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Fast, high-payload delta robot targets retail logistics

17 June, 2020

ABB has announced a flexible, high-payload delta robot to target applications such as customised packaging, vertical packing, and high-speed, high-variation sorting and on-demand order-picking in logistics and e-commerce fulfilment centres.

The IRB 390 FlexPacker robot, which is due to go on sale at the end of 2020, will be is 35% faster than the ABB’s current IRB 360-8/1130 FlexPicker, with a 45% bigger reachable volume, and payload capacity of up to 15 kg. It will be available with four or five axes.

The robot is aimed at the food and beverage, logistics, pharmaceuticals and consumer-packaged goods industries. It will be suitable for secondary packaging and high-payload applications, with the speed and flexibility to support SRP (shelf-ready packaging) and RRP (retail-ready packaging) applications.

Possible uses include secondary packaging of dry and wet foods, beverages, pharmaceuticals, medical products, personal care, pet care, CPG (consumer packaged goods) and logistics. The robot will use NSF H1 food-grade lubricants and will be built using FDA-compliant materials suitable for use in hygienic environments. FGO and FGG (H1) will be used in exposed gearboxes and bearings.

By combining the new robot with ABB’s existing IRB 360 FlexPicker high-speed picking-and-packing robot, manufacturers will be able to build complete systems for pre-sorting and group packing of products.

The new FlexPacker will work with ABB’s PickMaster Twin robot software for vision-guided random flow picking and packing applications. The software uses digital twin technology to create simulated packing stations that optimise the picking process. It is claimed to cut commissioning times from days to hours, and changeover times from hours to minutes, while maximising line efficiency. The software supports colour vision systems with up to 10 cameras for accurate position guidance and feature inspection.

ABB's IRB 390 FlexPacker robot will target the multi-channel retailing market

Marc Segura, managing director of ABB’s Consumer Segments & Service Robotics business, says that the new robot will help users to meet the latest pick-and-place challenges. “We are combining the speed, payload and dexterity of FlexPacker with the proven high-speed picking and packing capability of FlexPicker, and the advanced vision and digital twin capability of PickMaster Twin, to help our customers make their lines more flexible than ever before, to handle the growth of low-volume, high-mix and higher payload production.”

The growth of multi-channel retailing means that distribution centres and logistics warehouses are having to transform their systems to handle both pallets and packaging destined for retail shelves, while also picking and packing varied items for shipping direct to consumers.

A major driver for change has been the growth of direct-to-consumer (D2C) and direct-to-store (D2S) shipping, which is changing the way that consumers order and collect products. With these new models, they have an expanding choice of methods for receiving orders, in addition to home delivery. These methods include click-and-collect, in-store collection and, more recently, robotic street kiosks. To pick and handle a wide variety of goods quickly in a range of combinations, retailers need the right infrastructure with high flexibility.

“We are helping retailers as they embrace omnichannel strategies to answer consumer demand for greater choice,” says Segura. “The ongoing development of direct-to-consumer channels and the fusion of e-retailers acting as retailers, and vice versa, is creating pressure on traditional order fulfilment systems to handle a greater variety of items at higher speeds.”

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