ABB’s AI Trolleys Go Programming-Free for Faster Onboard

ABB is aiming to get first-time users in on the AI revolution manufacturing with the recent rollout of autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) and a software suite that gets them configured faster for use on the factory floor.

The Swiss engineering giant’s Robotics Division showcased the Flexley Tug T702 AMR at last month’s LogiMAT trade fair in Stuttgart, Germany. Equipped with Visual SLAM technology that combines 3D vision with AI to differentiate between fixed and mobile objects, the company says the trolley robot operates best in dynamic environments, such as warehouses and fulfilment centers.

ABB’s new AMR Studio software runs the T702, enabling first-time robot users to easily configure and operate entire fleets of AMRs without programming. The simplified set-up can reduce commissioning time by up to 20%, ABB says. The T702 is 20% faster, too, thanks to the AI in its autonomous navigation.

Short for Simultaneous Localization and Mapping, the company introduced Visual SLAM in April 2023 to allow AMRs operate autonomously in complex, high-traffic environments populated by machines and human workers. The tech creates and continuously updates maps that guide the robots, sharing them instantly across the fleet.

ABB say Visual SLAM surpasses both magnetic tape and QR codes, offering flexibility and scalability without interrupting operations as manufacturing shifts from linear production to networks of machines and locations. It does this in part by eliminating the need for the additional infrastructure used in 2D Slam systems.

Further enhancing those capabilities is the new software suite, which enables inexperienced users to easily create and configure AMR routes and jobs. AMR Studio guides users through environment mapping and mission generation to system configuration and modification.

Assignment algorithms see that orders are distributed efficiently, while visualization and data monitoring provides full traceability. AMR Studio’s Fleet Manager function shows performance analytics in real-time, with data history tables providing key insights for process optimization.

The launch is the first since ABB purchased Sevensense, an AI navigation specialist, in January. That company, spun out of the Federal Technology Institute in Zurich in 2018, joined ABB’s innovation ecosystem three years ago. ABB also acquired ASTI Mobile Robotics in 2021, part of a strategy to capture what company analysts forecast as growing demand for intelligent robotics across the spectrum of industry.

ABB expects compound growth of 20% per annum for intelligent robots, rising to $9.5bn by 2026, thanks to sustainability, e-commerce, and customer demand for product choice and personalization. Along with labor and skills shortages, and geopolitical and supply chain uncertainties, manufacturers are increasing their focus on automation to make production more resilient, faster and more efficient, the company says.