ABB Rolls out Its Smallest, Lightest Production Automation Solution to Date

The company says its new robots are small, fast and highly accurate, making them well-suited for a wide variety of manufacturing applications.

The IRB 1100. (Image courtesy of ABB.)

The IRB 1100. (Image courtesy of ABB.)

The market for smallparts assembly automation has a new player. At the China International Industry Fair 2018 last month, industrial robotics giant ABB announced a new addition to its portfolio of solutions—the IRB 1100.The company bills this new offering, which is its smallest and lightest robot to date, as a versatile solution to suit a wide variety of applications in the manufacturing of small, intricate components. The 6-axis robot’s capabilities—chiefly its small size and high speed—were developed with the efficiency demands of modern manufacturers in mind. “This is ABB’s most compact and lightweight robot ever,” said Per Vegard Nerseth, ABB’s managing director of robotics. “[It’s] a great addition to our small parts assembly solutions portfolio.”

The IRB 1100 boasts a number of practical upgrades over its predecessors from ABB. Its production capacity is one of the IRB 1100’s more obvious improvements, as the new robot offers 35 percent faster cycle times. Further, the machine’s consistency will likely capture the interest of manufacturers that need to produce within extremely tight tolerances. ABB’s latest generation of OmniCore controllers drive the new bot, giving it what the company describes as best-in-class repeatability. This combination of speed and accuracy makes the IRB 1100 well-suited for a variety of applications, including rapid small parts assembly and pick-and-place functions. The most compelling aspect of this latest product rollout, however, may be its flexibility.

The small size of the new robots—they have a 10 percent smaller footprint and weigh 20 percent less than earlier generations—allows them to integrate effectively into most manufacturing environments. As manufacturers cope with shifting demand patterns that often call for heightened product diversity, lower volumes and shorter lead times, this ease of assimilation is important. The IRB 1100s are designed to be simple to install and use at any point along a production line. This flexibility helps maximize the utility of the plant as a whole, from boosting the productivity of existing automation systems to more efficiently allocating limited square footage.

While ABB’s new robots are clearly versatile, there are apparently limits to what capabilities it is economically efficient to bundle into a single device. To that point, the IRB 1100 is available in two distinct models. Both come with a payload of 4 kilograms, but one’s reach spans 580 millimeters, while the other’s is limited to 475. The company plans to go to market with its new solution beginning in December 2018.