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How Ultimaker Revolutionised ABB’s Robotic Prototypes

As a global leader in power and automation technologies ABB know almost everything that there is to know about robotics. For many years the company has developed industrial robots which are widely used in the automotive, electronics and manufacturing industries.

Back in 2016 Guillaume Pradels, the co-developer of ABB’s collaborative industrial robot YuMi, designed to work alongside humans was becoming frustrated with the speed and cost of prototyping fingers for the robot.

YuMi was created to carry out small parts assembly, including pick, place, insert and grab. For each different part a different shape of finger is required. Whilst ABB has always developed the designs for these prototypes themselves, they were heavily reliant upon external providers to make the prototypes. These were often extremely costly and took around five weeks for each iteration.

Guillaume decided that he could replace this process using 3D printers from Ultimaker. His ideas were met with plenty of scepticism at ABB when he first pitched the idea, as his colleagues were used to the more traditional prototypes made out of metal, not plastic ones from a printer.

Luckily Guillaume had a keen interest in 3D printing and decided to take a design model to a fair to have it 3D printed there. After an hour, the model was printed. When he brought it back to the office, his co-workers were quickly swayed as they saw the result.

All prototypes for the YuMi robotic fingers are now created using Ultimaker 3D printers, costing almost nothing and taking just an hour to print. Creating these designs in house on a desktop and printing them has enabled ABB to bypass the ordering and delivery stages completely. They also now have a whole new level of flexibility and testing opportunities.

I am a 60-year-old tech lover and self-confessed geek and football fanatic! When I am not playing with the latest gadget you will often find me watching my favourite TV shows including Game of Thrones, Young Sheldon and The Big Bang Theory. Feel free to follow me on Instagram @robbiedunion or Twitter @robbiedunion

17 Apr 2018, 8:25