From concept to completion; ABB's new mid range robot - IRB 4600

2009-06-30 - As a leading supplier of industrial robots, ABB is well aware of the need to continually broaden access to automation, challenging perceptions of robots and helping manufacturers understand what benefits are achievable through the use of robotic technology. As ABB launches its latest robotic development - the IRB 4600, we explore the developments behind the new fourth-generation, multi-purpose robot, said to be the fastest, most accurate, low-weight, medium sized robot... ever!

This article first appeared in the May 2009 edition of Automation Magazine

Robots are well known for offering a consistent and predictable method of production, which can be vital in helping companies to plan strategies for both short and long-term competitiveness. Automated technology is available for a wide range of industries, and by ensuring each market has the right tools to succeed, can deliver enhanced levels of performance and productivity.

Manufacturing industries are always looking for the most cost-efficient solution and ABB’s goal has been to develop a robot that offers state-of-the-art performance in a cost and space saving package. The result is the IRB 4600 - the first of ABB’s new generation of robots for improved power and productivity.

Efficient solutions for improved competitiveness
ABB set the pace for compact, versatile robot technology back in 2006 with the launch of its IRB 4400, a compact robot perfectly matched for a variety of applications. The growing popularity of the robot convinced ABB that the IRB 4400 could be replaced with an even more compact and versatile version. Mats Olsson, robot designer at ABB comments: “Preparing for the IRB 4600 was a real design challenge. We wanted the new robot to be as compact as possible with consistently high path accuracy and short cycle times. This was combined with the demand from our customers for a more agile, flexible robot, with reduced weight to suit their applications better.”

During the early stages of development, a comprehensive market study was undertaken with a wide range of customers in various applications around the world. Talking about the research, Gustaf Flordtröm, product manager for the IRB 4600 comments: “Achieving a clear understanding of our customers’ current and future needs is essential in helping us create the right product. We have put a lot of effort in to really understand what our customers’ needs are, and we have continued to ask for their feedback and support throughout the product’s development.”

High demands in a highly competitive area
Per Löwgren, product manager for the IRB 4600 comments: “The manufacturing industry needs tools that help increase productivity and performance. Providing a robot capable of delivering higher quality, reduced wastage, shorter cycle times and optimum use of the available floor space is key to helping our customers thrive in an increasingly competitive market.

“High-cost countries such as those in Europe and North America need robots to handle both quality-related process applications and labour-intensive material handling operations for fully-automated factories. Emerging markets need robots to achieve world-class quality and to be able to compete globally. It is our responsibility as a leading supplier of robots to support and offer efficient solutions to meet the needs of users, whatever they may be.”

Getting a first-hand response
Evolut and EIP, both major system builders in Italy, were invited to join a group of key customers to evaluate ABB’s new robot. Speaking about the new robot, Franco Codini, technical director for Evolut comments: “We appreciate the design of the IRB 4600. The fact that it has a small wrist and the removal of the parallel rod opens up new possibilities for flexible mounting and cell design.”

The new generation
The final design of the IRB 4600 features a new compact, lightweight design with an upper arm of aluminium and spur gears of ABB’s own design. The robot incorporates QuickMove and TrueMove, ABB’s breakthrough sharp motion technology that delivers precise performance and path accuracy with the shortest possible rapid cycle time.

Compared with its predecessor, the IRB 4400, the IRB 4600 has double the working range whilst weighing 50 percent less. It also offers a 25 percent improvement in cycle times, offering new possibilities for enhanced productivity. It is available in four different versions: two short-arm versions (2.05m) for 60 or 45kg payloads and two long-arm versions (2.50 and 2.55m) for 40 or 20kg payloads, making it suitable for a wide range of applications and industries.

Thanks to its semi-shelf capacity, it has the widest vertical reach on the market in its class, with a range of 1.73m. This is extremely useful for die-casting, extraction and spraying, as well as injection moulding extraction applications.

New precise technology sets new standards
The IRB 4600 has been designed and equipped to offer sharp performance in many process applications, including sealing, gluing and cutting, etc. In these applications an enhanced path following ability is key to its success. ABB’s new precise technology, penned the ‘sharp generation’, is characterised by an optimised design to fulfil customers’ requirements for any application whilst providing improved productivity for its users. The IRB 4600 is ABB’s first robot in its new ‘sharp generation’ range.

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    The IRB 4600 - many robots in one.
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