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Robotic Technology

Blaze of glory

By John Loos

March 2010 - For the engineers that make them and the companies that use them to build their products, robots might be considered the rock stars of manufacturing. It's fitting, then, that five robots from ABB Inc., Auburn Hills, Mich., are helping actual rock stars create a larger-than-life stage show.

Five ABB IRB 7600 industrial robots are playing an integral role in rock band Bon Jovi's The Circle Tour, a two-year-long, 60-show, multi-country extravaganza.

Each robot moves to the rhythm of the music while holding a 6-ft.-by-9-ft. LED video panel with its articulated arm. At several points in the show, the robot arms position all five panels to create a single, five-panel screen.

The technology that allows the robots to enact precise choreography is called RoboScreen, developed by Andy Flessas, founder and president of Robotic Arts, Las Vegas.

"Industrial robots being part of a major concert tour is unprecedented," said Flessas in an ABB press release. "They provide a big show element to the performance and help present the complete entertainment experience that is synonymous with the Bon Jovi brand."

Move to the music
The IRB 7600 robots got their first taste of the rock-star life when The Circle Tour kicked off Feb. 19 in Seattle's Key Arena. Before they were implemented, however, band frontman Jon Bon Jovi had to approve their usage.

Bon Jovi was impressed by the fluidity of the robots' movements and their unique physical presence, as well as ABB's extensive support network around world--key for a show that's constantly on the move.

"We were able to take the ABB robots out of the factory and turn them into rock stars mainly through the power of the IRC5 controller and its ability to accept the precise movement established in Robot Animator," said Flessas. "The programming we are doing for The Circle Tour could bring a totally new thought pattern to be used in advanced manufacturing applications in the future. This entertainment application may allow it to break through."

The LED panels that each IRB 7600 holds weigh 700 lbs. and contain 24 subpanels arranged in a six-by-four grid. Eight-five percent of what shows on the screens during the concert is referred to as image magnification footage, which is fed through a series of cameras set up strategically around the performance venue.

The animations featured during the show are a combination of preprogrammed, 3-D graphics and real-time computerized reactions to the live music.

"Andy Flessas is a true visionary, and we are excited about the unique application he has developed for ABB robots," said Joe Campbell, vice president of sales and marketing for ABB Robotics North America, in a press release. "This collaboration with Robotic Arts and Bon Jovi is certainly one of the most unique applications we have been involved with."

But this isn't the first time ABB robots have been in the entertainment spotlight. In 2009, multiple robots were prominently featured in the climax of the film "Terminator Salvation" starring Christian Bale. FFJ

Sources

  • ABB Inc.
    Auburn Hills, Mich.
    phone: 248/391-9000
    www.abb.com

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