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ABB FlexPicker IRB 360

April 26, 2010

The speed and accuracy of the ABB IRB 360 FlexPicker robot is impressive, and the machine vision even more so.

Position repeatability is 0.1 mm!

The four-bar mechanism comprising the  arms of the robot is innovative.  Through a set of three motors and spherical joints at the shoulders and wrists, the ‘bot can move the end effector to anywhere within a sizable cylindrically-shaped working envelope.  In my machine design class as an undergrad, we learned the theory which predicts the location of elements within a four-bar linkage system.  I explicitly recall my prof saying, “Four-bar linkages are quite good for motion in-plane, but it’s quite difficult to get them to operate out-of plane.”  The FlexPicker effectively gets three four-bar assemblies in different planes to function together through the use of spherical joints at the elbows and wrists and–from the looks of it–it’s capable of speeds that traditional X-Y translation or robot-arm setups just couldn’t do for pick-and-place operations.  While single-plane four-bar linkage calculation is fairly straightforward–essentially geometry on steroids–I would be interested to see the control scheme used by ABB for the machine.  A whole new set of challenges is introduced by those spherical joints.

The unique three-arm, four-bar design also obviates the need to place motors at the elbow or wrist joint, allowing the “humerus” and “forearm” linkages to be quite light.  A traditional robot taking the form of a human arm requires heavy, torque-producing motors at those locations.  Granted, a traditional robot arm can do much more complex work than the FlexPicker can.

Technical datasheet for the ABB IRB 360.

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