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High-Speed Cobot Ensures Safety Without Compromising Productivity

Designed to support intermittent interaction between human and industrial robot, ABB Robotics’ 1100 Swifti CRB (for “collaborative robot”) automatically slows, stops, and restarts depending on an employee’s presence in preprogrammed safety zones.

ABB Robotics based the Swifti CRB (collaborative robot) on the IRB 1100 industrial robot. To distinguish between the two product lines, cobots feature a gray-and-white label instead of red text.

Capable of lifting 8.8 pounds (4kg) and extending 23 inches (580 mm), the Swifti CRB (for “collaborative robot”) from ABB Robotics (Auburn Hills, MI) bridges the gap between high-speed industrial robots and safe-to-use-around-employees cobots. Based on the company’s IRB 1100 industrial robot, the cobot’s tool center point (TCP) speed of 16 feet (5 meters) per second is five times faster than other cobots in its class and comparable to industrial robots. Accuracy/position repeatability is 10 microns.

A laser scanner and ABB’s SafeMove software keep the cobot from colliding with human coworkers (PLC may be required for connection with the laser scanner). Safe working zones are set using the Configurator App on the FlexPendant. Using a ‘green, yellow, red’ zone approach, the cobot automatically changes speed and range of movement depending on which zone an employee is in. If the employee is in the green zone, the cobot works at full speed and range of movement. If the yellow zone is entered, the cobot slows down and restricts its movement. Entering the red zone to perform a task such as loading or unloading stops the cobot, which resumes full movement and speed once the employee returns to the green zone. A status light indicates the proximity of an employee to the cobot.

The cobot uses the same tooling – such as a vacuum pack with four air supplies to pick up multiple items at once – as the standard IRB 1100 industrial robot. This saves money by eliminating the need for two sets of tooling.

Its OmniCore controller is 50% smaller than previous controllers and easily integrated with the latest digital production technologies, including a wide variety of fieldbuses and advanced vision systems.

The cobot is programmed in one of two ways:

  • A lead-through device attached to the end effector. The operator moves the cobot arm into the required positions and sets them using the FlexPendant.
  • Wizard graphical interface for employees without programming expertise to automate applications. Graphical blocks represent actions, such as ‘move to location’, ‘pick up an object’, and ‘repeat movements.’ The operator drags, drops, and links blocks on the FlexPendant screen to program an application such as machine tending or assembly. The operator immediately sees the results on the screen, and can adjust the cobot’s actions if required. There are also functions for error handling, allowing novice programmers to resolve errors such as collisions.

New blocks can be created via ABB’s free Skill Creator software, which converts ABB’s high-level RAPID programming language into Wizard blocks. Referred to as “skills,” custom blocks can be produced to control grippers or create actions for specific applications such as screwdriving and polishing.

Operators can use ABB’s RobotStudio simulation and offline programming software for configuration and virtual commissioning before installation. Every installation includes a start-up package that provides ABB Ability condition monitoring and diagnostics as well as free support hotline for the first six months.


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