ABB’s productive robot facility in Sweden

Nearly 10,000 industrial robots will be produced in 2004 by ABB at its manufacturing facility in Västerås, Sweden, as revealed during "Technology Day 2004" media tour in November 2004.


ABB's IRB 6600 industrial robot exhibits extreme agility.

Nearly 10,000 industrial robots will be produced in 2004 by ABB at its manufacturing facility in Västerås, Sweden, as revealed during "Technology Day 2004" media tour in November 2004. Production pace is 50 units/day in a single shift at the 250-employee facility that builds all of ABB’s industrial robots—except for painting robots, which are made in Norway. The Västerås plantincludes an advanced robotic test laboratory.

All robots are built to actual sales orders (none to stock), and 2004 production represents an upward trend in orders, according to ABB. Production takes place in a "demand flow" environment, organized in 20 to 25 assembly stations or bays. Depending on size, each robot typically receives one to two hours of testing during its build-up process. "The production system needs involved people to take part in the process," says an ABB spokesperson.

The manufacturing plant actually uses robots to assemble some of the robotic system controllers and also to paint smaller robots. About 50% of daily robot production goes to automotive spot welding applications.

Test laboratory demos of robot product developments included MultiMove—which enables coordinated motion of several robots through one IRC5 controller for faster spot weld production; wireless control of a material handling gripper doing pick-and-place operations; and offline programming using ABB’s RobotStudio software to help simulate and test real robotic solutions on a desktop for later downloading to production.

So you can amaze your friends about your knowledge of Swedish robots, here's a bit of history as to why there’s so much robotic activity here. Sweden represents the "A" part of industrial giant ABB (Asea Brown Boveri), which formed as a result of the 1988 merger of Swedish company ASEA and Brown Boveri of Switzerland. ASEA (which loosely translated stands for General Swedish Electric Company) was established with headquarters in Västerås in 1890, although its origins date back to 1883. Brown Boveri & Cies (BBC) was founded in Baden, Switzerland in 1891. Each company went on to establish world-class reputations in electrical engineering technologies and products. After a history of successes in electric power plants, transmission systems, and transformers, ASEA entered the robotic arena, claiming invention and launching of one of the first industrial robots in 1974. The rest of that story is also history.

In a bit of history of its own, Control Engineering February 1987 (p. 64) carried a short related application note about some 19 ASEA IRB 60 and IRB 90 industrial robots at work spot welding truck cabs at Volvo Truck’s then recently automated production facility in Umea, Sweden. In 2002, ABB added to IRB robot history with the sale of its 100,000th unit to a U.S. company, as reported in CE . Click here to read more.

—Frank J. Bartos, executive editor, Control Engineering,

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