The cobot family expands

On the 24th February, ABB officially unveiled its two new cobots GoFa and SWIFTI at a global online event, joining their “big brother” YuMi. These two new families of collaborative robots are designed to bring automation to new industries and to novice users without specialized training. Both robots are programmable using ABB’s Wizard Easy Programming software, based on simple graphical commands/blocks, which makes it easy for non-specialists to automate their applications.

ABB is expanding its collaborative robot portfolio with the new GoFa and SWIFTI cobot families, offering higher payloads and speeds, to complement YuMi in ABB’s cobot line-up. These stronger, faster and more capable cobots will accelerate the company’s expansion in high-growth segments including electronics, healthcare, consumer goods, logistics and food & beverage, amongst others, meeting the growing demand for automation across multiple industries. GoFa and SWIFTI are intuitively designed so customers need not rely on in-house programming specialists. This will unlock industries that have low levels of automation, with customers able to operate their cobot within minutes of installation, straight out of the box, with no specialized training. ABB’s cobot portfolio expansion is engineered to help existing and new robot users accelerate automation amid four key megatrends including individualized consumers, labour shortages, digitalization and uncertainty that are transforming business and driving automation into new sectors of the economy. The expansion follows the Business Area’s focus on high-growth segments through portfolio innovation, helping to drive profitable growth.
In a global survey of 1,650 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 per cent 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%) said they were looking to robotics to help them improve workplace health and safety, 51% said robotics could enhance social distancing and more than one-third (36%) were considering using robotic automation to improve the quality of work for their employees. More immediately, 78% of company CEOs and Managing Directors said recruiting and retaining staff for repetitive and ergonomically challenging jobs is a challenge. GoFa and SWIFTI are engineered to help businesses automate processes to assist workers with tasks including material handling, machine tending, component assembly and packaging in manufacturing, medical laboratories, logistics hubs and warehouses, workshops, and small production facilities.
Users comfortable with operating a tablet or smartphone will be able to program and re-program the new cobots with ease, using ABB’s fast set-up tools. Every ABB cobot installation includes a start-up package that provides ABB Ability condition monitoring & 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.

Cobot with high payload

The new six-axes GoFa 15000 is able to support the growing demand for a collaborative robot capable of handling heavier payloads to enhance productivity and flexibility. Designed to safely work directly and continuously alongside humans and to be very easy to install and use, GoFa will help businesses automate processes involving heavier loads and longer reaches to assist workers with repetitive and ergonomically challenging tasks. With a class-leading reach of 950 mm, and offering speeds up to 2.2 m per second, GoFa offers an effective solution for a variety of applications, including material handling, machine tending, component assembly, packaging and inspection, as well as laboratory automation.
GoFa incorporates a range of features that allow it to be used directly alongside human workers without the space and expense associated with physical barriers or fences. Enabling a robot and human to continuously share the same workspace and cooperate on the same tasks, without jeopardizing speed and safety, allows for maximum flexibility and efficiency. It features intelligent torque and position sensors in each of its six joints to offer superior power and force limiting performance. These joints eliminate the risk of injury to human workers by sensing any unexpected contact between the cobot’s arm and a human to bring the robot arm to a stop within milliseconds. With a payload 4.5 kg higher than YuMi, GoFa unlocks opportunities for both new and established users, from SME’s to larger companies, by enabling easy automation without the need for in-depth programming skills or prior training. Users can easily program GoFa via lead-through programming and ABB’s new Wizard easy programming software. Based on simple graphical blocks, Wizard makes it easy for non-specialists to automate their applications. The blocks represent actions such as ‘move to location’, ‘pick up an object’, and ‘repeat task’, making it easy and intuitive to build a series of simple processes for the robot to perform. One of the key elements in the successful implementation of collaborative robots is their approachable, sleek, compact and lightweight design that allows them to be easily moved between locations so they can be used when and where necessary, to support short-term process changes, or to automate a task while an employee is off sick or on holiday. Weighing a manageable 27 kg, with a footprint of just 165 mm2 and able to be mounted in any direction, GoFa, like YuMi and Single Arm YuMi, gives users the advantage of a slim, compact and portable cobot that offers the flexibility to take automation to where it’s needed.
GoFA is designed to work with ABB’s OmniCore robot controller family. Offering high levels of flexibility, connectivity and performance, OmniCore features a 50 per cent reduction in footprint compared with previous robot controllers, together with best-in-class motion control and path accuracy. OmniCore can be easily integrated with the latest digital production technologies, including a wide variety of fieldbuses, advanced vision systems and force control.

For a robot to be considered collaborative, it must have the necessary safety functions which prevent injury to a human operator. This means factoring in the robot’s speed, the combined mass of the robot and its payload and the ability of the robot to quickly come to a halt. With its intelligent joints, GoFa fulfils this requirement by automatically coming to a halt if contact with a human or another robot occurs. GoFa’s plastic and aluminium joints also feature rounded geometry, with no pinch points that could trap limbs. Another safety feature is the inclusion of a visual safety configurator on GoFa’s FlexPendant. Developed to ensure that even first-time users can configure the robot in a safe way, SafeMove allows users to easily set up GoFa to avoid issues such as clamping that can affect safe robot operation. GoFa also features an interaction status light, which changes colour between white, green, yellow and red depending on GoFa’s operating status. This light provides an easy way for users to quickly ascertain the status of the cobot to understand if it is in standby, programming, operating or stop mode.

Fill the gap between cobot and industrial robot

On the other hand, SWIFTI, based on ABB’s IRB 1100 industrial robot, is a cobot that combines a payload of 4 kg and reach of up to 580 mm with the benefits of safe collaborative operation and ease of use. This will open new possibilities for enhanced productivity in a wide range of applications, from manufacturing to logistics and beyond, and enable more businesses to embrace automation.
SWIFTI offers a maximum Tool Center Point speed of more than 5 m/s, which is more than five times higher than other cobots in its class and comparable with industrial robots. Designed to support intermittent collaboration between human and robot, SWIFTI can move at high speed for maximum productivity, without jeopardizing safety when a human worker needs to approach the cobot.
SWIFTI is aimed at tasks including assembly and polishing where human operators need to be present to carry out duties such as supervision and repositioning of parts. Such applications have traditionally used extensive physical safety measures such as fencing to minimize the risk of people coming into contact with robots moving at high speeds, increasing the cost and size of the installation, and disrupting line speed and productivity as the robots have to be stopped so a human can enter the workspace. Integrating a safety laser scanner with ABB’s SafeMove Collaborative safety software, SWIFTI ensures that contact between a moving robot and a human will not occur, thus preventing injury. Working together, the technologies allow safe collaboration to be achieved without the need for physical fencing, by ensuring that an operator is not present within the robot’s working envelope while it is moving. If an operator is detected within SWIFTI’s working area, the cobot’s movements will automatically slow down or stop completely to allow the operator to approach safely. As the worker moves away, the cobot will restart, returning to full speed and movement for full productivity once it senses that its working envelope is completely clear. As an added safeguard, SWIFTI also features an interaction status light that provides a visual indication of the cobot’s status when the operator is in the cobot’s workspace.

When it comes to programming the robot itself, SWIFTI offers users a choice of both lead-through programming via a clip-on lead through programming device, and ABB’s new Wizard easy programming software. Based on simple graphical blocks, Wizard Easy Programming makes it easy for non-specialists to automate their applications. The blocks represent actions such as ‘move to location’, ‘pick up an object’, and ‘repeat movements’, making it easy and intuitive to build a series of simple processes for the robot to perform. There are also functions for error handling, allowing novice programmers to resolve errors such as collisions. Removing the need for operators to learn complex programming languages, these features greatly reduce the time, effort and scope for error that have deterred many companies, especially SMEs, from investing in robotic automation.
Every ABB cobot installation includes a start-up package that provides ABB Ability condition monitoring & 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.
SWIFTI has been specifically designed to close the gap between collaborative and industrial robots, enabling fully safe collaborative operation to be achieved in applications demanding industrial performance in terms of speed, accuracy and robustness.
Using the same platform as ABB’s class-leading IRB 1100 industrial robot, SWIFTI provides the ideal solution for applications including loading and unloading or assembly where workers intermittently need to operate in the same workspace as a robot, as well as kitting, material handling, and screwdriving to insertion and polishing tasks. SWIFTI is designed to work with ABB’s OmniCore family of robot controllers, as well as GoFa.
With a repeatability of 10 µ that exceeds both other cobots and industrial robots, SWIFTI can be relied on to accurately pick, transfer and place payloads time after time. This superior performance is achieved by the speed and safety separation concept outlined below, with human workers fully protected against the risk of accidental contact with the moving robot by SWIFTI’s integrated safety measures.
Another benefit of SWIFTI’s speed and separation safety concept is the removal of the need for specialized collaborative tooling. As there is no potential for contact between human workers when SWIFTI is moving, it can be used with the same tooling as a standard IRB 1100 industrial robot, presenting scope for potential cost savings and removing the need to hold two separate sets of tooling. An example is the inclusion of a vacuum pack, which features four integrated air supplies that can be used to enable simultaneous picking of multiple items using suction. Normally used on ABB’s IRB 1100 industrial robots, the same vacuum pack can be fitted to SWIFTI to offer the same functionality with no need for any modifications.

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