New controller from ABB provides "step-change" improvement in multiple robot usability

Industrial Robot

ISSN: 0143-991x

Article publication date: 1 August 2004



(2004), "New controller from ABB provides "step-change" improvement in multiple robot usability", Industrial Robot, Vol. 31 No. 4.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

New controller from ABB provides "step-change" improvement in multiple robot usability

New controller from ABB provides "step-change" improvement in multiple robot usability

ABB, the global power and automation technologies group, introduces the IRC5, its fifth generation robot controller and the biggest technological step forward since the introduction of the first generation S1 in 1974, which was developed alongside the world's first electric drive robot, the IRB6.

Of the advances made with the IRC5, the biggest is the introduction of the new MultiMove function. Embedded into the IRC5 software, MultiMove allows up to four robots, including work positioners and other devices, to work in fully co-ordinated operation. Such advanced functionality is made possible by the exceptional processing power of the IRC5 control module computer, capable of calculating MultiMove path calculations for up to 36 servo axes, while directing up to four drive modules.

Incorporating an advanced modular design, the IRC5 has a logical split of functions – computer, drives and process – and minimum dependency between modules. To this can be added comprehensive communications; minimum maintenance and high reliability (80,000 h MTBF); plus a new “open systems” portable interface unit, the FlexPendant.

Synchronous control of four robots is potentially a complex task but implementation and fulfilment have been greatly simplified with the use of FlexPendant. The unit, weighing less than 1.3 kg, is ergonomically designed to fit naturally into either hand. It incorporates a 196 mm (7.7 in.) wide, 640 × 480 pixel, graphical colour screen which indexes through 180° for left and right hand use, so it is always viewed the correct way round. Other features include a three-way joystick for intuitive jogging of the robot, and an emergency stop. The result is a very clear, simple-to-use layout built into an extremely tough and robust unit with full IP54 protection (Plate 3).

The FlexPendant is designed as a stand-alone unit with its own computing power with an open system PC architecture and software developed in alliance with Microsoft using the Windows. NET operating system. The system is extremely robust and designed for 24/7 operations, with a high level of virus immunity.

Plate 3

While programs may be edited on the FlexPendant, it is more efficient to use a PC with its greater computing power and wider range of software tools. The control module has been designed for ready connection to a PC without complex set-up or protocol problems. To support the use of a PC, ABB has developed RobotStudio Online (RSOL), supplied free with every IRC5 system.

The introduction of the IRC5 control, incorporating a modular design, MultiMove, FlexPendant and RSOL, provides the ideal vehicle for the rapid implementation of multi-robot operation, whether in individual or coordinated mode. Potential benefits for the user include shorter lead times, lower integration costs, increased productivity and improved quality.

ABB ( is a leader in power and automation technologies that enable utility and industry consumers to improve their performance while lowering their environmental impact. ABB has about 133,000 employees in more than 100 countries.

ABB Automation Technologies Division

'The ABB Automation Technologies Division provides products, systems, software and services for the automation and optimisation of discrete, process and batch manufacturing operations plus related business aspects. Key technologies include measurement, control, instrumentation, process analysis, drives and motors, power electronics, robots and low-voltage products: all geared toward one common industrial IT architecture for real-time automation and information solutions across the business enterprise. These technologies are sold both through third-party channels (OEMs, system integrators, distributors) and through the ABB end-user divisions. It has approximately 63,000 employees.

For more information, contact: David Marshall, ABB Manufacturing Automation, 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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