The ABB Yumi is still breaking new ground in collaborative robotics 5 years after its introduction
ABB is celebrating five years since the launch of its ground breaking collaborative robot, the YuMi (pronounced You-Me). With the initial objective of working on lightweight manufacturing assembly tasks in co-operation with factory workers, YuMi has since gone on to spark the imagination of automation engineers and play a part in innovative ways of using collaborative robots.
The primary aim of a collaborative robot is to work alongside people and YuMi was designed with operational safety in mind with light weight, soft padding and advanced motion control with collision detection. The design enables it to be used in workstations alongside people to increase flexibility by allowing tasks to be worked on together without the need for barriers and safety cages. By removing the need for such bulky and expensive safety measures, YuMi has removed both the physical and psychological barriers separating people from robots.
It’s clear from the first glance at YuMi that the design goes a long way towards resembling the human form. With two arms, wrists & elbow joints, hand-like gripping mechanisms and a similarly shaped size and torso, the robot doesn’t look out of place in a factory workstation. However, it wasn’t just aesthetics that drove the design but the requirement to fulfil its functional requirements whilst collaborating with workers.
According to Andie Zhang, Global Product Manager – Collaborative Robots at ABB, YuMi’s arms were deliberately designed to mimic the capabilities of a human arm, from moveable wrists through to flexible elbows, to allow seven axes of movement. Similarly, the size of YuMi has also been designed to match the upper part of a human body as closely as possible.
“This allows it not only to work next to a person without overwhelming them, but also enables it to be easily moved between locations, allowing one robot to quickly be transferred between different production lines if necessary,” says Zhang.
Beyond light assembly
According to Sami Atiya, President of ABB Robotics and Discrete Automation, YuMi has proved to be incredibly popular, creating a new category for small, collaborative robots for material handling and assembly and inspection.
However, in the 5 years since its launch, YuMi has extended its reach beyond the shop floor into other industries. “YuMi has broadened the appeal of collaborative robots in an expanding range of applications, from manufacturing to healthcare and beyond,” says Atiya.
Since its launch, YuMi has racked up an impressive employment history, delivering results in everything from producing electrical sockets, to helping to test the security, reliability and durability of ATM machines for a Swiss-based payments software provider. With the medical sector looking to improve efficiency, YuMi has branched out into healthcare and pharmaceutical applications, assisting with tasks in laboratories and medical facilities. Copan Diagnostics in the USA, for example, is using YuMi-based HEPA filtered bio-safety workstations to manage tissues, bone and sterile fluid samples, as well as transporting traditional swabs and blood cultures.
YuMi has also had a big impact outside the workplace. Milestones include meeting world leaders Angela Merkel, Barack Obama and Naresh Modi as well as conducting an orchestra with Andrea Bocelli in Pisa.
“YuMi has captured the imagination of the public, appearing in everything from music videos to popular TV shows,” added Atiya. “Underlying these fun applications is the serious message of how robots like YuMi are helping to change attitudes towards robotic automation. In helping to educate people about how robots can support our work, YuMi has paved the way for robots to be used in workplaces and factory floors worldwide.”