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Tag Archives | Robotics

The cutting-edge manufacturing option for many applications, robotics offers an increasingly affordable automation solution that provides unmatched flexibility in a traditional, but highly configurable package.

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.

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Meggitt Robotic Drilling Workcell

Meggitt Polymers & Composites recently updated their manufacturing operations by installing a Drill and Cutting workcell, designed and integrated by Concept Systems. The fully automated workcell uses a Fanuc M-710 series robotic arm and state of the art end of arm tooling to drill and cut material for the aerospace industry. The goal of this project was to improve accuracy and throughput of thousands of parts, allowing Meggitt Polymers & Composites to meet the needs of their customers.

Project duration: 4 months

Team:
Client: 1
Concept Systems: 4

Concept Systems’ time on site: 2 weeks

Headquartered in the United Kingdom, Meggitt PLC is an international group employing some 8,000 people specializing in aerospace equipment, high performance sensors, defense training and combat systems. Meggitt Polymers & Composites, in McMinnville, OR focuses on delivering gaskets and seals to rigorous standards to be used by some of the world’s leading manufacturers.

Meggitt Polymers & Composites had an opportunity to expand their business with a current client, but to do so, they would have to increase production by means other than human labor. Historically, the work on these parts was being done manually in a labor intensive manner. Production rates were limited to an average of 1000 parts per year, but needed to increase production by 300%, or 3000 parts per year, to meet demand. In addition to throughput, accuracy and safety were of high concern.

“A lot of these operations were being done by hand, and we were missing holes,” James Robertson, Meggitt’s vice president of operations, said in a recent news article featuring the project. “This enabled us to simplify the process and improve our quality.”

Concept Systems kicked off the project by meeting with the project manager at Meggitt, to first understand their operations, concerns and goals, ensuring the right solution was delivered based on measurable results and a favorable return on investment.  Once the objectives, timelines, and goals were established, Concept moved forward with the design of the workcell.

The system that Concept created for the drill and cutting project is a fully automated workcell featuring a Fanuc M-710 Robot. The workcell boasts an integrated tool changer that provides seamless interchange of tools, allowing continuous production of the desired hole shape and size for 8 different parts. Further, Concept designed end-of-arm tooling to accommodate 14 automated, interchangeable options for drilling and cutting.  To support flexibility of the workcell, Concept also designed and provided fixture racks to accommodate 8 different parts. All of this was under the direction of a thorough risk assessment based on ANSI/RIA R1506-2012: safety first design of the workcell and all components.

Technology used in workcell:

  • Fanuc M-710iC Series Robot
  • ServoRobot Tool Changer
  • PushCorp High Torque Servo Toolholder
  • Tool Changing Station
  • 4 Custom Built Part Fixtures
  • Safety Interlocked System Guarding: Light Curtain, Area Scanner, Dust Hood

The workcell has now been in production for over 6 months and the initial results show that the project was a success. Meggitt has expanded their production capacity to 3000 parts per year – a 300% increase as per the project goal. Meggitt has also achieved high precision and repeatability from the robot and tools which significantly reduced rework and product loss. Last, the physical guard fencing, door interlocks, and area scanners provide the latest in worker protection.

HoloLens Review: Step into the Star Wars Universe

HoloLens review by Concept Systems

The HoloLens is kind of like a marriage of a holographic projector (ala Star Wars R2D2), a Kinect, a computer, and a stereo headset with other cool accoutrementsL

While Microsoft’s new HoloLens won’t replace the universe’s most loveable robot, R2D2, any time soon, it can give you a taste of what it might be like to live in a Star Wars universe.

Concept Systems’ Doug Taylor recently tested out the HoloLens, and here’s what he has to say about it: 

 The HoloLens is kind of like a marriage of a holographic projector (ala Star Wars R2D2), a Kinect, a computer, and a stereo headset with other cool accoutrements.  Basically, it is a 3D computer interface.  And it works.  It works really, really well.

 The device comes in a hard blob like case that has a device, a wall charger & cable, and a clicker.  The device fits many different styles of heads from my massive (but yet tasteful) pumpkin shaped head to my wife’s petite and attractive apple sized head.  Above the ears are a pair of speakers that aren’t too loud, but are pretty close to great.  The device has all sorts of lenses and whatnot and what looks like four Kinect style 3D mappers pointed in various directions. 

 First, let’s talk about localization, or basically how well does it know where it is.  Short answer: perfectly.  When you put a screen on the wall, it stays there regardless of how you move in the room and when you get closer to it, the screen gets larger and totally appears to be stuck to the wall.  If you place screens sticking out of things, they stay there.  You can place screens or what have you anywhere.  I fired up Microsoft Edge, logged into Netflix and started watching a movie.  I walked around the room and could hear the movie, but could only see it if I look where the movie was playing.  The localization engine on this device is as close to flawless as I could imagine.  No, I do not know how it does it, but I guess that it is just like a Kinect but with a 6 axis accelerometer.

 Next, lets talk specs on this bad boy:

Device Specifications

Optics

·         See-through holographic lenses (waveguides)

·         2 HD 16:9 light engines

·         Automatic pupillary distance calibration

·         Holographic Resolution: 2.3M total light points

·         Holographic Density: >2.5k radiants (light points per radian)

Sensors

·         1 IMU

·         4 environment understanding cameras

·         1 depth camera

·         1 2MP photo / HD video camera

·         Mixed reality capture

·         4 microphones

·         1 ambient light sensor

Human Understanding

·         Spatial sound

·         Gaze tracking

·         Gesture input

·         Voice support

Input / Output / Connectivity

·         Built-in speakers

·         Audio 3.5mm jack

·         Volume up/down

·         Brightness up/down

·         Power button

·         Battery status LEDs

·         Wi-Fi 802.11ac

·         Micro USB 2.0

·         Bluetooth 4.1 LE

Power

·         Battery Life

·         2-3 hours of active use

·         Up to 2 weeks of standby time

·         Fully functional when charging

·         Passively cooled (no fans)

Processors

·         Intel 32 bit architecture with TPM 2.0 support

·         Custom-built Microsoft Holographic Processing Unit (HPU 1.0)

Weight

·         579g

Memory

·         64GB Flash

·         2GB RAM

What’s in the box

·         HoloLens Development Edition

·         Clicker

·         Carrying case

·         Charger and cable

·         Microfiber cloth

·         Nose pads

·         Overhead strap

OS and Apps

·         Windows 10

·         Windows Store

What you need to develop

·         Windows 10 PC able to run Visual Studio 2015 and Unity

 

 Now for the downside.  The format of the image is 16×9 and the resolution of the device is something like 1080×607.  Also, the device draws the colors iteratively (one color after another) rather than like a TV does.  When you move your head quickly, the red image, the green image and the blue images are drawn at slightly different locations since they are drawn at different times.  When you hold still, it does a good job, but if you are moving around quickly, it offsets things a little.  Normally this is not a problem.  Since “moving” requires neck motion, moving quickly is not something you usually do.

 

The lower resolution is partly because the HoloLens does not have a single resolution, but has two, one for each eye, and when you think about a wearable device with 1080×607 times two, it is pretty impressive.  Think of it at 1080×1200 effective resolution, split between eyes.  The “actual” resolution (since it is a mobile device) is limitless, but the field of view is limited to the frame.

 

In reality though the HoloLens requires you to mouse using your whole head and hold your hand out in front of you to interact (so it can be seen by the cameras).  All this to say is that you would have to be pretty hardcore to use this instead of a TV when watching a movie.  Also, the device is not exactly heavy, but after 15 minutes of it sitting on your nose, you notice it for sure.

 

Enough with the downsides.  This thing is absolutely the coolest device I have ever seen, or even heard of.  It is many times better than I expected.  I giggled like a schoolgirl being asked on her first date as I gleefully played with it.  It is not just awesome, it is a ALL TIME MUST HAVE category device for any geeks who love cool, which means that when these things go on sale, we are all going to be out some serious coin because once you take a drink of the elixir, you will be transported down the rabbit hole and the world will never look the same again.

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.

Top 5 Reasons to Update Your Controls

Concept Systems, Inc. manages robotic vision technologies from start to finish. We first meet with a company that has production problems. These may be related to inefficient machinery, hazardous equipment usage, or simply not having a system that allows them to keep up with client demand for their products. Concept systems, Inc. will talk with a company about their current problem and brainstorm solutions where updated technology would be beneficial.

From here, we design from scratch or redesign current robotic controllers to become more capable of performing their designated tasks. Robotic vision has helped a variety of industries meet their unique production needs in a way that provides both consumer satisfaction and profitable returns for the company. Here are 5 reasons why businesses should consider updating their production controls and machinery.

Increase Productivity

Utilizing enhanced machine vision can increase a company’s production significantly. When the controlling technology is able to make better scans of the product, then the production process is able to speed up and put out a higher volume of work. If the technology is not currently being used at all, it can be programmed to take on a larger workload.

Efficiency and Accuracy

With increased speed comes higher efficiency and accuracy. Not only is the production line moving at a steadier pace, but the number of errors occurring during production is also cut down. This is a big bonus of having robotic vision. Human error is inevitable, but robotic technologies have little to no error when programmed and function correctly.

Less Waste

The good consequence of practically nonexistent error margins is less waste of materials and time during production and processing. This is a win for the company and the environment. Fewer resources are needed to get the job done and the resources that are used get used more fully. With less waste, the company invests less money into materials costs.

Larger Profits

Less money wasted on material costs is just part of the profits made by the company. With all the increases in efficiency and production, the company is able to get more products made or items processed through their lines and shipped out to where they need to go. Investment in robotic vision will definitely see an eventual retrieval of monies spent.

Better Safety

With robot guidance, the machines can replace or change some of the dangerous jobs once left to company workers. Special scanners and controls can be programmed to do the work in areas that are not safe for people to be around. Share a new company vision with Concept Systems, Inc.!

Creating a Foolproof Automation System for Your Business

In an age with increasing costs and additional demands, finding a way to automate some business processes using technology may be the key to solving problems. At Concept Systems, our engineers are problem solvers who use the latest in technology to create foolproof automation systems for businesses.

There are 2 primary reasons businesses choose to automate some or all of their processes whether those processes are related to production or fulfillment. First, manual processes are costly, and employee skills can be better allocated if the repetitive tasks are done by machinery. Already, engineers are hard at work designing robotic controllers that can grind and brew coffee to order and machines that can be used to eliminate weeds without the use of herbicides on corporate farms.

Second, automation increases production. Automating a manufacturing operation typically means increased production rates and labor productivity. In the simplest terms, business owners get more output per labor hour.

So how do Concept Systems engineers hammer out a robotic vision and controller for a specific industry or organization?

We start with a problem. When we kick-off a project, we spend time getting to know the full scope of a project and the necessary elements for success. The proposal to solving your problem will include the cost and a schedule. Fully understanding the problem and developing ideas for an automated solution or upgrade to your existing processes requires a bit of time as we determine what your system will do and how it will work. Our engineers work with key players in your company to draft on paper an elegant system including materials, electrical schematics and software.

For example, for a coffee roasting company, we upgraded a robot that was designed to unload pallets full of raw coffee beans and place the bags on a conveyor belt to send to the roaster. The robot’s vice grips, however, were a problem and often tore bags and spilled beans.

A Concept System team met with company stakeholders to design pneumatically-operated tines that eliminated tearing as well as a control system with 3D vision and advanced software to precisely position bags on the pallet.

Once a company approves a design, Concept Systems engineers get to work creating software and hardware to alleviate or solve the problem. This phase of development involves procuring materials, assembling the project, and testing.

During the final phase of development, engineers work closely with vendors at the factory or operation site to ensure proper installation of equipment and to train personnel to support and maintain the automated system.

Automation and robotics are the wave of the future. With specially engineered tools and resources, a team of engineers can create a foolproof automation system for your business and move your company into the future today. Contact us today to get started!