Reconditioned ABB robots offer a shiny outlook for German motorcycle manufacturer

Reconditioned ABB robots offer a shiny outlook for German motorcycle manufacturer

Gleaming tanks, shiny struts, polished chrome and fine powder coatings: for motorcycles, a quality appearance is a must. For a German motorcycle manufacturer ABB robots work hard to achieve the desired finish, and after more than eight years of continuous operation, they have been replaced by reconditioned robots.

The high sustainability standards that both the manufacturer and ABB champion meant that “out with the old and in with the new” was not the main focus here. Reconditioned robots turned out to be the right choice to preserve sustainable and efficient operation, while minimizing production downtime.

Motorcycles evoke emotions. The visual appearance of each individual part contributes to this effect, and for good reason manufacturers pay particular attention to the painting of body panels, suspension struts and load-bearing elements. Quality and the highest craftsmanship are required here, even if that process is now largely automated. 

A total of 20 ABB IRB 5400 type robots currently handles this task in the Berlin plant of the ABB customer. They paint body parts that are installed directly on site or shipped to Asia and America, for example. Following the success of ABB robots in the paint shop, the company gradually introduced them in other departments where they perform tasks such as powder coating and welding. 

The manufacturer commissioned the first ABB robots in 2003. Between 2014 and 2016, the robots were replaced as refurbished robots. With the exception of Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, they are continuously on duty, operating in three shifts. Through service contracts with ABB, the robots receive thorough maintenance every year, during which ABB replaces parts for which smooth operation can no longer be guaranteed for another year. The high quality of the robots ensures a long product life and therefore contributes to the sustainability strategy of the ABB customer. 

Nevertheless, after many years of continuous use, the time had come to replace the robots in order to guarantee continuous 24/7 operation. Several options are available: 

  • Replace the old robot with a new identical piece of equipment. 
  • Replace the old robot with the latest model that offers new or greater functionality. 
  • Replace the old robot with an identical refurbished robot. 

The use of modern units would have several advantages in the long term, but doing so may require more time for commissioning. This is because for a new device, technicians need to check, adapt, and test all processes, programming and interfaces, and adapt the robot cell as needed. This in turn would lead to longer production downtimes than if the robots were replaced with an identical model. 

Sustainable and efficient – replace with reconditioned robots 

The principle of sustainability plays a central role at the manufacturer’s plant, and throughout the entire company. The economical use of precious resources such as water, energy and materials is of great importance for motorcycle production in the heart of the German capital. Cutting-edge technologies, such as the use of water-based paints, set high standards. 

Replacement of the robots should also meet the same high sustainability targets, a goal easily achieved by using identical refurbished units. This was accomplished in a revolving swap: robots that had been refurbished at the ABB Robotics repair and overhaul center in Friedberg were set up, configured, and programmed by ABB in advance for its customer using RobotStudio®. Specialists installed the latest version of the RobotWare 6 software and equipped the robots with new control technology. Within the scope of this work, ABB also streamlined and harmonized the configuration files and parameter libraries. Thanks to these comprehensive measures, ABB reduced downtime by around 40 percent compared to installing a new system. 

With these updates, the robots are future-proof, with the added advantage that they can be equipped with the latest ABB applicators such as spray heads or rotary atomizers, should they be required later.  

Revolving swap with refurbished equipment as future models 

“The close, long-standing, and trusted cooperation with our customer has paid off for both sides in this project. Thanks to the know-how regarding the use of the robots at the plant and the comprehensive capabilities of ABB Robotics in Friedberg, we were able to carry out disassembly, refurbishment, testing, construction, and commissioning quickly and with minimal use of resources from our customer,” says David Winter, System Service project manager at ABB Robotics Germany. 

To be prepared for any surprises, a team of ABB service technicians supported the recommissioning with the replacement robots. The team was ready to intervene immediately at any given moment, but in the end their help was not needed, and production downtime was reduced to only five days.  

ABB is now continuing this sustainable approach to the circular economy at the motorcycle manufacturer's plant and replacing the IRB 5400 paint robot using the revolving swap process. When the painting line eventually reaches the end of its intended life, the robots can be repurposed again for a new life elsewhere. 

ABB's approach to refurbishment is part of a sustainable closed-loop economy that aims to reuse as much as possible. Typically, 60 to 80 percent of a robot can be reused, while the rest is sent to certified recycling partners. For example, nearly all ABB robots that are received back from the automotive industry are given a second life, while up to a fifth of them go on to enjoy a third. In addition to cost savings, this approach preserves natural resources and reduces energy consumption. Refurbishing a robot generates around 75 percent less CO2 than producing a new one.    

Before being designated an ABB certified refurbished robot, each unit must pass through rigorous testing, along with a detailed inspection and a functional test. The refurbished ABB robots and spare parts come with a minimum warranty of 12 months.

The process  

After years of use, ABB IRB 5400 type painting robots were replaced by identical refurbished robots in the plant of a German motorcycle manufacturer.  

The replacement of the robots supports the high sustainability goals of the ABB customer throughout the entire production network – in accordance with the principle of a “clean production”.  

The robots had been refurbished at the ABB Robotics repair and overhaul center in Friedberg, and set up, configured, and programmed using RobotStudio®. As a result, ABB reduced downtime by around 40 percent compared to installing a new system.  

In addition to cost savings, the use of refurbished units preserves natural resources and reduces energy consumption. Refurbishing a robot generates around 75 percent less CO2 than producing a new one.  

A team of ABB service technicians supported the recommissioning with the replacement robots. Production downtime was reduced to only five days.  

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