April 6, 2022
Industrial robot manufacturer ABB is demonstrating the future of retail with a 3D printing demonstration at Selfridges, one of London’s premier department stores on Oxford Street. Throughout April, the demonstration in a window display shows an ABB robot 3D printing a variety of personalized designer objects made from Parley Ocean Plastic – intercepted marine plastic debris collected from Parley’s Global Cleanup network.
The demonstration is part of Selfridges’ SUPERMARKET concept, which is challenging consumers to think about how the goods they purchase are produced, and the impact that this has on the environment.
“While expanded choice is great for consumers, it also comes at a cost to the environment, with products and packaging often being discarded with little thought about where they end up or whether they get recycled,” said Marc Segura, president of ABB Robotics. “By reusing plastic from the world’s oceans to print designer objects, we help to highlight the important contribution of robots in creating the sustainable manufacturing processes central to a circular economy.”
The system was developed with Parley for the Oceans and design brand Nagami, and uses ABB’s simulation software RobotStudio and an IRB 6700 industrial robot to create a variety of printed furniture, homeware, and other objects made from Parley Ocean Plastic. The robot works with Nagami’s unique plastic extruder to print the objects, which can be selected by customers on a screen and made to order on the premises.
“Parley Ocean Plastic was invented to catalyze change in response to marine plastic pollution and the destruction of our oceans,” said Cyril Gutsch, CEO and founder of Parley. “Working with two industry leaders, ABB and Nagami, we can now print on demand anywhere in the world to turn a problem into a solution. Beyond the huge potential for reducing waste by printing directly inside retail locations like Selfridges, we want to use this technology to empower local communities across the globe – giving them the tools to turn local plastic pollution into business opportunities and useful objects. For the oceans, climate and life.”
ABB said the demonstration would also help highlight the wider potential of robotic automation in getting retails to attract customers into their stores. Already, robots are used in inventory and delivery management.
“Robots are increasingly used to help draw customers back to the high street,” said Segura. “We believe that future adoption will be influenced by three main trends, including micro-fulfillment, where robots are used in-store to enable order fulfillment and delivery; personalization, where a robot makes a product to a customer’s specific requirements, with the added option of automatic personalization where data on previous purchasing habits is used to offer new choices; and ‘retailtainment,’ where the robot is used as part of an interactive display or to show to inform or entertain customers.”
Another example is ABB’s robotic demo at German fashion retailer Solebox’s store in Berlin, which picks shows selected by customers using a screen. If the shoe doesn’t fit or if the customer would like to try something else, the robot picks it up from the drawer and returns it to the shelf. In China, a retail kiosk made by Huawei in conjunction with ABB allows customers to collect devices such as smartphones and tablets. The kiosk uses ABB’s FlexBuffer system to select devices either ordered online or purchased onsite. Once selected, the products are placed into a collection drawer for the customer to take away.
“As demonstrated by the installation at Selfridges, robots can also be used on the shop floor to enable personalized production of goods at the point of consumption, adding a whole new dimension to the retail experience,” said Segura.
ABB said this new customer segment will broaden ABB’s portfolio as part of a strategy to accelerate expansion into new and high-growth segments, including logistics, healthcare, and construction.
For more details on ABB’s Robotics division, visit its website here.
The 3D printing robot can make custom-ordered goods on demand, utilizing marine plastic waste recovered from the ocean.
Shoppers outside London’s Selfridges on Oxford Street view the ABB robot 3D printing a bowl made out of recycled marine plastic.
The demonstration is part of Selfridges’ SUPERMARKET campaign, which aims to educate consumers about the materials being used to produce products and get them to think more about the environment.