The world’s top developers of industrial robotics technologies have been challenged in the P.R.-game over recent months – not because their systems are not effective but because of some perceived lack of “sensitivity.”  Start-ups and new entries have been filling up the robot “space” with new technologies for force-control, arm-motion and repeatability, and especially the simpler teachability of their designs. Typically, these new robotic systems are presented not as manufacturing automation but as production equipment with “personality.”

ABB Robotics has picked up the challenge, introducing a new dual-arm robot it calls the first in the world that is “truly collaborative” with individual workers in the production line or fabricating cell.  The YuMi® is a robot designed for small parts assembly or similar set-ups, where people and robots work on the same tasks.

YuMi is short for ‘you and me,’ working together. The robot was developed to meet production requirements for flexibility and agility, according to ABB Robotics, for example in the consumer electronics industry, but the developer also noted the design would be introduced to other manufacturing sectors in the near future.

“Naming this robot YuMi reflects the true spirit of human-machine collaboration,” emphasized Per Vegard Nerseth, head of ABB’s global robotics business; “humans and robots sharing tasks side by side in ways we could never have imagined previously.”

YuMi is described as “a collaborative, dual-arm assembly solution with the ability to feel and see. It’s padded dual arms, combined with novel force-sensing technology, ensure the safety of human co-workers. Safety is built into the functionality of the robot itself, however, so that it can work cage-free.

Capable of handling everything from the delicate parts or precision instruments (e.g., assembling mechanical wristwatches, or the components of phones or PCs, YuMi is capable of exceptionally accurate and repeatable motions.

“YuMi is going to change many of mankind’s assumptions about manufacturing and industrial processes,” stated Pekka Tiitinen, head of ABB Robotics’ Discrete Automation and Motion division, “Yumi will open endless possibilities. We are at the start of a very exciting new era for industrial automation.”