ABB’s New Machine Tending Robotic Cell Family Aims to Maximize Flexibility in Machine Tending

November 10, 2021 by Alessandro Mascellino

ABB recently launched a new family of modular machine tending application cells intended for applications in the metals industry.

The devices are designed to increase flexibility and machine utilization while reducing lost productivity caused by unforeseen production stoppages. The FlexLoader M family includes six different models offering several methods of unloading and loading machines based on the size, shapes, and amount of the workpieces being handled.


The FlexLoader M Family

One key feature of the new FlexLoader M family is its standardized interchangeable modules that offer a flexible solution for various machine tending applications. ABB has started the release of the new FlexLoader M models by introducing the Tray and Conveyor modules.


Video used courtesy of ABB


The former is a drawer solution offering machine tending and featuring a minimal footprint that makes it suited for handling workpieces with various shapes such as cubes, cylinders, plates, and pipes. The FlexLoader M Conveyor works via a vision system and can enable easy loading of workpieces with complex shapes to handle a variety of workpieces with a single cell.


robot family

The six models in the new FlexLoader M family. Image used courtesy of ABB


The remaining four models are the Random Feed, Bin, automatic guided vehicle (AGV), and Zero Point. ABB said they would be officially released in the coming months.


Technical Specifications

According to the company, all the modules in the FlexLoader M family are easy to program via FlexLoader M Vision, even for workers with no vision programming expertise.


The FlexLoader M Vision software. Image used courtesy of ABB


They can also be equipped with a vision system (either a 2D camera or 3D sensor) capable of identifying the workpiece’s position and automatically giving commands to robots, machine tools, and other cell equipment. This equipment could include air cleaning stations, part marking, deburring, and measurement systems. 

In addition, the FlexLoader M offers data-based optimization features, such as remote monitoring, troubleshooting, and optimization of robot systems. The solution’s vision software provides added functions like condition monitoring, fleet management, and performance and order management.

In terms of applications for the technology, ABB directly mentioned foundries and die casting operations with machines producing multiple types of products in varying quantities.

Using Industrial Robots to Reduce Labor Costs 

The FlexLoader M models will now reportedly replace ABB’s current family of FlexLoader cells. Compared to its predecessor, the new family offers higher machine tool utilization and the opportunity for light-out production through unmanned operations.

According to ABB, FlexLoader cells can potentially give companies a much faster return on investment while giving users a sustainable competitive advantage at the same time.


The FlexLoader M Family​ is fully modular. Image used courtesy of ABB


The company mentioned the new FlexLoader M could minimize costs for specific machine tending processes by up to 90 percent, with one operator able to handle up to ten cells simultaneously. 

Data gathered by utilizing the FlexLoader M devices suggests the automated systems can deliver machine utilization of over 97 percent against the 40-60 percent of manually operated machines. ABB is hopeful that the new FlexLoader M Family will help engineers change the way they use machine tooling on the factory floor.