Meet YuMi: ABB’s new collaborative dual-arm robot

YuMi can reportedly collaborate, side-by-side, with humans in a normal manufacturing environment.

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A new generation of robots is designed to end the separation between human and robot. The latest example of this is the YuMi, a collaborative dual-arm industrial robot from automation technology provider ABB (Zurich, Switzerland). ABB unveiled YuMi during the Hannover Messe, the world's biggest industrial trade fair. ABB hopes to push the boundaries of robotic automation by expanding the types of industrial processes that can be automated with robots.

“The new era of robotic coworkers is here,” said ABB CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer. “YuMi makes collaboration between humans and robots a reality. It is the result of years of research and development, and will change the way humans and robots interact.”

YuMi was specifically designed to meet the flexible and agile production needs of the consumer electronics industry. However, ABB says that it has equal application in any small parts assembly environment due to its dual arms, flexible hands, universal parts feeding system, camera-based part location, lead-through programming and motion control.

ABB says that YuMi can operate in very close collaboration with humans. It has a lightweight yet rigid magnesium skeleton covered with a floating plastic casing wrapped in soft padding to absorb impacts. YuMi is also compact, with human dimensions and human movements. If YuMi senses an unexpected impact, such as a collision with a coworker, it can pause its motion within milliseconds, and the motion can be restarted again quickly. YuMi also has no pinch points so that nothing sensitive can be harmed as the axes open and close.

YuMi joins other collaborative robots on the market, such as Rethink Robotics’ (Boston, MA) Baxter, a collaborative robot introduced in 2012 that is a two-armed robot with an animated face. Baxter features a suite of integrated sensors and the basic knowledge to perform a wide range of simple manufacturing operations. Rethink just released Sawyer, a single-arm robot designed to execute machine tending, circuit board testing and other precise tasks that have historically been difficult to automate with traditional industrial robots. 

BCG Research predicts that by 2025, adoption of advanced robots will boost productivity by up to 30% in many industries and lower total labor costs by 18% or more in countries such as South Korea, China, the U.S., Japan, and Germany.

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