Laboratory work often involves a number of monotonous and repetitive elements that can be streamlined by means of automation. At the same time, this work requires a high level of precision to prevent even the slightest contamination of any sample.

For this specific project, Semcon decided that using a dual-arm IRB 14000 YuMi cobot from ABB Robotics is the best way for the client to quickly automate sample analysis in a lab. Semcon experts also realized that the robot frees up time for some lab personnel to do other things.

“These new cobots are safer, quieter and more efficient, because they have been designed to work alongside people,” notes Thomas Lydhig, technical project manager at Semcon. “This means that the robot can stand freely in the laboratory and not be surrounded by protective equipment, while well-trained laboratory personnel can focus on more advanced tasks.”

The cobot is about the same size as a human torso and has two arms that work simultaneously. This enables it to handle 50 samples per hour, which is twice as productive as a person.

“The robot has cameras in both hands so that it can read labels and see the positions of test tubes, for instance,” notes Lydhig. “It is also possible to connect the robot’s cameras so that humans can see what the robot is seeing.”

YuMi’s two arms easily fit within the workspace typically occupied by a manual operator. Equally important, the arms can work independently or together to perform complex tasks faster than single-arm counterparts. This latter ability not only increases throughput. It also simplifies programming by eliminating the need for tool changes.

When used on a high-traffic plant floor, the cobot eliminates the need for significant guarding. Any issues with the system can be quickly remedied by a worker accessing the robot without passing through any major safety barriers.

The cobot offers a total of 14 axes of movement, along with a 0.5-kilogram payload capacity for each arm. Its collaborative features include a lightweight, rigid magnesium skeleton covered with a floating plastic casing wrapped in soft padding to absorb impacts.

When YuMi senses an unexpected impact, such as a collision with a co-worker, it stops within milliseconds. The motion can be restarted again by pressing play on a remote control.

Semcon was founded in Västerås, Sweden, in 1980 and has offices in eight different countries. For more information on collaborative robots, call 800-435-7365 or visit