FlexPicker robots help revolutionise mosaic industry

ABB Robotics, in collaboration with the Italian Engineering consultancy EMC, has developed a robotic system for the production of ceramic mosaics that reduces costs by eliminating the need for paper and mesh backing as well as templates.

The global ceramic tile industry is worth around £20billion and is expected to grow to about £35billion in the next decade. Within this market, EU countries - notably Italy and Spain - are responsible for more than half of world revenues today but are projected to lose more than 10 per cent of that market share by 2015. The result is that European manufacturers cannot afford to be complacent and must compete more aggressively to retain their share of the global growth. Consequently there is a far greater imperative to streamline and automate manufacturing, overcoming previous traditionalist views.

Two years ago ABB Robotics approached EMC with a request to develop robotics applications in the ceramic tiles industry. EMC's name is an acronym for its focus: Engineering, Manufacturing and Consulting for robotic applications. Marco Corti, who started the Italian company in 2001, manages the technical aspects of the consultancy, while Paolo Durio heads the commercial side. Ceramics was an industry unknown to Corti, who had to come to terms with the fact that innovation was viewed with scepticism and suspicion. Even though robotics provide performance, flexibility and simplicity in production - all of which are required for the competitive future of the ceramic tile industry - there was still the need to come up with a system that was acceptable to the market.

Both Corti and Durio have had about 20 years of business experience, with Corti's devoted almost exclusively to robotics. He states: "You could say that ABB Robotics was responsible for growing the robotics market in Italy."

Mosaic production

The project facing EMC and ABB Robotics was to help mosaic cutters, who produce the mosaics in squares or in strips held together by either expensive mesh or cheaper paper backing. EMC was asked if it could develop an alternative to this backing for mosaics.

Assembling the small squares of tile had traditionally been done by hand. EMC's brief was to remove this manual element while retaining both quality and accuracy. The company's design team developed a robotic system based on ABB's IRB340 FlexPicker robot, known affectionately by EMC's engineers as Moses.

ABB's FlexPicker delta robot is excellent for high-speed pick-and-place operations. It is claimed to be the fastest robot in the world, with 150 picks per minute and a payload up to 2kg, and, being top-mounted, the delta robots require minimal floor space.

The FlexPicker assembles and manipulates tiles and mosaics, prepares tiles for gluing, and applies a new type of adhesive to hold the tiles during subsequent phases of transportation and application.

Automated dispensing of adhesive

Meanwhile, in the process of developing Moses, EMC realised the need for a new gluing method to maximise the flexibility of robotic handling. Corti says: "Working with partners, we devised a new system to glue the mosaic tiles together. We had to develop a new adhesive and deploy a second robot to apply it, which we called the sticking machine. The FlexPicker places the tiles onto a sticky sheet of plastic, which holds them stable. Then they pass under the sticking machine, where special glue is applied that holds the tiles together. The outcome was so outstanding that we could eliminate the use of paper backing, mesh and templates altogether."

So successful has the new system become in the Italian ceramics industry that the Moses has belied any concerns expressed about industry uptake. Durio comments: "This solution has become one of the most important parts of our business, and now represents one-third of our revenue."

ABB Robotics Division

Auriga House, Precedent Drive
Rooksley
Milton Keynes
MK13 8PQ
UNITED KINGDOM

+44 (0)1908 350300

contact.centre@gb.abb.com

www.abb.com/robotics

More from ABB Robotics Division

ABB launches condition-based maintenance service for robots

Posted 20 hours ago

ABB industrial robots get Wizard programming

Posted 1 week ago

ABB buys Codian Robotics

Posted 3 months ago

ABB recycling and remanufacturing thousands of old robots

Posted 6 months ago

YuMi - ABB's collaborative robot celebrates 5th birthday

Posted 7 months ago

Digital tools help manufacturers restart production

Posted 7 months ago

Control SCARA robots from a PC with ABB RobotStudio

Posted 8 months ago

How switching to robots transforms your competitiveness

Posted 1 year ago

ABB Robotics announces robot training courses

Posted 1 year ago

How investing in robots can help transform performance: seminar

Posted 1 year ago

New ceiling-mounted SCARA robot for fast assembly

Posted 2 years ago

ABB Robotics seminar, workshop: how robots transform performance

Posted 2 years ago

ABB's YuMi cobot serves coffee at Selfridges

Posted 2 years ago

Exploring the opportunities offered by virtual commissioning

Posted 2 years ago

ABB enhances interaction with sentient robot at Design Museum

Posted 3 years ago

ABB announces details of Food and Beverage day in Texas

Posted 3 years ago

Seminar: improving your productivity with robots

Posted 3 years ago

ABB's YuMi robot wins prestigious robotics industry award

Posted 4 years ago

Two-year ROI forecast on robot installation at CED Thurrock

Posted 4 years ago

ABB to showcase robotic innovations at MACH 2016

Posted 4 years ago

The IRB 8700 is ABB's largest ever robot

Posted 4 years ago

ABB Robotics UK to co-host stand at PPMA 2015 with RM Group

Posted 5 years ago

ABB acquires Gomtec to expand collaborative robotics portfolio

Posted 5 years ago

ABB's YuMi collaborative robot has the ability to feel and see

Posted 6 years ago

Applying robotic automation to low-volume processes

Posted 6 years ago

Integrated welding cell from ABB cuts production time

Posted 6 years ago

Survey reveals reluctance to invest in robotic automation

Posted 6 years ago

Online calculator demonstrates scope for savings with ABB robots

Posted 6 years ago

Fast and flexible medium-size parts transfer system

Posted 6 years ago

Swappage scheme encourages use of latest robotic automation

Posted 7 years ago

ABB delivers car body framing for today's flexible needs

Posted 7 years ago

ABB releases upgrade to best-selling IRB 1600 robot

Posted 7 years ago

ABB wins order for 2400 gluing and spot welding robots from BMW

Posted 7 years ago

ABB signs Mike Wilson to its robotics team

Posted 8 years ago

ABB industrial robot for automated luggage storage and retrieval

Posted 8 years ago

ABB passes out its two newest robotics apprentices

Posted 8 years ago

Robotic Maintenance and 24/7 Response service

Posted 8 years ago

PalletPack 460 for fast, flexible and cost-effective palletising

Posted 8 years ago

Witter Towbars installs ten ABB robotic welding cells

Posted 8 years ago

Youngman uses robots instead of outsourcing production to China

Posted 8 years ago

Free, no-obligation robotic automation appraisals

Posted 8 years ago

See ABB robots in action at MACH 2012

Posted 8 years ago

Aston Martin improves painting performance with ABB robots

Posted 8 years ago

Award recognises robots' return on investment

Posted 10 years ago

Robotics in the food and drink industries - free event

Posted 10 years ago

See the Fanta Can Challenge - live at MACH 2010

Posted 10 years ago

Food Technology Seminar to focus on robotics

Posted 12 years ago

ABB to demonstrate flexible robotic technology at MACH

Posted 12 years ago

Astech Projects joins ABB's Robotic Partner Network

Posted 12 years ago

Vision-guided robot picks and places sliced meat

Posted 12 years ago

Robots pick-and-place cheese to streamline production

Posted 12 years ago

Knight Warner becomes ABB robotics partner

Posted 12 years ago

Software for robotic grinding and finishing of castings

Posted 12 years ago

Kern to apply ABB robots to mailroom and packaging systems

Posted 12 years ago

Robot cell is competitive against Far East manufacture

Posted 12 years ago

Why UK manufacturers must embrace a robotic future

Posted 12 years ago

How to save energy by using industrial robots

Posted 12 years ago

Agile machine-tending robots offer a choice of mountings

Posted 13 years ago

ABB Robotics to host two-day global packaging forum

Posted 13 years ago

Robots automate filling of drums with enzymes

Posted 13 years ago

ABB Robotics strengthens Partner Network

Posted 13 years ago

Investing in robots costs less than expected

Posted 14 years ago

Panel-mounting controllers for multiple robots

Posted 14 years ago

Robot cell boosts efficiency of complex grinding operation

Posted 14 years ago

CCFRA presentation: 'Robots in Food - Feeding the need'

Posted 14 years ago

ABB Robotics to show PickMaster 5 software at PackExpo 2006

Posted 14 years ago

Backwards-bending six-axis robot has 3.9m reach

Posted 14 years ago

More applications
17 hours ago
Boxing clever
A new chainflex cable box means big shipping cost savings for customers
20 hours ago
New industrial vision online channel sees the light of day
Industrial vision provider IDS is making its expertise as a manufacturer of digital industrial cameras available free of charge and readily accessible on a new platform
20 hours ago
Ball screws help protect buildings from earthquakes
Ball screws from NSK are helping to protect structures and people in earthquake zones
20 hours ago
ATEX certification for new pneumatic valve island
Pneumatic process control offers numerous benefits, especially in hygienic applications. Bürkert says that its new Type 8652 AirLINE valve island provides users with improved safety features, communications and diagnostics
20 hours ago
What the UK-EU trade deal means for UK vehicle manufacturers
Now the UK has left the EU, the transition period has ended and the two parties have established a new trading relationship, UK-based vehicle manufacturers have some clarity over what they need to do to serve three key markets: Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales), the EU and Northern Ireland
20 hours ago
Farnell publishes Industry 4.0 ebook
New ‘Industry 4.0 Interviews’ ebook is available for free download from Farnell and showcases the opinions of leading global experts on the future of IIoT and Industry 4.0
20 hours ago
Can DC motors be used at high temperatures?
There is no need for a heated discussion about it as maxon’s motor expert Andrew Gibson offers a view on the subject
1 day ago
Switching up a gear
Phoenix Contact is expanding its line of unmanaged switches
1 day ago
New Intertronics metering, mixing and dispensing system
Adhesives supplier Intertronics has introduced a new 2-K-DOS metering, mixing and dispensing system, said to be a compact, benchtop unit suitable for materials including silicones, polyurethanes and epoxies
1 day ago
Freshly updated online cabinet and access panel locking resource
The EMKA website now features updated guidance on new locking solutions for switch and control cabinets