The growth of omnichannel retailing requires distribution centers and logistics warehouses to handle both pallets and packaged items for retail shelves, as well as picking and packing varied items for direct shipping to individual consumers. ABB Robotics & Discrete Automation today announced the IRB 390 FlexPacker. The new delta robot is designed to support customized packaging; vertical packing; high-speed, high-variation sorting; and on-demand order picking.
The growth of direct-to-consumer (D2C) and direct-to-store (D2S) shipping is dramatically changing how consumers order and receive products, said ABB. Customers have an increasing number of options in addition to home delivery, which is becoming less environmentally and economically sustainable as more people shop remotely. These methods include click and collect, in-store collection, and, more recently, robotic street kiosks, where shoppers pay for and receive the products of their choice.
Operators of logistics and e-commerce fulfillment facilities need flexible infrastructure that can pick and handle a wide variety of goods in the widest range of combinations and in the shortest possible time.
“We are helping retailers as they embrace omnichannel strategies to answer consumer demand for greater choice,” stated Marc Segura, managing director of consumer segments and service robotics at ABB, during a webinar in lieu of this year’s Interpack trade show. “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-fulfillment systems to handle a greater variety of items at higher speeds.”
IRB 390 FlexPacker is faster, stronger
Advances in technology, including robot speed and payload, as well as AI enabled by vision systems, can give customers the unprecedented ability to recognize and handle a greater variety of products in a more agile way, according to ABB.
The company said its IRB 390 FlexPacker robot will be available later this year as a four- and five-axis variant delta robot. It is 35% faster than the IRB 360-8/1130 FlexPicker, with a 45% increase in reachable volume and payload of up to 15 kg (33 lb.), ABB said.
The IRB 390 is designed for customers in the food and beverage, logistics, healthcare, and consumer packaged goods industries. ABB said the new system will be ideal for secondary packaging and higher-payload applications, with the speed and flexibility to support shelf-ready packaging (SRP) and retail-ready packaging (RRP).
The company added that the IRB 390 could be used for secondary packaging in food (dry and wet), beverage, pharmaceutical, medical, personal care, pet care (food and more), consumer packaged goods (CPG), and logistics.
The IRB 390 will have NSF H1 food-grade lubricants and be made of FDA-compliant material, making it suitable for use in hygienic environments, ABB said. Food-grade oil and FGG (H1 food-grade synthetic grease) is used in all exposed gearboxes and bearings.
ABB adds to portfolio, works on ease of use
ABB said its FlexPicker robot and PickMaster software, including the recently released PickMaster Twin, are already helping supply chains worldwide to satisfy rapidly changing consumer demand.
“With the launch of the new IRB 390 FlexPacker, ABB will be able to offer an enhanced portfolio of automation products to help our customers meet the latest pick-and-place challenges,” Segura said. “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. [This will] help our customers make their lines more flexible than ever before, to handle the growth of low-volume, high-mix, and higher-payload production.”
Manufacturers will be able to build a complete solution for pre-sorting and group packing by combining the IRB 390 FlexPacker with the IRB 360 FlexPicker, which has been a leader in its space for the past 15 years, said ABB.
The IRB 390 FlexPacker is also designed to work with PickMaster Twin, ABB’s software for vision-guided random-flow picking and packing applications. PickMaster Twin features digital twin technology, allowing the building of simulated packing stations to optimize the picking process. ABB said its software can increase productivity by dramatically shortening commissioning times from days to hours and changeover times from hours to minutes, while maximizing overall line efficiency.
PickMaster Twin also features a color vision system that can support up to 10 cameras for accurate position guidance and feature inspection, said the Zurich-based company. ABB Robotics has been working on ease of use, including through its Robot Control Mate add-on to RobotStudio, a global research hub for healthcare robotics in Houston, and its partnership with artificial intelligence startup Covariant.