Retirement for 26-year-old machine after 36 million welds!

Industrial Robot

ISSN: 0143-991x

Article publication date: 1 June 2004




(2004), "Retirement for 26-year-old machine after 36 million welds!", Industrial Robot, Vol. 31 No. 3.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Retirement for 26-year-old machine after 36 million welds!

Retirement for 26-year-old machine after 36 million welds!

ABB IRB6/S1 stakes claim as country's oldest industrial robot

Keywords: Robots, Spot welding, ABB

A leading UK manufacturer of supermarket trolleys and roller containers is staking a claim to owning the country's oldest computer-based robot. The long-serving ABB (formerly ASEA) IRB6/S1 machine has completed an incredible 26 years of almost continuous operation (Plate 4).

Clares Merchandise Handling Equipment Ltd, of Wells, Somerset, which also produces airport luggage trolleys, estimates its original IRB6/S1 robot – bought in July 1977 and fitted with ESAB welding equipment for arc-welding the trolleys – clocked up a colossal 88,000 h of service in its working life.

Plate 4

Although not fitted with run time hour clocks or weld-counters like modern ABB robots, the company calculates that the old-stager would have helped to produce over two million trolley sub- assemblies and made a staggering 36,360,000 individual welds.

Julian Holley, Clares' Electronic Systems Manager, said: “At the time of its introduction in 1974 this robot design was nothing short of a revolution. The all-aluminium arm (completely electrically driven) was light and fast and the closed-loop servo system, controlled by a micro- processor, made it accurate and flexible.”

“When computers are so much part of our daily lives it is hard to imagine the technological advance that these machines must have represented. At a time when computers were the preserve of large multinational corporations and NASA, it must have been an extraordinary event to have not only a computer, but a computer controlling a robot in a small factory in the sleepy city of Wells, back in 1977.”

For more information, contact: David Marshall, ABB Automation Technologies Division, Auriga House, Precedent Drive, Rooksley, Milton Keynes MK13 8PQ. Tel: +44 (0) 1908 350300; Fax: +44 (0) 1908 350301; E-mail:

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