Robotic Vision Systems

Adding Flexibility, Lowering Costs With Robotic Vision Systems

Why You Should Add a Robot Vision System

Add a vision system to a robot and you give it eyes. The robot can now find objects in its working envelope — reducing the need for complex and expensive fixtures. This increases the flexibility of robotic automation, adapting to variation in part size, shape and location — ultimately reducing cell complexity. By adding a vision system, robot palletizing and de-palletizing becomes practical, components can be assembled, dies unloaded, and parts lifted off racks and out of bins. It's even possible to track and pick parts in motion on a conveyor.

How Does Robotic Visioning Work?

A robot vision system consists of one or more cameras, special-purpose lighting, software, and a robot or robots. The camera takes a picture of the working area or object the robot will grip, and software searches the image for features that let it determine position and orientation. This intelligent robot vision generates information that is sent to the robot controller, and the programmed positions are updated. Depending on the application, the camera might be mounted on the robot or could be in a fixed position within the cell. Calibration is usually needed to relate the vision system coordinate space to the robot. Robot companies like FANUC offer vision-guided robotic systems with vision software tightly integrated with the robot controller, simplifying programming and use.

Many applications only need X- and Y-axis information, plus rotation — this is easily extracted from an image. Sometimes, though, it's important to have height information, too, for example, when unloading a pallet, especially if the cartons or bags differ in size, or when picking parts from a bin. There are several ways to get height information, such as using stereo cameras. However, in many cases, laser triangulation or part size are the best options. In laser triangulation, height is derived from the line position projected onto the target surface and viewed from an angle by a camera. One limitation, though, is that either the part or the laser line must move. Alternatively, when the part size is known, camera distance can be determined by the part’s appearance in size. This technique is common in vision-guided de-palletizing. As a best-in-class solution, a FANUC robot vision system is able to navigate many of these complexities and more — providing major advances in your automation productivity.

Robotic Vision System Applications

Conveyor tracking is often useful in packaging applications. The product moves into the robot cell on a conveyor without stopping. A FANUC vision system determines accurate belt position and the robot controller adds speed information from the belt encoder — letting the vision system robot track and pick while the product is in motion. This eliminates any need to stop the belt or use expensive fixturing. Rather than presenting every piece in precisely the same location and orientation for the robot to pick up, a vision system simplifies cell design and can lower costs, making robotic automation even easier to justify.

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Robots are hard to maintain.
It is harder to find qualified, hard-working labor. Unlike workers, robots don’t have to be managed or trained. Robots don’t take breaks, lunch or vacations and they show up every day – they will even run 24-7. They are in position and perform their processed tasks 100% of the time.