The FlexPicker: Industrial Robot Built for Speed – Video

113 24 Loading
This was a triumph...

This was a triumph...

Over the last few months, there has been very little showing on industrial robots here at Singularity Hub. That is truly a terrible circumstance, as some of the best and most innovative robots are being put to task in the industrial setting. Well, consider this the start of that wrong righted and take a look at ABB Robotics’ FlexPicker. As the name suggests, this nimble bot can grab anything that is put in its path (via conveyer belt) and gently place it in its proper space. Now, this might not seem all that revolutionary: even tiny kids can play the Milton-Bradley game Perfection. Why not just stick them on the assembly line and forego the cost of the robot? But the FlexPicker is oh so much more than that.

This thing is even faster than that kid with ADHD who just can’t sit still. For payloads of less than 100 grams, like small plastic pieces or pills, the FlexPicker takes just three tenths of a second to perform its task. That means that that by the time you can take the fastest Porsche 911 from zero to sixty miles per hour (about 4 seconds), the FlexPicker can pick up and move 13 objects and be well on the way to number 14. Don’t believe it? Take a look at the video from BotJunkie:

If lightweight objects aren’t on the conveyer belt, slower models are capable of lifting up to 3 kilograms at a sluggish seven tenths of a second per cycle. The system works by analyzing images taken from a camera mounted on the robot. The software is capable of discerning shapes and identifying the position on the conveyer belt, which is then used to control which objects the arm grabs.

Not only can the FlexPicker boast superhuman speed that would make even The Flash sweat, it also gets an A+ in the hygiene department. The robot is fully washable by current standards, making it ideal for use in clean rooms or food packaging situations. While that might not sound too interesting, it means that the robot is just as versatile as it is cool. This isn’t a one-trick pony.

The FlexPicker is already infiltrating our manufacturing lines, picking and flexing its way to faster production methods and more efficient packaging efforts. And the writing has been on the wall for quite a while: the robot is replacing human hands on the factory floor. It’s a sad thought, especially in this economy, that people would be forced out of jobs to make way for a robot that doesn’t necessarily have to put food on the table for its family. That twinge of sympathy for the man who spent a myriad of years on an assembly line, learning every nuance and quirk of the assembly process, makes the FlexPicker and its brethren a bittersweet testimonial to human engineering and shrewd capitalism.

But however the industrial robot is viewed, be it efficient and cost effective or a mechanical embodiment of corporate greed, it is a triumph of accomplishment and a technological marvel. Robots like the FlexPicker have come and they are here to stay. And if that stunning realization doesn’t cheer you up, perhaps this video would. Aren’t those little pancakes just adorable?

Discussion — 24 Responses

  • automation July 9, 2009 on 8:15 pm

    Try looking at an Adept Quattro robot. Makes the ABB look slow in comparison.

  • automation July 9, 2009 on 4:15 pm

    Try looking at an Adept Quattro robot. Makes the ABB look slow in comparison.

  • Jonathan Gardner July 9, 2009 on 9:47 pm

    Robots like this increase productivity, making the cost of goods cheaper. In the long run, there will be more jobs that are easier and better paying, and stuff will be cheaper to boot. That’s what technology gives us.

  • Jonathan Gardner July 9, 2009 on 5:47 pm

    Robots like this increase productivity, making the cost of goods cheaper. In the long run, there will be more jobs that are easier and better paying, and stuff will be cheaper to boot. That’s what technology gives us.

  • Deepfield July 9, 2009 on 11:13 pm

    My advice, any food product that requires robots to assemble them in any form is basically equal to plastic and should not be consumed.

  • Deepfield July 9, 2009 on 7:13 pm

    My advice, any food product that requires robots to assemble them in any form is basically equal to plastic and should not be consumed.

  • David Wood July 10, 2009 on 12:21 am

    Thanks for the industrial robot report Andrew. Looking foward to more! I am looking forward to an update on the progress of the Seegrid warehouse robots, robotic mining trucks, ag robots and any robotic advances in the retail service industry!

  • David Wood July 9, 2009 on 8:21 pm

    Thanks for the industrial robot report Andrew. Looking foward to more! I am looking forward to an update on the progress of the Seegrid warehouse robots, robotic mining trucks, ag robots and any robotic advances in the retail service industry!

  • Odell July 10, 2009 on 5:30 am

    @Deepfield: Yes, because everything assembled by robots is made of plastic. Logic fail, you idiot.

  • Odell July 10, 2009 on 1:30 am

    @Deepfield: Yes, because everything assembled by robots is made of plastic. Logic fail, you idiot.

  • robot makes music July 10, 2009 on 9:01 am

    I’m making a note here: HUGE SUCCESS.
    It’s hard to overstate my satisfaction.

    And the Science gets done.
    And you make a neat gun.
    For the people who are still alive.

  • robot makes music July 10, 2009 on 5:01 am

    I’m making a note here: HUGE SUCCESS.
    It’s hard to overstate my satisfaction.

    And the Science gets done.
    And you make a neat gun.
    For the people who are still alive.

  • T.S. Garp July 14, 2009 on 12:13 pm

    To see videos of ABB Robots in action, check out their tube channel. BTW – The FlexPicker is second generation picking technology, the Adept is still wearing a Members Only jacket.

  • T.S. Garp July 14, 2009 on 8:13 am

    To see videos of ABB Robots in action, check out their tube channel. BTW – The FlexPicker is second generation picking technology, the Adept is still wearing a Members Only jacket.

  • gideon July 14, 2009 on 4:12 pm

    @Jonathan Gardner:

    As human population increases and productivity increases, then demand on labor should decrease. But if the labor truly could be spread out we could all work 10 hours a week. The reality is those jobs and ways that traditionally have sustained workers in society are gone. What replaced them? Not more opportunity, just theoretically cheaper stuff. Mortgages aren’t getting any cheaper though. What can you sell to someone anymore they cant get themselves cheaper than you could ever provide? The only job you can always get is finding a way to eliminate someone else’s.

    There is going to be a bottoming out to this effect of mechanical productivity that will completely upset the global workforce. Think of it this way: if every thing you needed for survival was created completely without a humans hand, and the only labor left is things that aren’t “needed” there will never be a need for what you do. And that has always been the basis of earning is being payed for doing what needs to be done.

    Basically i don’t really see where these “jobs” that we still will need for some superficial outdated reasons are really supposed to come from. They aren’t being created directly by this process except for those engineers (a small group of which design a process as a one time contract that permanently replaces a larger group of peoples labor. After completion the engineers must rethink ways to employ themselves. The workforce eliminated in this decision is looked at as “inefficient” yet expected to fill some role somewhere else and fare better). Every thing about this = less jobs ultimately.

  • gideon July 14, 2009 on 12:12 pm

    @Jonathan Gardner:

    As human population increases and productivity increases, then demand on labor should decrease. But if the labor truly could be spread out we could all work 10 hours a week. The reality is those jobs and ways that traditionally have sustained workers in society are gone. What replaced them? Not more opportunity, just theoretically cheaper stuff. Mortgages aren’t getting any cheaper though. What can you sell to someone anymore they cant get themselves cheaper than you could ever provide? The only job you can always get is finding a way to eliminate someone else’s.

    There is going to be a bottoming out to this effect of mechanical productivity that will completely upset the global workforce. Think of it this way: if every thing you needed for survival was created completely without a humans hand, and the only labor left is things that aren’t “needed” there will never be a need for what you do. And that has always been the basis of earning is being payed for doing what needs to be done.

    Basically i don’t really see where these “jobs” that we still will need for some superficial outdated reasons are really supposed to come from. They aren’t being created directly by this process except for those engineers (a small group of which design a process as a one time contract that permanently replaces a larger group of peoples labor. After completion the engineers must rethink ways to employ themselves. The workforce eliminated in this decision is looked at as “inefficient” yet expected to fill some role somewhere else and fare better). Every thing about this = less jobs ultimately.

  • Adam July 17, 2009 on 10:36 pm

    What I notice time and time again about the argument of automation resulting in less jobs is that the possibility that we can all work less hours and get paid the same yearly income is overlooked. I mean, if we are serving all of our societal functions using less time, then we should be able to benefit from this optimization by still having all the things we do but having to work less time to do it. Then, we have more time to invent even better ways to do things, do art, spend time with our families. Who is for a 20 hour work week? I am!

    • Alex Adam August 22, 2009 on 5:48 pm

      Boss: Good news, thanks to automation, your job will only take 20 hours a week instead of 40!

      Employee: Golly that’s keen! Does that mean you’re going to double my hourly wage?

      Boss: Guess again.

  • Adam July 17, 2009 on 6:36 pm

    What I notice time and time again about the argument of automation resulting in less jobs is that the possibility that we can all work less hours and get paid the same yearly income is overlooked. I mean, if we are serving all of our societal functions using less time, then we should be able to benefit from this optimization by still having all the things we do but having to work less time to do it. Then, we have more time to invent even better ways to do things, do art, spend time with our families. Who is for a 20 hour work week? I am!

    • Alex Adam August 22, 2009 on 1:48 pm

      Boss: Good news, thanks to automation, your job will only take 20 hours a week instead of 40!

      Employee: Golly that’s keen! Does that mean you’re going to double my hourly wage?

      Boss: Guess again.

  • doug July 28, 2009 on 9:58 pm

    It’s absurd to think that a factory owner is going to pay someone to stay home. If we have a robot taking over a job in a factory and it knocks out a human worker that worker will have to find another job to pay the rent. Unless we pass taxes that tax the robot installation and then pays the displaced worker unemployment insurance for as long as he needs it. There would be bloody mess.

  • doug July 28, 2009 on 5:58 pm

    It’s absurd to think that a factory owner is going to pay someone to stay home. If we have a robot taking over a job in a factory and it knocks out a human worker that worker will have to find another job to pay the rent. Unless we pass taxes that tax the robot installation and then pays the displaced worker unemployment insurance for as long as he needs it. There would be bloody mess.

  • Lucy December 26, 2009 on 10:55 pm

    The problem with Democracy: Each person here who is wringing their hands about how horrible it is that these robots are replacing human hands on the assembly line gets the same number of votes as the people who understand how good it is that human hands are freed up for greater pursuits.

  • Lucy December 26, 2009 on 6:55 pm

    The problem with Democracy: Each person here who is wringing their hands about how horrible it is that these robots are replacing human hands on the assembly line gets the same number of votes as the people who understand how good it is that human hands are freed up for greater pursuits.