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Seeing the Future with 3D Vision

Written by Michael Lindley, VP of Business Development and Marketing

Robotic work cells are providing several benefits in cost and productivity. But they can be made even more effective with 3D laser scanning systems.

cake decorating systemOver the past 18 months, the demand for robotic work cells that target business issues has skyrocketed. On a continual basis, we see clients who are achieving a return on investment (ROI) by cutting operating costs, increasing productivity and reducing errors.

The robotic work cells can be made even more effective with the addition of 3D laser scanning technologies. The scanning is able to capture all aspects of a part, allowing us to inspect and analyze objects or environments, which is often necessary for the measurement and data collection on the exact shapes and orientations. By employing 3D technologies, we develop a more robust data set, creating a smarter solution that can be used in more variable work conditions.

Various industries can utilize 3D scanning systems—from manufacturing and engineering to design, development and surveying, to movies, art and medicine. It often results in two key benefits: lower-cost manufacturing processes and higher-quality products (increasing yield). It has been estimated that 3D scanning can reduce manufacturing costs by 75 percent.

Based on our experience, below are a few examples of how businesses can benefit from 3D scanning systems.

The 3D concept phase

When working with clients, we often go through a concept phase prior to starting the actual design work. At this stage, clients are thinking about the big picture—the inputs and outputs, and how a work cell fits into the overall manufacturing process. What we have found is that we can use 3D scanners during the idea generation phase to digitize objects and then use them to interpret and enhance concept diagrams. The more work that can be done virtually, the more will be saved when it comes to final design and build. The 3D scans that we generate during the design phase can be incorporated into robot simulation tools offered by leading manufacturers—Fanuc Roboguide or ABB RobotStudio.

3D scanning for design development

By employing 3D technologies, we develop a more robust data set, creating a smarter solution that can be used in more variable work conditions.

As discussed, 3D scanning can be applied at the beginning of the design phase by scanning a physical object to generate a computer-aided design (CAD) model. Our designers usually need to design around existing parts and part tolerances. By having 3D models of the parts we will be handling, we can drastically improve the accuracy of the final design because so much of the trial-and-error work can be done with software. 3D model scanning systems can benefit the actual design process in the following ways:

  • Increase the effectiveness of working with complex parts and shapes.
  • Assist with the design of input/output mechanisms for the work cell.
  • If CAD models are outdated, a 3D scan will provide an updated version.
  • 3D scanners quickly capture all physical measurements of any object.
  • A 3D scanner ensures that the parts fit together on the first try.
  • Assist with end-of-arm tooling for robots to ensure end effectors properly handle and manipulate parts.
  • Scanners use modern manufacturing on parts that were manufactured before CAD existed.
  • Allows for a comparison between as-designed models and as-built parts.

3D scanning—maximizing investments

We have discussed the many ways 3D scanning technologies can improve the concept and design phases of a robotic work cell. Outside of those applications, we have had numerous incidents where we have employed 3D scanning to create more flexibility in a work cell. For example, by using 3D scanning, we are able to locate parts in space and, if required, provide a path offset to a robot so it can handle a part that is in a random orientation. Another example is to use 3D scanners to inspect the part before it is handled by the robot. By scanning the part, we can compare it to the “golden model,” and if it is out of compliance we can pass over it or sweep it into a rework bin. Last, by scanning parts, we can determine what it is and then execute the corresponding robot program. This creates dynamic functionality, which requires less input from an operator, allowing them to focus on other tasks.

The world of 3D scanning technologies is rapidly expanding. With more processing power, lower price points and easier user interfaces, it is safe to say these technologies are here to say. If you are in the market for 3D scanning, check out the new solutions from leading manufactures such as Sick, Cognex, Keyence and Hermary.

Michael Lindley is vice president of business development and marketing at Concept Systems Inc., a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association(CSIA). See Concept Systems’ profile on the Industrial Automation Exchange.

Why 3D Scanning Can Benefit Your Business

Concept Systems provides robotic technology solutions to companies so they can cut operation costs, increase productivity, and reduce errors. 3D laser scanning systems are often a part of our automation solutions. These unique, ultra-precise systems perfectly capture 3D shapes in order to inspect and analyze real-world objects or environments, allowing for the measurement and collection of data on the exact shapes and orientations. This collected data is ideal for constructing digital 3D model solutions.
Various industries can utilize 3D scanning systems, from manufacturing and engineering, to design, development, and surveying, to movies, art, and medicine. 3D scanning results in two key things: higher quality products and less costly manufacturing processes. It’s been estimated that 3D scanning can reduce manufacturing costs by 75 percent. At Concept Systems, we provide clients with 3D laser scanner solutions so they can consistently create high-quality products that function properly.
We’ve covered a few of the businesses that can benefit from our 3D scanning solutions, but let us get a little more specific:

The Conceptualization Phase

Individuals who work in design-based businesses always go through this phase of conceptualization and idea generation. Typically done with clay lead or foam lead, 3D scanning takes conceptualizing to a new level. The scanners can be applied during the idea generation phase by digitizing objects and then using them to interpret and enhance concept diagrams.

Design Phase and Process

As mentioned, 3D scanning can be applied at the beginning of the design phase by using a physical object to design a CAD (computer aided design) model. Designers usually need to design around or fit a design to existing objects. You can scan these parts and incorporate them into the design. This results in parts that consistently fit.
3D model scanning systems can benefit the actual design process in the following ways:

  • It increases the effectiveness of working with complex parts and shapes.
  • It assists with the design of products to accommodate other parts.
  • If CAD models are outdated, a 3D scan will provide an updated version.
  • 3D scanners quickly capture all physical measurements of any object.
  • A 3D scanner ensures that the parts fit together on the first try.
  • You can capture engineering optimizations inherent in manufactured parts with 3D scanning.
  • Scanners utilize modern manufacturing on parts that were manufactured before CAD existed.
  • Allows for a comparison between “as-designed” models and “as-built” parts.

Development Phase

When a project moves on to the development phase, user requirements and documentation are followed and the project is measured by predefined criteria. It is in this phase that it is accepted by the client.

Implementation Phase

After development is completed the project can now move on to the implementation phase. This phase is the implementation of the system. It is the development of the actual tested solution. The system is configured and launched for testing. At this point feedback can be used to enhance performance and problems can be worked through. It is not unusual for the product to frequently move back and forth from development to testing. User training takes place in this phase.