3D Smart Sensors Drive Increased Factory Automation

The use of industrial robots in mass production environments has many proven benefits. Most importantly, robots automate tasks that previously were done manually. Robots are able to work for extended periods of time with a high level of speed and repeatability, which significantly increases product quality and productivity while minimizing costs.

Vision-Guided Robotic Systems

A Vision-Guided Robot (VGR) System is a robot fitted with one or more machine vision sensors. Sensors guide the robot to move to a variable target position and then perform a predetermined function like picking objects from a bin and placing them in another location. VGR systems are rapidly transforming production processes by making robots highly adaptable and easy to implement, while dramatically reducing the cost and complexity previously associated with the design and setup of fixed robotic cells.

For the majority of VGR applications, a 3D smart sensor is not only responsible for guiding the robot to its correct position, it also detects and inspects discrete objects and executes real-time control decisions based on the acquired data—all from inside the sensor.
Object Reflectivity and Low Contrast Object reflectivity and low contrast have typically tested the limits of 2D-based vision systems. The emergence of 3D scanning technologies, however, has provided robotic systems with the ability to identify and locate objects based on shape—enabling the reliable detection of objects with low contrast or complex geometries—especially in poor lighting conditions.

3D is The Difference-Maker

When a robot can “see” discrete objects in 3D at production speed, it allows the VGR system to perform its task without the need for custom tooling. This means that generic bins, racks and conveyor systems can be leverages with the robot adjusting dynamically to any variation in size or location. A 3D smart sensor’s built-in measurement tools enables a robotic system to detect and manipulate objects of different geometries and sizes, contrasts and colors, and even touching and overlapping items. As a result, robot work cells are smarter and can support different products, short runs and quick changeovers.

High Speed “Self-Aware” Robots Made Usingin 3D Smart Sensors

3D smart sensor technologies make robotic systems adaptable to their unique application environment. One of the main challenges in VGR today is random bin picking, which involves a robot equipped with a 3D sensor locating and picking randomly positioned parts from a bin. In the past, random bin picking was separated into stages. Parts were first isolated, then detected and retrieved, with dedicated systems for each stage.

What’s the Big Idea? 3D smart sensor technologies allow a robot to be “self-aware” and therefore react to its environment—dramatically speeding up the bin picking process. Robot self-awareness gives the sensor knowledge of kinematics, tool position, how to engage with the part, where the bin walls are located in relation to the sensor, and where the part is with six degrees of freedom. The most advanced 3D sensors can calculate all of these features and control robot motion directly.

More Companies Choosing VGR

Vision-Guided robotic systems become more reliable and easier to use, these solutions are increasingly a cost-effective replacement for manual inspection, sorting and assembly. Many end users are finding the increased productivity and cost savings gained are substantial enough to warrant complete system upgrades.

Mass Customization Driving VGR Demand

As demand for mass production grows globally, fast, flexible, error-proof assembly is the goal of many manufacturers. Applications where new product models are introduced frequently, where production runs are shorter, or where changeover is more common, will benefit the most from advanced VGR systems.

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