ABB Robots

The first industrial robot appeared in 1961 when a Unimate was supplied to General Motors for tending a die casting machine. The Unimate, the brain child of Joseph Engelberger, the ”Father of the Industrial Robot”, was hydraulically driven, a technology that dominated the fledgling industrial robot business for its first decade. Then in 1974, the Swedish company ASEA developed the IRB 6, the first all-electric industrial robot. This 6 kg capacity device was unique, not only in the drive system but also in its anthropomorphic configuration and its use of a microprocessor control system. It set new robot standards in the small footprint, the speed of movement and positioning accuracy and gave rise to a number of IRB 6 look-alikes.

Electric drive robots opened up new applications not possible with hydraulic machines, in particular arc welding. However, the first application outside of ASEA was polishing stainless steel pipe bends for the food industry at Swedish company, Magnusson. Its first IRB 6 was installed in 1974 1, with further units delivered in 1975. These robots ran virtually non-stop in a dirty environment for over 25 years. This factory became one of the first in the world to operate around the clock, seven days a week, completely unmanned.

1974: The world’s first microcomputer controlled electric industrial robot, IRB 6 from ASEA, was delivered to a small mechanical engineering company in southern Sweden. The design of this robot had been patented already 1972.

1975: First export orders to USA, Germany, and UK.

1975: The first robot for arc welding sold (IRB 6).

1977: First robots installed in France and Italy.

1979: First electrical robot for spot welding (IRB 60)

1979: First robot installed in Spain

1982: Introduction on the Japanese market

1983: New control system. S2, Outstanding HMI, Menu programming, TCP (tool center point) and the joy stick is introduced. Allows control of several axes.

1986: ASEA bought Trallfa robot operations, Bryne, Norway. Trallfa launched the world’s first painting robot in 1969. Sales boomed in mid eighties when the automotive industry started to paint bumpers and other plastic parts.

1986: IRB 2000 a 10 kg robot – the first robot driven by AC motors – backlash free gearboxes – large working range, – great accuracy

1990: ABB bought the robot activities of Cincinatti Milacron, USA. Through the acquisition ABB pronounced the focus on SpotWelding and got a strong base for growth in the American Automotive Industry.

1991: Acquisition of Graco, USA (robotic painting).

1991: Acquisition of the paint application group Ransburg Automotive (inventor of electrostatic painting, Atomizers).

1991: IRB 6000, a large 200 kg robot, introduced. This first modular robot becomes the fastest and most accurate spot welding robot on the market.

1991: Unique hollow wrist introduced on painting robots, allows faster and more agile motions.

1992: Acquisition of Astrobotic, France, lays the basis of ABB’s activities within Consumer Industry.

1994: Acquisition of the French company ACMA Robotics, lays the foundation of a strong position in the French Automotive Industry.

1994: S4 – break-through in user-friendliness (windows type HMI) – full dynamic models, gives outstanding performance – Flexible Rapid language.

1996: Integrated Arc Welding Power Source in robot cabinet.

1998: Launch of the FlexPicker robot, the world’s fastest pick and place robot

1998: RobotStudio, the first simulation tool based on virtual controller identical to the real one revolutionise off-line programming.

2000: The pick and place software PickMaster is introduced. Unique plug and produce functionality.

2001: Launch of IRB 7600, the world’s first industrial robot to handle 500 kg.

2002: ABB becomes the first company in world to sell 100,000 robots.

2002: VirtualArc – true arc weld simulation tool that gives robot welding engineers full ‘off-line’ control of the MIG/MAG process.

2002: Launch of IRB 6600 at Euroblech, a Power Robot with bend-over-backwards flexibility.

2003: TeachSaver, a revolutionary software for reducing programming time in cleaning, is launched at GIFA.

2003: Adding Power to RobotStudio – PowerPacs are tailor made applications for various processes such as welding, cutting, painting and foundry.

2004: 30 years in Robotics. Since the start in 1974 ABB has sold more than 100,000 robots and is one of the world´s largest robot supplier.

2004: Launch of IRC5 – the new Robot Controller.

It sets new standards with its modular concept, a completely new ergonomically-designed Windows interface unit, and fully coordinated multiple (up to four) robot control through the MultiMove function.

2005: Launch of 55 new products and robot functions, included with 4 new robots; IRB 660, IRB 4450S, IRB 1600 and IRB 260

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