out of work. “YuMi is not competing with humans; the collaborative robots and humans complement each other,” Wyatt said. “Robots can do dangerous, dull, delicate, and dirty jobs. Humans can use their cognitive skills for other tasks.”