ABB robots highlight Ford productivity, efficiency at Detroit Auto Show 2010

ABB robots take center stage at the Ford booth at the 2010 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. Robots highlight the fuel efficiency message of the Ford EcoBoost engine. See photos.


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ABB Robots highlight Ford productivity at Detroit Auto Show 2010.

ABB Robots highlight Ford productivity at Detroit Auto Show 2010.

Robotics from ABB are helping with Ford manufacturing productivity and working to deliver a fuel efficiency message at the 2010 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit.

ABB Robotics has been supplying robots to the Ford Motor Company since the late 1970s and, until very recently, the setting has been confined to the 30 or so Ford Powertrain factories around the globe that prominently use ABB Robots in the manufacturing and assembly of Ford Powertrain components. With the Jan. 16 opening of the 2010 North American International Auto Show at the Cobo Center in Detroit, MI, the relationship between the two industrial companies will be raised to a new level of visibility. Two ABB IRB 6640 industrial robots highlight the main demonstration area of the Ford booth, supporting the live presentation of the numerous components and attributes of Ford's powerful, yet fuel efficient EcoBoost engine, a centerpiece of Ford's 2010 marketing theme. (Scroll down for more photos, and details on the robots, the demonstration, and robotic safety.)


ABB Robotics IRB 6640

ABB Robotics IRB 6640 handles 1,000 lb payload.

IRB 6640 is the perfect robot for applications focusing on high production capacity, according to ABB Robotics.

- High payload: The payload, 235 kg, makes the robot suitable for many heavy material handling applications. The payload for IRB 6640ID (internal dressing) is 200 kg, which meets requirements of the heaviest spot welding applications.
- Increased path performance: IRB 6640 runs the second generation of TrueMove and QuickMove. These applications give the robot more accurate motions, which reduces programming time and increases throughput.
- Easier installation and maintenance: Several new features, such as simplified fork lift pockets and more space in the robot foot, eases maintenance. Almost 400 kg lower weight, compared to comparable prior model, simplifies installation.
- Options: Available working environment options include Foundry Plus, Foundry Prime, and Clean Room.

- ABB Robotics supplies industrial robots, robot software, peripheral equipment, modular manufacturing cells and service for tasks such as welding, handling, assembly, painting and finishing, picking, packing, palletizing and machine tending.
- Key markets include automotive, plastics, metal fabrication, foundry, electronics, pharmaceutical and food and beverage industries. ABB has installed more than 160,000 robots worldwide.

Two IRB 6640 robots from ABB Robotics help at the Ford booth at the 2010 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Two IRB 6640 robots from ABB Robotics help at the Ford booth at the 2010 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.


The two robots, affectionately named "Eco" and "Boost," are each housed in circular, plexiglass rimmed cells about 10 ft apart on either side of the engine spokesperson. As the presentation is made, the robots pick up the engine samples and components and present them to the crowd in a radial path around each cell.

"Eco" presents a series of engine components including turbo chargers, fuel pumps, an engine control module, and intake and exhaust manifolds, and "Boost" presents three different versions of the EcoBoost engine and the new 6F MID 6 speed transmission. The presenter controls each robot with a handheld remote, allowing the timely presentation of each part as it is being discussed. During the period between presentations the robots perform many intricate, synchronized routines that include an elaborate dance and the sequential picking and displaying of placards with their names and info extolling EcoBoost fuel economy statistics. Each cycle concludes with a gracious bow to the crowd.

The EcoBoost demonstration is accompanied by two 52-in. plasma TVs placed near each robotic cell, alternately displaying crowd shots from a camera mounted on each robot and footage of ABB robots assembling the engines at the Cleveland, Ohio manufacturing facility where "Eco" and "Boost" and a host of other ABB robots perform their "day" jobs. The EcoBoost engine (see Ford photos) will deliver up to a 20% improvement in fuel economy on up to 1.3 million Ford vehicles globally by 2013 with no sacrifice in power.

"The story is really about our leadership in fuel economy, and what a great way to tell that story by bringing the technology that builds the powertrain to life on the stand," said John Felice, Ford marketing general manager. "It helps substantiate our progress in fuel economy."

Robotic safety in layers

ABB utilizes several layers of safety technology to allow the robots to safely operate in the auto show environment, including its proprietary SafeMove technology which meets international safety standards as a replacement for hard stops. SafeMove provides safety rated supervision of robot motion allowing robots and operators to work more closely together, reducing the need for traditional safety equipment such as light curtains and protective barriers, and enabling more compact cells by restricting robot motion to precisely what is needed for a specific application .

The Ford booth has 50% more space than 2009 and features 24 interactive showcases. ABB is the primary global robotic supplier for Ford's powertrain, engine and axle final assembly operations .

Appreciation and thanks

Ernie Neumayr, the ABB Robotics' Ford Powertrain global account manager, expressed appreciation at being a "major part of the Ford display at such a prominent annual auto industry event," adding that ABB Robotics technology has helped Ford offer the best powertrain platforms in the industry. He thanked the ABB Auburn Hills team for set up help in "such a short period of time, including many hours during the holidays."

Also read: Safe robotics: Mythbusters star in safety video for FIRST Robotics .

- Edited by Mark T. Hoske, editor in chief, Control Engineering

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