ABB Robot as an Interactive Exhibit Directory at Märklineum

Since June 2021, visitors to the Märklineum museum have been able to embark on a journey spanning over 160 years of the history of German toy manufacturer, Märklin.
The company’s entire product history, from tin toys to model trains, is presented in a venue covering more than 1000-square-meters with the use of media equipment.

Assisting with bringing the company’s history to life and creating a very special journey for visitors is an ABB robot, which acts as a playful “motorized master of ceremony”, introducing key objects as well as the entire gamut of what the museum has to offer.  

Since the first Marklin’s toy appeared in 1859, its products have continued to catch the excited eyes of both younger fans and experienced collectors alike. From June 2021, the saga and the mythology of Märklin and its products have been brought to life in the new Märklineum museum, located next to the company’s original factory in the Swabian town of Göppingen. Over an area of over 1,000 square meters, the museum takes visitors on a tour through the company’s history, looking at products such as tin toys, doll houses, steam engines, merry-go-rounds, model cars, model planes, model ships, and ultimately, model trains. Today, Märklin is a market leader in the model train market, connecting different generations. Visitors to the Märklineum can discover its model trains in a 200-square-meter model train system, which is accessible on two levels and will continue to develop further after its opening. 

More than just a toy museum 

Developed by the Etschmann Noack interior design firm and the exhibition and multimedia designers at bauer & bauer medienbüro in Nuremberg, the Märklineum has been designed to be more than just a toy museum. Instead of static exhibits, stories and topics are presented via a multimedia experience for visitors to enjoy.    

A key element of the museum is an ABB IRB 1200 robot located at the beginning of the exhibition. Housed inside a glass cube, the ABB robot acts as a “motorized master of ceremony”. With the help of multimedia elements, the robot interactively presents various exhibits representing a part of the exhibition. “The robot acts as a point of attraction for visitors of all ages within the museum,” says Johannes Noack, the head of Etschmann Noack GmbH interior design firm. “With the help of the robot, the visitor can discover the entire history of Märklin products and the origin of the museum in a direct, playful and unorthodox fashion.”  

 The shelves in the cube, from which the robot picks up selected exhibits, are a logical successor of Märklin’s legendary “tower room”. Used for storing product samples, exclusive products and drawings since the company began making toys, this room has only ever been open to a select group of employees and traders. 

Interaction with the visitor 

The visitor uses a touchscreen on the cube to choose one of eight exhibits representing Märklin’s history, from model trains to model cars and merry-go-rounds. The robot then picks the corresponding exhibit, installed on a special tray, from the shelf. A special gripping device was developed for this purpose and installed on the IRB 1200 robot to ensure it could securely handle the valuable museum pieces. Once the exhibit is picked from the shelf, the robot executes a slow presentation movement, which is pre-programmed and standardized for all exhibits, enabling visitors to examine objects from all sides. 

Two flat screens in the cube show additional information about the presented object, including its technical details, product drawings and the part of the exhibition where the topic is covered more extensively. “The installation is intended as an interactive directory for the exhibition. Once the presentation ends, the robot puts the object back onto the shelf, and gets ready to demonstrate another object,” explains Christian Bauer, company manager at bauer & bauer medienbüro GmbH. 

The IRB 1200’s robot controller is connected to the user interface on the touchscreen and the media equipment. When a user selects an exhibit on the touchscreen, the robot controller gets the signal to start a pre-defined presentation program. The visitor cannot choose another exhibit before the program ends, meaning that the touchscreen is effectively locked. Once the exhibit is back on the shelf and the robot returns to its original position, the robot controller sends a signal to the media system, unblocking the touchscreen and making it possible to select another exhibit. 

From production to museum 

“An industrial robot in a museum, and not in a factory: with this idea Märklin has pulled the ABB robot out of its usual working environment. And we also let our guests interact with it directly. This is a way for the robot to show the diversity of the tasks it can perform,” says Florian Sieber, company manager at Märklin.  

The museum robot is not the only one of its kind to be used by Märklin. ABB’s robots have been supporting the production of model trains for several years. For example, an IRB 2600 industrial robot is responsible for picking and checking the quality of model parts from the die casting machine. Based on its positive experience and internal know-how pertaining to the handling, programming and maintenance of the robots, Märklin decided to opt for ABB solutions in its museum. In addition to the robots, ABB also provided solutions for power supply and safety technology in the new Märklineum, through its subsidiary ABB STOTZ-KONTAKT. 

About Märklin 

The company was founded in 1859 by Theodor Friedrich Wilhelm Märklin, growing from a small tin toy factory into a global market leader in model trains. In 1888, his sons, Eugen and Karl Märklin, took the company over under the name Gebr. Märklin. In 1891, for the first time, the brothers presented a model train at the Leipzig Spring Fair. The Märklin group of companies currently includes three model train brands: Märklin, TRIX and Lehmann-Gartenbahn (LGB). Between its original factory in Göppingen and the facility in Györ (Hungary), it employs almost 1200 people. www.maerklin.de  

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