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Vision/Lighting 101

Because computers are always improving—think of your smart cellphone. If it’s not replaced every 2-3 years many of the applications and functions become obsolete rending the cellphone almost useless—new technologies and solutions are making robotics smarter and more capable.

One major upgrade in robotic technology is one that allows robotic vision in three dimensions (3-D) instead of two (2-D). Robotics using 2-D technology has been around for years, but for intricate work, 2-D visioning wasn’t the best way to get the job done. Thanks to improved technology and newer cameras, robotic systems can now be upgraded to see the world the same way we see it—in 3-D.

At Concept Systems, Inc., we put these visioning upgrades to work when we worked with a cake maker and decorator. The decorator used a robotics system that took a photo of the diameter of the cake as it progressed down the conveyer. Further down the line, an automated system created borders and designs on top of the cake. The camera was able to exactly diagram the surface area of the top of the cake, but every cake is a little bit different. Some were a tiny bit taller or shorter than the programmed height. The height variance meant that some of the cake designs were distorted on the finished product.

Enhancing a system doesn’t have to be costly. The cake maker earned back its investment in the updated robotic vision system in only 8 months. In some instances, upgrading from 2-D to 3-D can automate systems that were once done manually, and those cost savings add up! The cake maker’s overhead photo visioning system also made creating borders at the bottom of the cake almost impossible, so staff members were creating bottom borders by hand, costing time and labor.

While the cake maker project sounds costly and time-consuming, it didn’t require a lot of down time or new equipment expense. Existing robots were retrofitted to with a new 3-D visioning system, though laser scanners were also installed. The scanners’ lasers used triangulation to create an exact 3-D image of each cake before passing it down to the robot decorators.

The combination of the latest 3-D vision technology coupled with SCARA robots can now be used to bring automation to industries beyond the food industries. Updating and modernizing complex machinery and robots just makes sense. It can lower costs, increase productivity, simplify processes and even increase machine safety.

Let Concept Systems, Inc. put this upgraded technology to work for your business.

Robotic controls double throughput

Concept Systems resolves coffee roaster infeed problems, doubles throughput with new robotic controls, 3D vision, and application-specific effectors.

coffee_robot_3D_modelBottlenecks can occur at every stage of the manufacturing process, limiting productivity and causing problems that increase production costs. Savvy production managers know that no matter what the process, and no matter what the current rate of production, there’s always a weakest link that can be improved to increase a factory’s contribution to the company’s bottom line. In this regard, the equipment that handles the infeed of raw materials is just as important as the machinery that does the processing. An advanced vision-guided robotic infeed system can double throughput compared to other methods. For example, a 3D vision system has helped a large coffee roasting plant increase its green bean infeed rate by 100%, while eliminating a safety and material waste problem that was costing the company 100,000 lb of lost beans per year.

The coffee roaster was having problems with a robot whose job was to unload pallets of 150-lb burlap bags containing raw beans and place the bags one-by-one on a conveyor ultimately feeding the roaster. The gripper on the end of the robot arm was pinching the bags awkwardly and causing them to tear, spewing coffee beans over the floor of the unloading area. The robot moved slowly and relied on “feel” and memory as it attempted to locate the next bag to move. As the plant is charged with processing some 650,000 bags of coffee beans per year, the cost of the robot’s errors in lost beans and lost productivity was mounting. Loose beans on the floor posed a safety concern. With these factors in mind, plant managers decided to upgrade the bean bag handling system, and enlisted the help of a system integrator with expertise in advance automation systems, including smart robotic workcells guided with machine vision systems. The control system used incorporates an advanced 3D vision system with high-end PC-based software to build a 3D model of the environment in which the infeed robot operates. Continue Reading →