Home / ABB’s FlexLoader M Family Offers Modularity to Machine Tending

ABB’s FlexLoader M Family Offers Modularity to Machine Tending

ABB (Auburn Hills, MI) has launched a new family of machine-tending application cells for the metals industry that are modular and that are aimed at maximizing flexibility and machine utilization while minimizing lost productivity caused by unforeseen production stoppages.

Posted: November 23, 2021

The FlexLoader M's launch will consist of two of the line's six versions. One of those two versions, the FlexLoader M Conveyor, is shown here.

Featuring six different versions, the FlexLoader™ M family offers a variety of ways of loading and unloading machines based on the size, shape, and amount of workpieces being handled, making the family well suited for sites such as foundries and processes such as die casting operations that produce multiple types of products in varying quantities.

“As customers demand greater variety and shorter delivery times, metals producers need to have a manufacturing process that can respond quickly and offer the flexibility to achieve high-mix, low-volume and batch size one production,” said Andrea Cassoni, managing director of business line general industry for ABB Robotics. “FlexLoader M is accelerating this move by providing a single, unified machine-tool tending platform offering the flexibility needed for handling a wide variety of production demands, whilst also improving productivity by eliminating the time, cost, and disruption traditionally associated with production changes.”

The launch starts with Tray and Conveyor variants, with further variants due for release over the coming months. The FlexLoader M Conveyor uses a vision system to enable loading of workpieces with complex shapes, providing the flexibility to handle a variety of workpieces with a single cell. The FlexLoader M Tray is a drawer solution that can handle a variety of workpieces with variable shapes, such as cubes, cylinders, plates and pipes.

Featuring standardized interchangeable modules, the FlexLoader M offers a flexible and expandable solution for a variety of machine-tending applications, including lathes, mills, CNC, and machining centers. According to ABB, a key benefit is the ability to use the same base machine, exchanging in and out feed modules as requirements change. The FlexLoader M’s modular approach allows for upgrading and scaling up, with the company saying that just one to two days are needed on average for installation and commissioning.

According to ABB, the FlexLoader M robot cells can be programmed quickly, even by operators without specific robotics expertise. The company said that a smart wizard enables new workpieces to be programmed in less than five minutes with no vision programming expertise required, while changeover between pieces that are already programmed is possible in less than one minute, making ‘Batch Size One’ production a reality.

ABB said that the FlexLoader M can reduce labor costs for machine-tending processes by up to 90 percent, with one operator able to handle up to 10 cells simultaneously. The company added that the automated system delivers machine utilization of over 97 percent, compared to 40 to 60 percent in manually operated machines.

The FlexLoader M cells will replace ABB’s current family of FlexLoader cells.

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