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Simplifying Pick-and-Place with 3D

Simplifying Pick-and-Place with 3D

Robotic pick-and-place is an important automated manufacturing process in many industries. In this application, robots pick up parts presented one at a time and place them in a preset order and location, even when the exact location and 3D orientation of the part is variable. 

Pick-and-Place Robotic Application

By using 3D smart sensors with onboard software, an industrial robot can perform this task autonomously—something that could previously only be done by a skilled worker. 

How It Works

A 3D smart sensor is mapped directly to the robot over Ethernet, using standard communications ASCII protocol. This system is simple and efficient, made up of only a smart sensor, its built-in measurement toolset, and the robot. 

When you use an advanced 3D smart sensor like Gocator, no additional software or PC is required.

Robot-mounted 3D smart sensor for robotic pick-and-place

Types of Applications

Here are the 3 main application types this simple smart sensor driven robotic system can perform:

  1. Pick-and-place to stack and unstack target objects, similar to a palletizing or de-palletizing application.
  2. Random placement and picking up off of a moving conveyor.
  3. Placing objects into structured bins by height of the parts, at 1, 2, 3, and 4 stacks high. In this application the smart sensor uses 3D information to place the objects in the appropriate bin, and set them at the appropriate clock angle (i.e., rotation of the part) using the built-in Part Matching algorithm onboard Gocator.

Pick-and-place to stack and unstack

Just three simple tools are used to perform all of the pick-and-place applications listed above—two bounding boxes and a height tool, combined with Gocator’s part matching algorithm. 

Real-World Application Examples

The three applications listed above cover the majority of the real-world examples where 3D can be used in automated manufacturing. 

The following is a common real-world pick-and-place application:

  1. Pick-and-place of incoming raw materials or subassemblies traveling on pallets. Objects are scanned with Gocator. The sensor reports the object position and directs the robot to place the object randomly or directly on a conveyor.
  2. Objects are scanned again as they travel down the conveyor, and then picked up by the robot and placed into an appropriate bin.
  3. Finished products are scanned and then stacked/re-stacked/palletized.

The Benefits of Using a 3D Smart Sensor for Pick-and-Place Applications

With a 3D smart sensor like Gocator you can use any sensor model to achieve these results. Simply choose the model that best fits your system and application. For fast, continuous moving parts you will want to consider Gocator point profile or line profile sensors. For robotic applications where the object has start/stop motion you will want to look at Gocator snapshot sensors to get the job done. 

All Gocator’s are complete all-in-one devices and come with standard measurement tools to identify placement/orientation of parts. Gocator can be mounted to a robot for vision-guidance and flexible inspection, or fixed over a pallet or conveyor to take high-speed, high-precision measurements.

Gocator’s simplicity allows you to configure your measurements and robot communications in a web browser environment and drive a complete inspection algorithm without any other hardware.


For more information on this subject, download our 3D Smart Sensors in Vision-Guided Robotic Systems white paper.

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