At 500 items per minute, a legendary robot gets even better

It was the world's first "spider-style" picking robot—an original that set the standard for others to copy—and now the IRB 360 FlexPicker does it again.

When something has been so successful that it has defined a category and become an icon, it can be difficult to figure out how to make it even better. The IRB 360 FlexPicker is just such a machine. In fact, in the industry many people refer to every “spider-style” robot (even non-ABB ones) as “FlexPickers” in the same way that many people refer to all facial tissues as Kleenex or all Internet searching as “Googling.”

We’ve sold more than 5,000 of these types of robots—also known as “delta-style” robots—around the world since their introduction in the late 1990s. But even with this incredible name recognition and its well-known capabilities, we think we’ve found a way to improve upon the 360 to make it even better without disturbing all the things that have made it so successful.

It’s not always about speed

In today’s economy cutting costs while growing the bottom line can be a daunting, even super-human task for many companies. In the packaging world, automation with robots is usually one of the first considerations to accomplish these difficult goals. The faster and more efficiently items can be picked and packed, the better it is for a company’s bottom line. But being fast is not always about speed. Like other industrial robots, picking and packing robots need to be extremely accurate, dexterous and flexible—and the more weight they can move at a time the better.

In fact, those are the main reasons that ABB has now upgraded the IRB 360 FlexPicker. For nearly 15 years, this industrial robot with its spider-like arms has been the leader in state-of-the-art picking and packing technology. With this upgrade, ABB has increased the robot’s top payload from 3 kg to 8 kg (from 6.6 lbs to 17.6 lbs), and its 1,130 mm (44.5 inch) working range remains the smallest footprint of all delta-style robots handling more than 3 kg. Thanks to the robot’s advanced motion control, its frame design has also been simplified and the tool flange re-engineered to accommodate larger grippers.  A new mounting interface was also added to the moving plate to handle heavier weights.

What do all these improvements mean to a company’s bottom line? Throughput capacity is radically improved by an average of 33% because the FlexPicker can pick up heavier items. The equates to picking up to 500 items per minute moving on an indexing conveyor belt—more if they are stationary—at speeds of 65 cycles per minute when lifting 8 kg.

The upgrades also improve upon the FlexPicker’s other competitive advantages, such as superior tracking performance and integrated control of indexing belts. This workhorse of a robot is outfitted with food-grade oil and a stainless steel base.

If a robot could be a superhero, the IRB 360 would certainly qualify.

[Read the press release]

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About the author

Klas Bengtsson

I'm a global product manager at ABB Robotics with a specialty in packaging. We're always trying to develop the newest and most innovative technology here at ABB and make it easy for our customers to get their robots up and running quickly. I'm happy to share my knowledge and long experience and appreciate the opportunity to let my passion for robotic packaging technology help others solve their challenges.
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