An evolution in robot design

A "small" addition to a big family means more versatility for demanding robotic applications.

In the nearly three months since we introduced ABB’s 7th generation of large industrial robots, the IRB 6700 family, it’s become clear that the numerous improvements and painstaking analysis that went into developing this new family are well worth the effort. This new robot is quickly becoming a favorite among customers looking for large, reliable robots with industrial capabilities.

Today, we are pleased to present the newest and smallest member of the family – available in two variants with a 200kg payload/2.60m reach and a 155kg payload/2.85m reach, respectively. Like its sibling, the robots’ accuracy, payload and speed have all increased: Power consumption is reduced by 15% and servicing is simplified. Access to the motors is also improved, and technical documentation for maintenance is easier to read and understand, thanks to improved graphics and 3D simulations called “Simstructions.”

As with its larger counterpart, ABB designed this robot with one thing in mind: Lowering the total cost of ownership (TCO). To do so, we painstakingly examined our existing robot range to improve every aspect of ABB’s large robot. As I’ve said in the past, these robots may not look that different from their predecessors on the outside, but the hundreds of small improvements on the inside are what matter.

Since ABB first decided to develop a robot range capable of offering the lowest TCO, I have had a chance to talk to a lot of existing and potential customers about what they want most in a large robot. I’m happy to report that ABB was right, and that the buying behavior among industrial companies is moving toward placing the highest importance on TCO during the lifetime of the robot investment.

That might seem obvious to some, but when it comes down to it everyone has a different idea about what lowest TCO actually means. ABB was careful not to work in isolation when it developed the IRB 6700. We aggressively sought input from our customers. We settled on a philosophy that emphasized the lowest TCO robot, and focuses on MTBF (mean time between failures), MTTR (mean time to repair), and the essential elements required to achieve these objectives.

I think my American colleague, Nick Hunt, said it best when he told Design News, “Our new generation of robots consolidates our philosophy into a family of robots that address what we consider to be our core applications — spot welding, machine tending, and material handling. When we design a robot, we focus on performance criteria, but this time, although performance is a key goal, it is more of a result of doing a good job on the overall design. What we have done is concentrate heavily on the voice of the customer and internal domain knowledge from senior service engineers and corporate research centers around the world.”

Another extremely important change to our large robot range which has contributed to a lower TCO, was the redesign of the integrated dress pack, or Lean ID. Every robot in the IRB 6700 family can accommodate Lean ID—a solution meant to achieve a balance between cost and durability by integrating the most exposed parts of the dress pack into the robot. Outfitting any IRB 6700 family with Lean ID makes it easier to program and simulate with predictable cable movements. It also reduces footprint and lengthens service intervals thanks to less wear and tear. Our automotive customers have told us it is not unusual to change a spot welding dress pack on 60% of their robots every year. Thanks to the IRB 6700 family, we can deliver a dress pack with a full warranty – just like the rest of the robot – which is a giant step forward when it comes to uptime.

Still not convinced? Then I invite you to watch the following video – The Making of the IRB 6700. It talks in detail about what ABB has tried to achieve in this new era of buying behavior and how we intend to deliver on our promise of getting there.

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About the author

Ola Svanström

Ola Svanström, a mechanical engineer, joined ABB Robotics in 1988. He is currently responsible for management of the company's large robot portfolio. Prior to joining Product Management, he worked in Research & Development and Purchasing. When Ola is not working, he can be found enjoying one of his two favorite pastimes, skiing or sailing, in his hometown of Västerås, Sweden.
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