The “Madame Butterfly” Robot: A Case Study in Product Design and Development

The “Madame Butterfly” Robot: A Case Study in Product Design and Development

Luisa Fontana, Davide Fornari
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-617-9.ch022
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“Madam Butterfly” is an industrial robot produced by Euroimpianti Spa. It is the result of the unusual cooperation between a cutting-edge robot factory and Fontanatelier, an unconventional architecture studio. Although it had all started as a common machinery project, and it was almost at the end of its development phase, the need for an iconic design led the designer to involve the architect Luisa Fontana in the project. The contrasting opinions between the engineers and the architect forced everybody to change points of view, in such a complicated and challenging field as robot production. The final design conveys a strong image of the product, very uncommon for the automation industry, maintaining the functionality of a standard robot, with improvements for some specific usage.
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Nicknamed “Madame Butterfly”, the robot “Skilled 604” was first presented to the public in April 2008 at the Düsseldorf INTERPACK, the world’s most important fair for the processing, packaging and line automation industries.

It was produced by Euroimpianti Spa of Schio (Vicenza), which has been a leading company in this sector for 35 years. Combining high quality design and performance, the articulated robot arm is used for stacking pallets.

Figure 1. Butterfly at the Düsseldorf INTERPACK, April 2008


It has four interpolated axes and has a work radius of 360°. Weighing 2.140 K, it can move up to 750 Kg. The result is a robot which houses cables, working mechanisms and a core structure in a flowing shape, inspired by the wings of a butterfly.

This innovative design seems to be taken out of a science-fiction comic strip: its shape, however, underlines the strength and flexibility of the aluminum structure shaped around the operating system of the machine. “Madame Butterfly” is unique in modern day robot construction. A true synthesis of function and beauty, it is certainly destined to influence the future development of robot design and production.» (Luca M.F. Fabris, 2008, p. 16)

Table 1.
General information
Project nameM. me Butterfly
ObjectSkilled 604, an articulated arm robot
ClientEUROIMPIANTI spa, Schio (VI)
Projects credits
DesignLuisa Fontana architect (FONTANAtelier)
Mechanical engineeringG. Pierantoni
Technical features
The SKILLED 604 is the best of European Technology. It has a flexible aluminum structure, the electronics is based on the highest international standards while the software is designed by EUROIMPIANTI.
The Skilled 604 is capable of stacking product layers on standard pallets up to max 2,9 m (114”) net height; with special pallets can reach up to a max 2,5 m (98,4”) net height. It is ideal for:
- picking-up complete rows of products
- up to 4-5 different products lines
- large operative areas
- multiple lines low speed
Maximum load400 Kg (881 lb) incl. the gripper
Maximum reach3200 mm (126”)
Number of axes4
Cycles/hour800 max
Repeatability+/- 0,25 mm (0,0098”)
Weight2140 Kg (4718 lb)
Operating noise levelless than 75 Db
Protection ratingIP 54
Mechanical RobotEUROIMPIANTI
Electronic SystemEUROIMPIANTI

Key Terms in this Chapter

Research: Life is continually presenting us with new problems for which there are no ready-made answers. Whether we like it or not, if we are to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past then we must commit ourselves to the avant-garde – that is, we must be continually open to the exploration of new horizons. Such research is the only way in which progress is possible.

Design: Design means giving harmony to the all project, means accepting the importance of the aesthetic of machines into the work area, means finding new solutions for common problems, it adds value to the overall result, sometimes it means a major cost but also a bigger market appeal.

Comprehensive Approach: The multi-disciplinary approach may be hard work - and unusual - but it enables one to draw on expertise in various sectors in order to achieve the best possible solution to a problem.

Robot: Robot represents a big help for the workers and must be functional but it can establish an emotional relationship with the users too if it is not only made by parts, motors and plant equipments assembled together. It can be anthropomorphic, zoomorphic and it can have a soul too.

Creativity: Only when based on a knowledge of the limits and regulations that it can use and overcome, creativity becomes synonymous with freedom. It enables us to establish truly new relations between individuals and the environment, experimenting with the expressive possibilities offered by contemporary architecture and design. Without creativity there is no innovation.

Innovative Approach: Any design project requires the effort to rethink things, to go back to zero. This means rejecting any easy resort to past models, form or styles. It means a willingness to make a tabula rasa of all preconceived ideas, to look at reality from a new point of view. This is the only way one can come up with something new.

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