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ABB launched its first range of rebranded Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) following its acquisition of mobile robot leader ASTI Mobile Robotics in 2021 for $190M. ASTI Mobile Robotics’ solutions are now rebranded and integrated into ABB’s portfolio, grouped under the Flexley name, indicating the flexibility of operations that the AMRs offer.
The first rebranded models to be released, Flexley Tug and Flexley Mover, cover applications including towing, trolley transportation up to 5,350 lbs (2000 kg), as well as lifting and transporting racks, containers and pallets of 4,000 lbs (1,500 kg).
ABB joins OMRON corporation as the second automation solutions company to offer a complete lineup of autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), industrial robots and industrial automation solutions. However, ABB has a broader lineup of AMRs in its portfolio than OMRON currently does.
“This is a gamechanger for our customers, they can work with one partner offering everything they need to adapt to the opportunities and challenges driven by individualization, labor shortages and disrupted supply chains and our rebranding underscores the simplicity and benefit of the integrated solutions we offer to our customers,” said Marc Segura, President for ABB’s Robotics Division.
Building on ASTI’s use of laser scanner-based 2D SLAM navigation, future ABB Flexley autonomous mobile robots will also use the innovative VSLAM technology of ABB partner company Sevensense Robotics, a Swiss start-up that helps mobile robots navigate complex and changing environments. This new technology gives flexible manufacturing new options. It uses artificial intelligence to make ABB Flexley AMRs as autonomous as its robotic arms, making work more productive and safe for people.
Customers can expect each subsequent release of ABB software and robotic solutions to become better and more thoroughly integrated. Mobile robots coordinate operations with industrial arms and cobots in applications where the material is picked from or placed onto a mobile robot to be transferred somewhere else within the facility.
Following the acquisition last year, ASTI CEO Verónica Pascual remained on board with ABB and was promoted to Global Head of AMR business at ABB Robotics. ABB converted the Barcelona-based headquarters of ASTI into ABB’s global center for mobile robotics development. The integration of ASTI into ABB includes a complete rebranding of all its offices and facilities, as well as the launch of a newly rebranded website.
“The market for autonomous mobile robots is set to grow significantly, with an annual growth rate of approximately 24% between 2021 and 2028,” said Pascual. “The integration of the ASTI AMR range and the creation of our global manufacturing and support network means we are well placed to address this growth, providing our customers with new ways to tackle their supply chain challenges and meet demands for greater flexibility and speed created by the continued rise in e-commerce.”
ABB AMR solutions are already being used for customer projects, and ABB has worked with its strategic partner Expert Technology Group in the UK to build a full assembly line based on AMRs for a tech start-up that makes innovative products for the drive train of electric vehicles. The ABB automation solution combines the use of ABB robots, vision function packages, and AMRs to move products between robotic automation cells and manual assembly stations.
The ASTI Foundation was created in 2017 to support STEM education of young people in Spain with the skills to thrive in an age of digital transformation. Verónica Pascual continues to be involved with this charity as a patron.