ABB celebrates five years since the launch of its successful dual-arm collaborative robot YuMi. Originally launched to assist workers in lightweight assembly tasks, the robot is now used in a wide range of applications, from assembling electronics and electrical components to sorting sweets in confectionery factories. Copyright: ABB

Happy Birthday YuMi! The ABB robot celebrates five years of setting new standards in collaborative robotics

ABB is celebrating the big story of its little robot – the dual-arm YuMi® collaborative robot reaches its fifth birthday this year.

Launched in 2015 to assist workers in lightweight assembly tasks, ABB’s collaborative YuMi robot has gone on to blaze a trail in a range of applications and industries, paving the way for new opportunities for robotic automation.

With its ergonomic design and a range of safety features, including lightweight magnesium alloy arms with soft-padding to avoid pinch points and advanced motion control with collision detection, YuMi is designed to offer maximum flexibility. The robot can be integrated directly into normal production environments, enabling humans and robots to work side by side in situations that previously would have required safety barriers or cages. And what’s more, due to its dexterity and dual-arm, 14-axis design, YuMi has played a key role in enhancing productivity and quality on production lines worldwide, from assembling electronics and electrical components to sorting sweets in confectionery factories.

By removing the need for bulky and expensive safety measures, such as fencing, YuMi the collaborative robot (or cobot) has helped to remove both physical and psychological barriers which separate people from robots. YuMi’s popularity has been its friendly design that mimics the size and movements of a human operator, and its ultra-low weight soft padded arms, which allow it to move faster and more safely than other cobots.

“We laid out a clear mission for YuMi five years ago, which was to set a new standard for collaborative robotics. We wanted to create a robot that could work in many different applications hand-in-hand with humans without further protective measures or barriers, while being simple to install and operate,” explains Member of the ABB Executive Board Sami Atiya, who is responsible for the Robotics and the Discrete Automation business division. “YuMi quickly proved to be incredibly popular, creating a new category for small, collaborative robots for material handling, assembly and inspection. YuMi is helping to broaden the appeal of collaborative robots in an expanding range of applications, from manufacturing to healthcare and beyond.”

Since its launch, YuMi has become a cornerstone in the broad portfolio of collaborative automation solutions of ABB Robotics and Discrete Automation. Its impressive employment history is evidence of its versatility. For example, it has been used to help with the production of electrical sockets and to test the security and reliability of ATM machines for Swiss payments software provider Abrantix AG. As the medical sector is increasingly looking to find ways to improve efficiency, YuMi is now proving to be a success in healthcare and pharmaceutical applications, assisting with tasks in laboratories and medical facilities. Copan Diagnostics in the USA, for example, is using YuMi to handle tissue, bone and sterile fluid samples, and to transport standard swabs and blood cultures.

Over the past five years, YuMi has also made a big impact outside the workplace. Major milestones include meeting world leaders Angela Merkel, Barack Obama and Naresh Modi. YuMi also demonstrated its talents by conducting an orchestra with Andrea Bocelli in Pisa, Italy, and it has served coffee at a Selfridges department store in London and at Bloomingdales in New York.

“YuMi has certainly captured the imagination of the public, appearing in everything from music videos to popular TV shows, and doing everything from making paper aeroplanes to performing card tricks,” continues Sami Atiya. “Underlying all of these fun applications is the serious message of how robots like YuMi are helping to change attitudes towards robotic automation. YuMi clearly demonstrates how robots can help us carry out our work and this is leading to a greater acceptance of robots in factories all around the world.”

ABB continued the YuMi success story with the unveiling of its single-arm YuMi robot in 2017. This is ABB’s most agile and compact seven-axis collaborative robot. It can be mounted on tabletops, walls or ceilings, and is designed to offer flexibility in an ever-expanding range of applications.

“Since they were first introduced, both our dual-arm and single-arm YuMi robots have helped to overcome misconceptions that have often hindered the adoption of robots. They have demonstrated their value many times over and how easy they are to operate and use in a wide range of applications,” explains Andie Zhang, Global Product Manager – Collaborative Robots for ABB Robotics. “Customers tell us that the great thing about YuMi is that people don’t find it intimidating. Because it has human-like features, people feel comfortable next to a YuMi robot. We’ve also found that YuMi tends to be quickly accepted as part of the team, especially when introduced into manual production lines as it tends to be used for boring and repetitive tasks, freeing the operator to perform more varied and interesting jobs.”

YuMi has a lead-through programming function built-in, which makes the set-up process very simple, allowing the user to ‘teach’ the robot arms to move into the required positions for each application. A further exciting feature is ABB’s new Wizard easy programming software, which further simplifies programming tasks through its graphical, drag-and-drop interface, which anyone can use without special training or programming knowledge.

“YuMi allows companies to start small, tackling the tasks that are the quickest and easiest to automate. They can then use the experience they have gained to find ways to apply automation to other parts of their operations. Some customers have even purchased a YuMi without a specific application in mind,” Andie Zhang adds. “They simply wanted their production teams to explore what is possible with collaborative automation in their production processes”.

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