ABB and Zume use robotics to transition from single use plastics

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ABB Robotics has signed a framework agreement to collaborate with California-based Zume, a provider of compostable packaging, with ABB supplying robotic cells that will enable Zume’s production of sustainable packaging on a global scale.

ABB will integrate and install more than 1,000 moulded fibre manufacturing cells (MFC) -including up to 2,000 robots at Zume customer’s sites worldwide over the next five years.

ABB said it will leverage its program management capabilities and automation experts in its network of global solution centres to enable the scale, modularity and speed required to launch the solutions, which have the potential to produce millions of pieces of sustainable packaging annually, helping to reduce reliance on single-use plastics.

“Automating production of Zume’s sustainable packaging with ABB robots makes this a viable and economic alternative to single-use plastics. With Zume, we have the potential to remove trillions of pieces of plastic from the global marketplace, preserving scarce resources and supporting a low carbon world,” said Sami Atiya, president of ABB Robotics and Discrete Automation.

“Today, robotic automation is expanding possibilities, making the world more sustainable through more efficient production that reduces energy use, emissions and production waste. Our collaboration showcases what is possible when organisations that are committed to pursuing a low-carbon society work together.”

ABB IRB 6700 robots will feature in the robotic cells that will enable Zume’s production of sustainable packaging

Zume has developed and patented a manufacturing process to make compostable packaging for anything from food and groceries to cosmetics and consumer goods. Containers are moulded from the plant material by Zume’s moulded fibre cells integrated with two ABB IRB 6700 robots.

Each cell can process up to two tons of agriculture material every day, creating 80,000 pieces of sustainable packaging. Working with ABB, Zume expects to equip factories with up to 100 robotic cells each. With the automation, speed and scalability provided by the MFC, each site would have the potential to process 71,000 tons of agricultural material annually, potentially producing up to two billion pieces of packaging each year.

“By 2050, we estimate that the world’s oceans will have more plastic than fish, so it is critical that we move everyone away from single-use plastics,” said Alex Garden, chairman and CEO of Zume.

“Using ABB’s global automation experts to develop and integrate automation solutions for our customers will revolutionise packaging and demonstrate what sustainable manufacturing can look like.  The flexibility and scalability of ABB’s robots enables an efficient automated manufacturing process. This means we can offer a viable, cost effective, compostable alternative to plastic, and help manufacturers to become more environmentally-friendly.”

A pilot project has been installed by Zume and ABB at Satia Industries Limited, one of India’s largest wood and agro-based paper manufacturers, creating a facility of 10 manufacturing cells that will process 20 tons of wheat straw daily creating 100 percent compostable packaging for a range of industries.

Other planned pilot installations include Parason Group, a pulp and paper machinery supplier, also based in India and Jefferson Enterprise Energy, the first 100% renewable energy powered compostable packaging factory, based in Texas, USA.

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