Wanted: a new robot to change machine tending and material handling

Amid the excitement of Europe’s largest automation fair, Automatica 2014, we've unveiled the latest innovation in small industrial robots--the IRB 1200.

Have you ever wanted to make your machines 15% smaller and 10% faster? ABB’s entirely new IRB 1200 family of small robots does exactly that by addressing the demands of the material handling and machine tending industries for flexibility, ease-of-use, compactness and short cycle times while still maintaining large working envelopes.

The IRB 1200 is poised to change the face of small parts assembly for consumer electronics companies whose manufacturing processes are notoriously labor-intensive. Historically, work in these factories has been done by hand in countries where labor costs are extremely low. In recent years, though, salaries have increased across the globe and the younger generation has set its sights on higher education rather than industrial apprenticeships. As a result, labor has been scarce and expensive.

The IRB 1200 brings the benefits of automation and innovative robotic design together where it only marginally existed prior. Our new robot has no offset in axis two resulting in a longer stroke than the competition, which means it can be placed very close to the work piece and still be functional. One particular benefit of this long stroke is that it allows for a much more compact installation when the robot is mounted on the ceiling inside a small cell, such as in electronics machining or polishing applications.

A fresh new design in ABB Robotics’ portfolio, the IRB 1200’s form features are not simply cosmetic enhancements. The robot’s smooth surfaces make it easy to keep clean and maintain in environments such as CNC machine tending and material handling in the food industry. In addition, for the first time, both the electrical and air connections can be made to the robot via side ports or via an optional connection underneath it. These new features save considerable working space for customers. There is also an Ethernet port embedded in the robot so it can be easily integrated with other equipment.

The idea for IRB 1200 came about as a direct result of customer feedback. We conducted exhaustive focus groups and surveys, and, after analyzing the results, we listened! Our customers want a robot that is less bulky and has a longer reach and payload; all in a cost effective package. We also learned that manufacturing and assembly customers want high IP protection together with speed and accuracy.

It was a tall challenge, but in the end, and what we delivered today, is a dynamic family of small robots that cost effectively achieves all our goals.

The IRB 1200 family is available in two variants which can handle a wide range of applications. Each has a large commonality of parts, which adds to its cost effectiveness. The 700 mm reach variant can carry a payload of up to 7 kg, while the longer reach 900 mm variant can carry up to 5 kg of payload. It is worth noting that the 5 kg variant is considered best in class at 5 percent faster than any competitor, making it possible to produce more products in the same amount of time. Both variants can be mounted at any angle and come with IP 40 protection as standard — IP 67 protection is also available as an option. Next year, to complement the range, clean room and food grade variants will be added.

The market introduction the IRB 1200 marks the end of a long journey to deliver a small robot that is rich with features and allows for 15 percent smaller cells which have 10 percent shorter cycle times.

I invite you to visit ABB at Automatica Fair in Munich, Germany this week (June 3-6, 2014) and see the IRB 1200 as it makes its global debut (Booth 320 in Hall B4). The new robot’s flexibility and agility will be showcased in two whimsical “chocolate factory” demonstrations which are sure to entertain. And what’s better than free chocolate?

If you are unable to get to Munich or just want a sneak peak at the IRB 1200, please visit the new robot’s home page. There’s also the new product video below.

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About the author

Phil Crowther

Phil Crowther, global product manager, joined ABB Robotics in 1999. He is currently responsible for small robots globally. Prior to joining product management he worked with in various management roles in ABB from motor drives to robotics. Phil has a strong passion for customer satisfaction and has always enjoyed working in roles which are customer facing. When Phil is not working, he enjoys spending time with his family, sailing and diving and curing with his father somewhere on the water, in his hometown of Auckland, New Zealand.
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