An interview with ABB: second generation cobots set to unlock automation for first-time users

Recently we chatted to Andie Zhang, the Global Product Manager of Collaborative Robotics at ABB Robotics about their new second generation cobots GoFa™ and SWIFTI™.

Photo: ABB’s new  SWIFTI™ cobot

Q1: How do the new GoFa™ and SWIFTI™ cobots compare to 1st generation cobots (reg. load, speed, range etc.)?

ABB’s portfolio of collaborative robots now offers three different families – YuMi, GoFa and SWIFTI, with payload options ranging from less than 0.5kg to 5kg, to support the most diverse range of collaborative applications. Each of our cobots offer a different safety system, speed, payload and a different mode of collaborative operation.

SWIFTI is a collaborative version of the IRB 1100 industrial robot, designed for intermittent collaborative working with people at industrial speeds (up to five meters per second) for payloads up to 4 kg. SWIFTI’s concept is based on ABB’s SafeMove software and an external safety laser scanner. It slows and stops as the operator approaches to prevent contact with the operator.

GoFa has a payload 4.5 kg higher than YuMi and is designed to safely work directly and continuously alongside people, at speeds up to 2.2 meters per second. The exact safe collaborative speed may be lower, as it will depend on the specific application, tooling, payload etc. Users can refer to the SafeMove configurator App for a recommendation. GoFa has a completely new joint design with integrated sensors inside each of its six joints, so it will stop immediately when it comes into contact with a person to eliminate the risk of injury.

YuMi® is a precise collaborative robot solution for small parts assembly with state-of-the-art motion control and a 0.5kg payload. It can operate in very close collaboration with people due to its human-like dimensions and movements and its inherently safe design, which includes lightweight soft-padded arms, motion control software and speed-limited hardware. YuMi® also has no pinch points for its arms.

Q2: Are they more suited to any specific applications? If so, which are they?

Both GoFa and SWIFTI are designed to help businesses automate tasks including material handling, machine tending, component assembly and packaging in manufacturing, laboratories, logistics hubs, workshops, and small production facilities.

GoFA is engineered for first time users and SMEs, helping businesses automate processes involving heavier loads and longer reaches to assist workers with repetitive and ergonomically challenging tasks. It has a payload of up to 5kg, is the fastest cobot in its class (speeds up to 2.2 meters per second) and can be mounted in any direction (wall and floor mount).

SWIFTI bridges the gap between collaborative and industrial robotics. It is a fast and accurate collaborative robot for payloads up to 4 kg and designed for intermittent collaborative work with people at industrial speeds (up to five meters per second). It combines enhanced collaborative safety measures and ease of use with the speed, robustness, and precision of an industrial robot.

YuMi is for payloads up to 0.5kg and is inherently safe. YuMi is working alongside people in factories, workshops and laboratories, from assembling electronics to testing ATM machines and testing COVID-19 samples.


Q3: Are any new industries/sectors now open to the idea of integrating cobots due to these new machines?

Our new GoFa and SWIFTI cobot families expand our cobot portfolio, and opening cobots to first-time users in a broad range of sectors, such as healthcare, logistics and retail and SME’s in the industrial sector. The market potential is huge.

Looking at the markets: Our cobots can collaborate with people in a growing number of industries far beyond manufacturing and in businesses of all sizes – from the biggest production site to the smallest workshop or restaurant.

We are currently witnessing a growing demand for automation not only in large companies in industries like automotive and electronics, where robotics is already in place, but also in small and medium-sized companies as well as new segments, like healthcare, consumer goods, logistics and retail, which currently have a low level of robotic automation.

Looking at the tasks: Our cobots can work side-by-side with people, just like co-workers, on a broad range of tasks. These include machine tending, assembly and testing and packaging in manufacturing, laboratories, logistics hubs, and small production facilities.

In a car plant they can support workers in the final assembly stage, mounting parts while working closely with human co-workers. In a warehouse they can work together with humans in customized packaging tasks, such as holiday gift packs. In a production facility they can help workers with assembly tasks including screwdriving. In larger facilities, they can be mounted on AGVs to replenish material for production lines.


Q4: Cobots still make up less than 5% of global robot sales, how will this second-generation change things, and what does the future of cobots look like to you?

While the collaborative robot market is still a small one compared to the overall robotics market, cobot sales are gaining momentum and the development of new higher payload cobots like GoFa and SWIFTI will be a key driver to accelerate this growth, encouraging businesses to automate. Currently, we see the most potential in the up to 5kg cobot payload segment and therefore expect GoFa and SWIFTI to be very successful.


Q5: Do you expect a 3rd generation series?

There is scope for even higher payloads in the future although we haven’t got anything future to announce at this time.




Contact: Michelle Jocelyn


ABB Ltd Orion House Maidstone Road, Kingston, Milton Keynes, MK10 0BD.

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