Dual-arm concept robot makes North American debut

ABB concept 14-axis robot for small parts assembly applications has two arms and is designed to work with human coworkers. Link to video.

03/21/2014


The ABB Dual Arm Concept Robot (DACR) was introduced to North America at the ABB Robotics Technology Days, March 13 and 14. Though still in the concept stages, and not scheduled for release until 2015, the DACR simulated the assembly of a small electronicTo meet the agile production scenarios frequently found in the consumer electronics industry and increasingly in other market sectors, the proposed concept includes a flexible gripper, camera-based part location, plus all the features that are well known from ABB's state-of-the-art robot controller, the IRC5. In addition, the robot is compact and intended to fit into spaces ergonomically designed for human workers. This allows the robot to be easily interchanged with a human coworker when the production order is changed or a new layout is required. (See a Control Engineering video showing the ABB dual-arm concept robot.)

The robot prototypes come as portable dual-arm units with a controller that is integrated into the torso. They can be carried around easily and mounted into workstations with minimum installation requirements. Due to the intrinsic safety of the proposed robot solution, the requirements for performing a safety assessment of the installation are minimized. Normally, no safeguarding or enclosing of any kind is required, which allows for very fast installation, commissioning, and relocation. ABB Robotics showed the DACR at its annual Technology Days event March 13 and 14 at its North American headquarters and training center in Auburn Hills, Mich. The event had more than 80 product demonstrations and free technical seminars covering general and application-specific information designed to benefit both those considering an initial foray into robotic automation, and those looking to upgrade or expand their existing robotic lines.

Key technology features of DACR: 

  • Harmless robotic coworker for industrial assembly
  • Human-like arms and body with integrated IRC5 controller
  • Complements human labor with scalable automation
  • Padded dual arms ensure safe productivity and flexibility
  • Lightweight and easy to mount for fast deployment
  • Agile motion based on industry-leading ABB robot technology. 

The concept robot was created in response to requests from ABB Robotics' existing customer base to develop robotic solutions for manufacturing environments in which humans and robots would be able to work together. This 14-axis, dual-arm robot is the initial output from ABB Corporate Research's initiative for industries requiring new and innovative solutions for their small part assembly operations. As a result of the positive reaction to this initial effort, ABB is now engaged in the further development of this concept. The robot is also part of a research program aimed at evaluating new robotic solutions for modern manufacturing concepts (FP7 Rosetta). 

Dual-arm concept

The ABB dual-arm concept robot aims at closing the gap between a manual assembly and a fully automatic assembly process. It particularly suits environments involving handling and assembly of small parts in a line where both humans and robots work.

The key properties of the new concept robot are:

  • Safety
  • Accurate and agile movement
  • Flexibility
  • Ease of deployment and reconfiguration. 

The robot consists of a torso with integrated controller, two arms (with seven axes each), and grippers capable of handling a wide range of parts.

The robot is totally safe and can work alongside human workers without additional safety requirements.

The robot's controller has all the functional features of the IRC5 family of controllers.

Each arm has a reach similar to that of a small adult.

The weight of the robot is low enough to make it truly portable without mechanical support.

With a single-phase power connector it can be installed anywhere within an assembly line.

It can be mounted on a workbench or hang from a wall, and can operate in tight spaces and reach components below its base.

Cabling is routed internally right through to the gripper.

Surfaces are designed to be smooth and easy to clean. 

Dual-arm applications

With the increasing pace of new product introduction to the market and uncertainties regarding production volumes driven by fast-changing technology, traditional robot automation makes it difficult to create reconfigurable manufacturing systems that can be upgraded easily and adapted to new technologies. In some cases, manual assembly can be preferable to minimize initial investment costs, but then hardly any automation migration strategy can be introduced due to safety requirements and high ramp-up time. To close the gap between fully manual assembly and fully automated manufacturing lines, ABB has developed a new robot concept intended to be used for handling small parts in agile and flexible shared manufacturing systems. This concept will bring human workers and robots together, either side by side or face to face with interaction points between both.

The robot was designed to be easily portable between different assembly stations and to enable combined work with manual labor at low risk without additional safety requirements, thus reducing the threshold for automation. The investment cost for the robot was also minimized to enable a reasonable payback time. With its two arms each consisting of seven joints and its state-of-the-art IRC5 controller integrated in the torso, the robot demonstrates agility of movement and can reach human cycle times while working in narrow spaces without risk of cable entanglement. Through the kinematic redundancy of the arms, the elbows of the robot can be maneuvered independently from the tool center point to pick up parts located on the top shelves. Such agility is unknown in standard six-axis robots. Using real-time collision avoidance algorithms, collision-free trajectories between the arms can also be ensured without user involvement.

To interact with its environment, the robot has been equipped with a safe and flexible gripper flanked with suction cups, and it can be connected to vision cameras. Through these means, flexible parts feeding can be achieved rather than using hard automated tooling systems. However, tray handling and bin picking remain challenging operations for the robot. Prototype versions of the robot are being tested against different industrial applications. Remaining open issues include developing methods to engineer and program robot systems with reduced effort in a more task-related way.

ABB said there's no specific date in 2015 for introducing DACR commercially, but added that it would consider any customer feedback.

- Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering, mhoske(at)cfemedia.com.

ONLINE

See other collaborative robots articles linked at the bottom of this posting.

www.abb.com/robotics 

ABB Dual Arm Concept Robot (DACR)



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