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Sony welcomes collaborative robot with open arms

01 March, 2016

Sony has placed the first UK order for ABB’s two-armed collaborative robot called YuMi. It will use the robot at its Sony UK Technology Centre (UKTEC) in South Wales to pick-and-place circuit board parts, mainly for research and development purposes. The technology will help Sony to improve its PCB assembly techniques ­and to explore the benefits of collaborative robotics in high-volume board production.

The two-armed robot, which ABB has been developing for about ten years, can work safely alongside humans without needing a protective cage. The 35kg “human-sized” machine can use its two-finger grippers or suction cups to handle items weighing up to about 500g, move them at speeds of up to 1,500mm/s, and return to the same point with an accuracy of 0.02mm. Each arm has seven degrees of freedom, and incorporates cameras that help the robot to identify and pick up randomly organised objects. The padded arms carry cables and tubing internally, and contain force sensors that can stop them moving within milliseconds if they touch anything.

As well as being programmed using traditional coding techniques, YuMi’s arms can be guided manually to learn their required paths. This technique, known as lead-through programming, simplifies and speeds up the training process, and allows the robot to be programmed by non-experts. It also makes it easier to teach the robot new tasks. If required, the table-mounting YuMi can be moved quickly from one part of a plant to another.

The robot has been designed for assembling and testing small parts, especially in industries such as electronics and toy-making. It can be used for sorting, inserting components, inspection, parts-feeding, packaging, and force-guided assembly tasks such as tightening screws.

ABB’s YuMi robot is designed to share tasks with humans and to accelerate production involving small parts

Colin Dullaghan, ABB’s YuMi product manager, believes that the new robot – which costs upwards of £40,000 – will help both SMEs and larger manufacturers to boost productivity and “to be responsive to quick changes in consumer demand”. He reports that there is already “a growing interest in the product across industrial sectors outside of electronics as its many applications become more widely recognised”.

Kevin Edwards, general manager and head of engineering at Sony UKTEC, says that the robot will create “opportunities for our employees to utilise their skill sets. We look forward to discovering the further benefits that this collaborative robot will bring.”

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